Director: James Wan
Cast: Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, The Rock, Jason Statham, Jordana Brewster, Ludacris, Tyrese Gibson, Ronda Rousey, Kurt Russell, Tony Jaa, Elsa Pataky and Djimon Honsou
Running Time: 134 minutes
Release Date: April 3rd
Seven? SEVEN?! Can you believe it?? Outside the horror genre, you just don’t see numbers like that, with the only real over-sequel’d competition being the Step Up franchise, and when was the last time you went to see one of those? After the perfectly pitched right turn that was Fast Five, this bizarrely earnest action series has become a benchmark by which all other action movies get measured. Remember when these films used to basically be a cheap Point Break-in-muscle cars rip-off? And now they’re costing a quarter of a billion to make, shoot in the most lavish locations around the world and feature some of the biggest and best names in action cinema? Madness.
The plot manages to be both convoluted AND flimsy, but we’ve never really held any of the series’ stories under scrutiny, so why start now? Jason Statham is the big bad brother of Fast Six villain Luke Evans, and he’s coming after Vin Diesel and his whole crew for revenge, kicking off by killing one of the team and putting The Rock in the hospital. Kurt Russell shows up as a government agent who needs Diesel and co to track down God’s Eye – a programme that can be used to find anyone, anywhere – and get it back from evil doers led by Djimon Hounsou, and if he does, Russell will allow Diesel to use it to find Statham. Let’s be clear, it’s all McGuffin’y nonsense of the highest order, there solely to pin action sequences against the stunning backdrops of Abu Dhabi, Azerbaijan, Tokyo and Los Angeles.
To be honest, after the untimely death of Paul Walker and the rushed script reshuffle and reshoots, it’s a wonder that the film-makers were able to pull off even this low level of vague coherence. Behind the camera, out goes Fast Four, Five and Six director Justin Lin (off to do Star Trek 3) and in comes James Wan (from the likes of The Conjuring and Insidious), who gives the engine a bit of a fine-tuning without completely overhauling it. Flipping his camera gymnastically during the bare-knuckle scraps between Statham, Diesel and The Rock keeps things kinetic, while the giddy abandon of the car-porn action sequences throw up a middle finger to the likes of gravity or physics. The parachuting-vehicles-out-of-the-plane scene we’ve all giggled at in the trailer is actually the first big set-piece, and they only get bigger and more ridiculous from there, without crossing the never-ending-runway surrealism line of Fast Six. It all culminates in a destruction derby in downtown Los Angeles which results in more flattened buildings and collateral damage than the climax of Man of Steel.
It’s the first time since Face/Off that blockbuster cinema has fully embraced the twin guns of ridiculousness and high production values, somehow taking itself both too seriously and not very seriously at all. Scientists and scholars could spend decades trying to decipher why exactly the movie works as well as it does, and end up none the wiser. That’s not to say that the movie is perfect; there’s still that dead-eyed objectification of women, the non-stop hip-hop soundtrack features some of the most non-distinct songs in existence, and leaving The Rock out of action for over an hour was a big mistake. However, after all these years of Diesel gruffly informing us about the meaning of family, the final ten minutes are devoted to the memory of Paul Walker, and we guarantee you there won’t be a dry eye in the house, as any niggles are forgiven thanks to the movie’s big heart. If this is, as has been rumoured, to be the last in the Fast and Furious franchise, it’s a fitting send off for the films and the actor.