Patrick Grieve
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Furious 7 is the Fastest, Furiousest, Sevenest F&F Film Yet

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Paul Walker Furious 7 Dodge

It’s been almost 14 years since the original The Fast and the Furious hit theatres in June of 2001, and the series has changed considerably since then. Not in its sensibilities, which are still wonderfully juvenile, but in its ambitions.

In the first film, Vin Diesel and his posse of elite street racers were getting heat from the feds for stealing Panasonic VCRs from semi trucks. In the most recent installment, they are actively recruited by a covert US government organization that wants them to steal “God’s Eye,” a high-tech hacking device capable of locating anyone in the world in a matter of minutes.

The differences between the two movies are more pronounced than the differences between rookie Mark McGwire and 1998 Mark McGwire.

Once a simple vehicle (pun-intended) for drag races and car chases, the Fast and Furious franchise has evolved from a basic carsploitation flick into a gloriously dumb platform for cartoonish action movie set pieces, enjoyably campy melodrama, and thrilling Mission: Impossible-style heist sequences.  And Furious 7 is probably the best (read: most absurd) entry yet, even outdoing the franchise’s previous high-water mark, Fast Five.

Vin Diesel Furious 7 Dodge

Vin Diesel—an actor who possesses the physique, hairstyle, and automotive savvy of the Michelin Man—plays Dom Toretto, the de facto patriarch of a “family” of colorful characters who love driving cars, drinking Coronas, and pulling “one last job…”

That extended family includes series mainstays Michelle Rodriguez (Dom’s amnesia-stricken wife Letty), Jordana Brewster (Dom’s sister Mia), Paul Walker (Mia’s husband Brian O’Connor), Chris “Ludacris” Bridges (street-smart hacker Tej), Tyrese Gibson (jokester Roman Pearce), and Dwayne Johnson (granite CIA agent Luke Hobbs).

New for the 2015 model is action star Jason Statham, who makes an excellent British baddie; real-life badass Kurt Russell, who has fun as a wisecracking government agent; and Game of Thrones actress Nathalie Emmanuel, who beats out Skyfall’s Ben Whishaw for the title of “Cinema’s Most Implausibly Attractive Computer Geek” (and who, by the way, was 12 years old when the first Fast & Furious film came out).

Furious 7 Box Office Records

The entire cast is game for Furious 7’s ridiculous storyline, which doesn’t just strain credibility, but tosses credibility out of a moving plane before gleefully driving it straight off of a cliff.

One of the most absurd plot points involves the gang stealing a $3.4 million Lykan Hypersport from a billionaire’s Dubai penthouse. Why would anyone park a supercar in a skyscraper, Ludacris (understandably) asks?

“He’s a billionaire, he can do whatever the hell he wants,” answers Minor Character #46. A more accurate response would have been, “This scenario was dreamt up by Fast and Furious screenwriters—they can do whatever the hell they want.”

Of course, the gang decides to infiltrate the billionaire’s lavish party, which features exotic dancers in gold body paint, UFC fighter Ronda Rousey foxy boxing Michelle Rodriguez, and the Lykan Hypersport being jumped from one skyscraper to the next… and then the next (the brakes don’t work!)

Furious 7 Lykan Hypersport

That’s just one of the many awesome, stupid, awesomely stupid moments that the film has to offer. At one point, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson takes down an unmanned drone before shooting it in the face. If that’s not an inspiring portrait of rugged American individualism, then I don’t know what is.

Furious 7 succeeds by appealing to the stupid teenaged kid within us all. Swimsuit models, Dodge Chargers, Ludacris—it’s like all of the posters in a 13-year old boy’s bedroom circa-2002 came to life and made a kickass movie together. In addition to the hot girls and hot rods, the movie also delivers a satisfying number of physics-defying stunts, laughably over-the-top one liners, and follicly challenged bodybuilders who beat the living snot out of each other.

Furious 7 Trailer Cars Paul Walker Race Heist Movie Film 5

Does it deserve the Best Picture Oscar that Vin Diesel thinks it should win? Well, no, of course not… although it wouldn’t be the worst movie to ever win Best Picture. In fact, it wouldn’t even be the worst ensemble piece featuring Ludacris to ever win Best Picture (that would be Crash).

But Furious 7 isn’t Oscar bait, or anything quite so vulgar; it’s a crowd-pleaser, pure and simple. At the late-night screening I attended, the audience erupted into spontaneous applause not once, but thrice.

In the first two instances, they were clapping for the crazy action sequences that they had just witnessed. The third time, it was in response to the film’s ending, which pays respect to the late Paul Walker with a montage of clips from the Fast and Furious franchise’s 14-year run, overlaid with a heartfelt Vin Diesel voiceover.

If you watched the film’s previous 130 minutes with a sense of ironic detachment, the sudden reminder of Walker’s real-life passing will hit you like a Dominic Toretto gut punch.

Paul Walker Furious 7 Dodge

The film then ends with the dedication “For Paul,” and in some ways, it feels strange to see a genuine tragedy eulogized in such a silly, artificial context. And yet, at the same time, the tribute works as a touching reminder of what Walker meant to the Fast & Furious franchise, and what the Fast & Furious franchise has meant to us fans.

The F&F films ain’t fine art, but they damn sure are fun, and that’s always a welcome presence at the movie theatre. Walker won’t win any posthumous Oscars for his work in the series, but he’ll always have my sincere appreciation for being a part of the fun.