What better way to ignite the summer movie season than this spectacular ‘one last ride’ for the late Paul Walker.
The Fast and Furious series knows its place in the cinematic world, and the seventh instalment probably isn’t the fastest – but it’s definitely the most furious.
Most people will know that its star Paul Walker died in a tragic car accident mid-production in November 2013 – which was deeply upsetting for a lot of film fans who’d grown up with his work (including myself) as he seemed like a genuinely nice guy and family man off-screen, as well as amiable on-screen – and the producers have done a very decent job via computer imagery and using his brothers as stunt-doubles, to give him the send-off he deserved.
There was more than a touch of irony as Walker’s Brian O’Conner stands alongside his crew, including Dom Toretto (Vin Diesel), Roman (Tyrese Gibson) and Tej (Chris ‘Ludacris’ Bridges), mourning the death of Han (Sung Kang) saying they ‘only had one more’ funeral to go to – referencing Jason Statham’s Deckard Shaw – but little did he know the cast would sadly be going to his.
But Walker would want the show to go on, and after a nine month delay, this instalment doesn’t disappoint as Dom and his team are being hunted by Deckard, the deadlier big brother of Owen Shaw (Luke Evans), who they crippled at the end of part six.
Agent Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) has already been hospitalised at the hands of Deckard, so Dom – who is also having his own problems with Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) trying to recover from her memory loss – gets help from a mysterious government operative, known as Mr Nobody (Kurt Russell), so he can gain revenge.
Mr Nobody offers Dom and his team direct access to Deckard’s whereabouts if they can pull off an amazing theft of a computer terrorism program called ‘God’s Eye’ – before Djimon Hounsou’s Somalian terrorist Jakarde does – which can turn any technological device into a weapon.
This high-octane set-piece – in which the crew sky-dive in cars onto an Azerbaijani mountain range to rescue ex-Hollyoaks actress Nathalie Emmanuel’s tech-geek Ramsey from a moving prison – is arguably the most ludicrous and far-fetched scene in any Fast and Furious flick yet, but provides Walker (who has an exciting on-going duel with Tony Jaa’s henchman thrown in) with a movie-stealing moment at the end of the scene, which can’t help but leave a smile on your face.
But Diesel’s Toretto may still have something to say about that, when he takes a rare Ferrari mid-air across three buildings in Abu Dhabi when the brakes blow – trying to escape Deckard and a missile launcher – which then arguably takes the ‘most far-fetched scene’ title from the previous one.
Throw in cameos from Tokyo Drift’s lead Lucas Black as Sean Boswell – don’t you just love continuity?! – and The Expendable 3’s UFC fighter Ronda Rousey, then you’ve got one action-fuelled thrill-ride that doesn’t let up from start-to-finish.
With all this going on Saw and The Conjuring director James Wan does a top-notch job from keeping this from spiralling out of control – considering the extra problems presented with Walker’s death which are handled admirably (but eagle-eyed fans will notice Walker’s CGi at some points) – and pieces together an action film that could’ve easily turned into an absolute mess.
The Fast and Furious series won’t ever win awards for its storylines or acting, but it does what it does well, and it’s testament to Universal for taking a mid-range blockbuster (after the first four films) and building it into a powerhouse franchise that smashed box-office records for an April-released film by garnering nearly $400m worldwide in its very first weekend.
One thing’s for sure, seeing Walker’s (whose passing undoubtedly had something to do with the box-office hike) O’Conner playing on the beach with Jordana Brewster’s Mia – who announces she’s pregnant with a girl – and their son, is a heartwarming scene for the series, that has still got plenty of speeding to do.
But when O’Conner and Toretto drive off together at the end for one last time, and they take different roads, you know it’s the end of one Fast and Furious era – and you can’t helped but be ‘choked’ by this sad and poignant moment.
RIP Paul Walker, your pals have done you proud. Thanks for the memories.
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Cast: Paul Walker, Vin Diesel, Jason Statham, Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese Gibson, Chris ‘Ludacris’ Bridges, Kurt Russell, Dwayne Johnson, Djimon Hounsou, Nathalie Emmanuel, Tony Jaa, Lucas Black, Ronda Rousey, Sung Kang, Elsa Pataky, Gal Gadot, Shad ‘Bow Wow’ Moss & Luke Evans
Running Time: 2 Hrs 17 Mins
Director: James Wan