The Fast & Furious franchise has long since reached the point that it has become not only critic-proof, but analysis-proof. Those who like the films don’t need a reason anymore, they like them because they like them. The films can do anything now. They’re appeal is simply that they’re shiny.
Furious 7 is very aware of this, so when an idea for a stunt, or plot turn comes up, it just gets thrown in. No one worries about whether or not it makes sense to the story, is true to the characters, or is even remotely plausible.
The result is that when a drug lord flies a military helicopter through Los Angeles to chase our crew of heroes, launching missiles and blowing up buildings along the way, the audience isn’t supposed to think beyond the pretty explosions in order to wonder about things like how said helicopter could get there in the first place, or why there’s no military response once it is.
Possibly worse, because it feels jarringly odd, when Letty tells Brian to stop doing CPR (for no conceivable reason), he does. It’s a baffling moment in an already goofy film.
That’s the game we’re playing, and while a general “it’s action-heavy, let’s not think too much,” approach can obviously work, the people behind the scenes just don’t care any more, and don’t think much of their audience.
The latest installment opens with a kind of “let’s catch up a bit,” montage-turned-plot, and it’s all facilitated by Letty’s (Michelle Rodriguez) memory loss. Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) hopes to help her remember, but they only have so much time to drive down memory lane. While we’re happily splicing in scenes and characters from previous films, Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) is busy plotting the destruction of everyone who has ever been in one of these films, and it’s hard to imagine a more noble cause.
Shaw is out for revenge, because his brother was the villain in London, and it turns out that he’s just the rogue special-forces-come-supervillain for the job.
Meanwhile, Brian O’Connor (Paul Walker) is trying to get used to life without bullets and lots of speed. In an undeveloped story deviation, it seems that Brian may really be having a difficult time with adrenaline withdrawal.
Luckily, there isn’t much time to worry about such things, because Deckard blows up Toretto’s house.
The hunt is on, and the rest of the movie plays out as a fairly standard game of cat and mouse, with a rescue diversion that is aimed at steering our crew toward the man who is basically a ghost.
The movie has a few interesting scenes, most of them involving Kurt Russell‘s Mr. Nobody, the government agent who wants something from the crew, but can give them Deckard. It also has some action that pulls you in, and leans toward making the most of popcorn spectacle. None of the positives can get rolling though, because so much of everything else just doesn’t care.
That would be bad enough, but some of the actors are working far outside their rather limited abilities, especially Michelle Rodriguez, who kills every scene she’s in, many of which have Vin Diesel trying to pull emotional content from a stone.
When the film opens, with Deckard waltzing through a laughable combat zone, you might get the idea that the franchise decided to make a sharp turn into camp. As it goes on, and it becomes clear that this is a script driven by creating excuses for the stunts we want to do, you wish it would have. It had a shot at being a great movie if it would have stuck with that opening scene, which ends up not fitting at all, but instead it feels like a live-action adaptation of a Saturday morning cartoon from the ’70s that never existed.
It’s ultimately hard to watch, too long, and worst of all, boring. Of course, that’s irrelevant, because everyone will still show up for the next one as well.