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Furious 7 is, as its title suggests, the seventh film in the long-running series about street car racing; the series has now transcended to globetrotting with some street car racing, and the film is well aware of its own existence. It is entertaining on its own merits, and while largely devoid of realistic characterisation and drama, I was not expecting it to have either.
The story is once again centred on the continuing exploits of Vin Diesel and company, who are this time the targets of a vengeful and omnipotent Jason Statham. Statham, whose ability to rapidly travel between different countries and maintain elusive behaviour throughout the narrative, would make Jason Bourne blush. His purpose throughout most of the set pieces in the film is to arrive unannounced, usually brandishing expensive vehicles or weaponry, and divert attention from whatever the scene was originally about. There is also a subplot about the kidnapping of a hacker and her ties to a surveillance system sought after by a terrorist organisation, who end up joining forces with Statham against the main characters. But the film can largely be boiled down to the main characters’ attempts to thwart Statham’s visitations while Diesel, Paul Walker and Michelle Rodriguez’s characters deal with their own personal conflicts.
Where the film works is in the execution of its set pieces. One is set in the Caucasus Mountains and is helped by elaborate stunts, steady camerawork and editing that lasts longer than just a few brief flashes, allowing viewers to actually process what is happening and understand where each vehicle is. This is something that can become a problem in many action films of this ilk, but is thankfully avoided here. That is not to say that the car scenes are entirely practical: cars are parachuted into Azerbaijan and jump between high-rise buildings in Abu Dhabi, eliciting both eye-rolling and guilty pleasure. The fight choreography is also done well, as is to be expected of people like Statham, and gives variation to what otherwise may have become an overabundance of vehicular chases without much difference between one action scene to another.
The film is best viewed as escapism, to a world in which overseas travel is quick and feasible, everyone owns at least more than one car, and people have the freedom to cause infrastructural damage in foreign countries without being extradited by the local authorities. Unfortunately, much of the film’s writing and humour is cringeworthy, usually consisting of characters reacting to events, reacting to Tyrese Gibson, or ribbing on Tyrese Gibson. At 137 minutes, the film also runs a bit long, particularly the final fight scene.
It is impossible not to bring up the circumstances surrounding the passing of cast member Paul Walker, a subject that the film is ultimately treats respectfully. Walker’s character is given proper closure, thankfully not ending with him hanging from the back of a hot rod brandishing two Uzis before driving off a half-finished bridge while chewing three cigars and sipping a Corona at the same time.