**** (out of 5)
April 3, 2015
Vin Diesel as DOMINIC TORETTO
Paul Walker as BRIAN O’CONNER
Jason Statham as DECKARD SHAW
Michelle Rodriguez as LETTY
Jordana Brewster as MIA
Tyrese Gibson as ROMAN
Ludacris as TEJ
Dwayne Johnson as HOBBS
Directed by: James Wan
BY KEVIN CARR
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Back in the early 2000s, Vin Diesel was the up-and-coming tough guy action star. After starring in the first “The Fast and the Furious” film, he was tapped to play Xander Cage in “xXx,” which was meant to be the American, muscle-bound Generation X answer to James Bond.
That action series never quite took off (especially since they killed off the character in lieu of Ice Cube starring in the film’s sequel). However, a strange thing happened over the ensuing years. After two stinker sequels without Vin Diesel, he returned to the fourth film in the “Fast & Furious” franchise, and the series took off. Over the next three films – “Fast & Furious,” “Fast Five” and “Fast & Furious 6” – the franchise became exactly what Hollywood was hoping for with “xXx”: a high-octane, muscle-car version of 007.
It’s kind of hard to believe how much the franchise has changed. Back in “The Fast and the Furious,” they were street racing and boosting VCRs. Now, they’re dropping cars out of airplanes and using Ferraris to jump from building to building in Abu Dhabi. And with each successive film, things have become more and more ridiculous.
“Furious 7” continues this tradition, bringing the crew back together to track down a high tech device which enables the user to track any person anywhere on the planet in real time. A shadowy government operative (Kurt Russell) taps them for this job so the tech doesn’t end up in the hands of terrorists. At the same time, they are being hunted by Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham), who happens to be the big brother of Owen Shaw, the villain from the previous film.
After “Fast & Furious 6,” director Justin Lin handed the reigns over to James Wan after being in charge for the past four movies. Wan steps up the action and insanity several notches, which is saying a lot considering how ridiculous things got in the past two films. However, where Lin was still shackled to the more realistic storytelling from “Fast & Furious: Tokyo Drift,” Wan goes full cartoon with his film. Rather than simply ignoring physics, he downright defies physics with what we see happen on screen.
The result is a giant Looney Tunes car chase for more than two hours. The participants are all made of rubber, shaking off injuries that would kill a rhino and performing literal superhuman feats. These scenes make no sense whatsoever, but damn if they aren’t entertaining beyond belief.
Of course, the writing is pretty bad at times, almost nonsensical. It’s replete with corny one-liners that would make Schwarzenegger blush, and much of the dialogue itself is cringe-worthy. As the movies have gotten bigger, so have the casts, and this film is no different. We have the equivalent of guest stars in this film with people like Tony Jaa playing a lethal terrorist and Rhonda Rousey playing the head of the Charlie’s Angels type security team in Abu Dhabi. Jaa holds his own, but Rousey is such a godawful actress, she can barely belch out her three or four words before she does what she does best, which is go toe-to-toe with Michelle Rodriguez in a girlfight. (Say what you want to about Gina Carano in “Fast & Furious 6,” but she’s Oscar-caliber compared to Rousey’s stupefied delivery.)
But who’s seeing this movie for the acting, the writing or the reality of the situations?
Of course, one can’t talk about this film without giving a nod to the send-off it gives to Paul Walker, who tragically died in the middle of production. It’s clear the final product was not the movie that was originally intended, but Walker had enough film shot that he is in the lion’s share of the movie. They don’t dwell too much on his character’s swan song, but they do spend some time on it. It’s clear there was a lot of love for Walker behind the scenes, and it’s difficult to not get a little choked up when you see how they say good-bye.