Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) and his worldwide crew of drivers better watch out, because someone is out to get them. Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) has already killed one of their number in Japan, and wants to do the same to the others, all because Toretto and company were responsible for messing with his brother and landing him in a coma when his criminal plans were decisively foiled; Shaw has already caused mayhem at the hospital his sibling is staying in, for he has a knack of slipping into buildings no matter how high security they are and wreaking havoc to get what he wants, then escaping as easily as he entered. Toretto meanwhile is unaware of this since he and his amnesiac partner Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) have business with rebuilding her memories…
Of course, someone had died for real in the Fast & Furious franchise by the time this seventh instalment arrived, also known simply as Furious 7, not during filming but ironically in a car accident, and he was series regular Paul Walker. He had shot around half his scenes, so not only were the cast and crew grieving, but they had to decide what to do next: scrapping the project seemed far too costly, so they implemented the very best technology of the day to do what Plan 9 from Outer Space and Trail of the Pink Panther were unable to do, which was seamlessly integrate a deceased star into a film they were no longer alive to complete. It was reminiscent of The Crow, which had seen Brandon Lee expire before finishing it, and no less emotional.
To underline what the filmmakers had lost, never mind Walker’s family and friends, they added a tribute of clips at the end of the movie along with a symbolic drive off into the sunset, a very sweet sequence that left many audiences perhaps with a better impression of what they had watched than it actually was. But even if this was strictly ri-goddamned-diculous from start to (almost) finish, it was probably the best entry in the series since Fast & Furious 5, though it did take its cue from the previous instalment as far as tone and overall farfetched stunt work went. By this point it barely mattered that what you were watching was impossible, as the heroes had essentially become superhuman on the screen, which made the fate of Walker off the screen all the more poignant.
Nevertheless, this was a very silly film once you had the well-earned sentiment out of the way. It came across like some ardent fan’s slash fiction somehow made into a blockbuster, only instead of hot and sweaty sex scenes we had hot and sweaty car chases and fights: ever wanted to see The Stath up against Dwayne Johnson or Vin Diesel in man to man combat? It was all here for you, and as butch and hard hitting as director James Wan could make it, turning his back on the horror that made him famous for a straight action flick, though apparently this was such a difficult production that he retreated back to chillers straight after. And it was backwards-looking, too, as unavoidably it was forced to sum up Walker’s career as a pretty boy star who generated a wave of affection once his demise demonstrated what a decent man he had been.
But that meant relying on you having kept up with the plotting ever since the first one, with references to each rendering this more like a supercharged soap opera, most notably in the Letty plotline which saw Rodriguez having to do proper acting for a film nobody was wanting that in, a thankless task. Though we were compensated in the Abu Dhabi sequences where she battled Ronda Rousey in similar fashion to her scuffle with Gina Carano in the previous effort – find a formula that succeeded and stick with it, was the message here. Some compared this to the excesses of action from the nineteen-eighties, possibly because there were plenty of tributes and therefore heightened awareness to those at the time, but with Toretto’s emphasis on the importance of family, this was more part of the action contemporary to its time that presented teamwork as the most desirable method of getting things done in contrast to all those lone wolves from thirty years before. With plenty of show off, effects-filled stunts such as driving a car across three skyscrapers or causing a mini-earthquake in Los Angeles to get the better of one baddie, you either went with the absurdity or rejected it; it was far better to let them have their fun, and you yours. Music by Brian Tyler.