7 Fast 7 Furious: How The Power of Friendship Drives Our Unlikeliest Mega-Franchise

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So what if Furious 7 is a ridiculous movie? Furious 7 doesn’t care about what you think—it’s too busy jettisoning hundred-thousand-dollar cars through skyscrapers with zero casualties and zero respect for the basic laws of physics. You do you, Furious 7.

R: I love this big, stupid, perpetual car crash of a series.

Could anyone have guessed that we’d still be talking about this thing 14 years after the original film debuted? Or that it would outlast two different Spider-Man series? Christopher Nolan is done making Batman movies, but Vin Diesel is still driving muscle cars through moving airplanes and out of exploding buildings (but only after hitting the NOS … always hit the NOS before driving out of a building, kids) like it’s 2001. And yeah, these movies are pretty stupid. Plot holes abound like pot holes, and characters’ skill sets change as the stories demand—how else could a ragtag group of street racers turn into a team of international master thieves within the span of one film?—but they’re knowingly, cheerfully stupid in a way that lets the audience in on the joke. That inclusiveness is part of what makes a Furious film such a joyful experience.

What also sets this franchise apart from, say, Transformers, is that Furious isn’t a nihilistic franchise, destructive for destruction’s sake. As the series has slowly transitioned from its “Point Break with cars” roots to an international saga with its own soap-opera mythology (murder! evil siblings! AMNESIA!), a through line extolling the virtues of friendship, family and loyalty persists. And while its set pieces are less ambitious and more reliant on computer effects than those of Fast Five or Fast and Furious 6, Furious 7‘s best scene—wherein Toretto et. al. parachute out of a plane in real cars—is among the most ludicrous sequences in the entire franchise.

Furious 7’s casting director has good taste too. MMA star Ronda Rousey shows up for a well-executed brawl with Michelle Rodriguez in an Abu Dhabi skyscraper. And because this is now apparently an action-espionage series, Kurt Russell appears as an enigmatic government agent, playing the self-styled “Mr. Nobody” as “Old Jack Burton.” So hey, that’s pretty fun.

The untimely death of Paul Walker—who had appeared in all but one film in the series—forced the filmmakers to re-think much of the film. It’s a hell of a problem to navigate—how do you address Walker’s exit from the series? Do you address it at all? Without giving too much away, Furious 7 manages to serve its own dramatic purposes in giving Walker’s character a respectful send-off, while also breaking the fourth wall just enough to honor the actor himself. The only problem with any of this is that, for some reason, the theater decided to introduce a huge amount of dust into the atmosphere at key intervals. Right. That’s exactly what it was. Dust. In the air.

So Furious 7 is a big dumb movie about the power of friendship. What’s not to like? Well, let me tell you something about what’s not to like! The villains, played by Djimon Hounsou and Jason Statham, are pretty irrelevant. Statham is particularly wasted—he appears at the worst possible moment in several instances but falls short of the menace promised by Fast and Furious 6′s stinger, and Hounsou, gamely playing a cookie-cutter paramilitary heavy, can only lend so much support.

Are you even remotely with me on any of this? And hey, I didn’t bring this up yet, but how about all of that male gaze?

B: Butts, butts, butts. So many butts. Gold butts. Hot-pant butts. Beach-party butts. With the exception of maybe The Rock, there are no quality male butts to speak of, but oh well, I’m obviously not the demo here. Relatedly, it should be no surprise that I’m no fan of the Furious franchise, by which I mean I think I watched the first one, but that might’ve been a fever dream.

Are there entertaining moments? Sure. Anytime The Rock shows up, the movie veers into such gleeful absurdism that even my cold dead heart can’t help but thaw, just a little bit. The Rock’s opening fight sequence with Jason Statham is competently directed, with some nice, albeit disorienting, camera flips. (In fact, the Statham-Diesel hand-to-hand combat at the end fails to live up to that opening sequence.) On the plus side, I agree that Kurt Russell is positively adorable as a government spook who helps the team hunt down Statham, making blatant product-placement jokes along the way, and The Rock does shatter his arm cast by flexing his bicept, fulfilling my basic expectations for a Dewayne Johnson movie experience.

But the rest of the film, which relies heavily on Diesel and Paul Walker/Paul Walker’s brothers/CGI, just isn’t compelling or coherent. A bit of a stumbling block for me, sadly. I’m not sure how much of the story was adjusted after Walker’s death, but his character’s arc is odd—he’s got a kid, and it takes his wife’s announcement that another one is on the way for him to realize he doesn’t want to die in the line of duty because he “misses the bullets”? I don’t have to catch up on the previous 50 movies in the franchise to recognize that as nonsensical. And while the filmmakers’ attempt to celebrate Walker by breaking the fourth wall at the end, even showing old clips of Walker, is admirable (and I don’t think is meant to be exploitative in any way), it strikes as a bit too heavy handed in execution. It might have been classier if the clips had been spliced into the credits.

But with all that stated, in the interest of clarity, this isn’t a bad movie the way, say, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen is a bad movie. I agree Fast and Furious 7 is admirably sweet, despite all the carnage. Sure, it could have used some equal-opportunity male butts, and maybe the script is crap, but overall there are worse things to sit through than a sentimental and explosion-filled two-hour music video about men who love their bros, cars and babes, likely in that order.

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