When it was announced that the cast and crew were going to finish Furious 7 after Paul Walker's passing, I wondered if the film would lose its edge since it was going to essentially write off one of its' leading characters. However, James Wan and the Fast & Furious team delivered not only a solid story that was surprisingly more layered than past installments but honored their friend and costar in a truly genuine fashion. I want to touch on the story of the film before going into the action sequences and acting. Chronologically, Furious 7 follows the events of Fast & Furious: Tokyo Drift, which saw the demise of Han (Sung Kang). I felt that bringing the fallout from Tokyo Drift into this film was solid from a storytelling standpoint. While I personally felt Tokyo Drift was the weakest entry in the series, it was essential to the overall narrative. Jason Statham's portrayal of Deckard Shaw was better than expected and actually gave the series a strong villain who can be used in later installments – should they choose to do more. I will say that his exchanges with Dom (Vin Diesel) bordered on comical – which considering how bad ass both guys are, it was a bit too much. Statham brought great fight choreography to the table and his fight with The Rock reinforced that. Statham, at times, seemed like he was on auto-pilot and didn't add much personality to the role, which was disappointing considering that he is not a totally one-dimensional guy. Kurt Russell turned out to be the best addition to the series and I think if the series continues (as rumored) we'll see a lot more of him as the Fast & Furious series continues to evolve even further past glorified “car porn” . Russell's chemistry with Vin Diesel was one the film's high points, so seeing them on screen in future installments should be interesting. I will say some of you will be bummed out that The Rock had a smaller role, but given the stakes and plot his involvement and lack thereof worked well and added to the climax of the film. Nathalie Emmanuel (Game of Thrones) was a welcome addition as she held her own amongst the tight knit cast and has all the makings of a regular for future installments.
The film delivered when it came to action sequences, going bigger and better plus throwing in some solid fight choreography. Kudos to Tony Jaa and Ronda Rousey as their fights were well done and the camera work was solid. The two signature action sequences of the film were visually impressive and were so far-fetched that even though you'd say “this is bullshit” you respected how over the top it was. The Fast & Furious series is all about over the top and parachuting cars onto a mountain pass or jumping a supercar through buildings in Abu Dhabi is not an unexpected occurrence anymore. Hell, it is something we want and expect to see.
My only action sequence-related gripes were the “car fight” scenes involving Dom and Shaw because they were so cartoonish that disbelief turned into disdain. The final fight between the two men was not even the best fight of the film, which disappointed me after seeing the great close-quarter choreography where Dom fought Hobbs in Fast Five and Joe Taslim fought Han & Roman in Fast 6. To me, there is a certain expectation when actors with martial arts backgrounds are involved and I guess I personally expected something more when someone like Statham is involved.
If Furious 7 is the swan song for the series it is truly a fitting conclusion. The tribute to Paul Walker was truly sad but was classy and a fitting send off. I also felt that the ending closed the door on the Mia Toretto character as well which is fine since Jordana Brewster's involvement has grown smaller with each film. The film is definitely one of the better films in the series, both from a storyline perspective and an action sequence perspective. I recommend seeing this spectacle in a large format theater meaning IMAX or RPX because the Abu Dhabi sequences alone make it worth it. I will remind you guys that these films are mindless, over the top action pieces that you shouldn't expect to deliver on the plot side of things; but, the series has matured and with it the plot as well. I've essentially grown up with this series and it truly has evolved so do yourselves a favor and check it out because it truly was a solid film that unofficially ushered in the summer movie season.