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Film Review

‘Fast and Furious’ franchise paints itself into a corner

4/8/2015

The franchise has developed a reputation for being a kind of dumb, kind of fun action franchise. But now that there are seven installments, I was genuinely curious as to whether or not one needed to be versed in the past iterations in order to fully enjoy the current one. Turns out, somewhat surprisingly, the answer is yes.

“Furious 7” PG-13 137 minutes Starring: Paul Walker, Vin Diesel, Dwayne Johnson, Jason Statham

“Furious 7”
PG-13
137 minutes
Starring: Paul Walker, Vin Diesel, Dwayne Johnson, Jason Statham

Since I had not seen a single film from the franchise before this past week, I sat down and watched all of them before setting out to watch “Furious 7.” It wound up being a good move, because the film’s convoluted story line made several references to events that had occurred one, three, even six films ago. So anyone setting out to make “Furious 7” his or her first “Furious” film will, at points, be out of the loop on certain characters’ lives or motivations. But now that there are seven installments to the franchise, it is less and less likely that new viewers will be drawn in fully aware of the surprisingly thick back-story. So, we have a conundrum.

However, it also appears that there may not be much cause for concern because virtually everything about this film has an air of finality to it. Billion-dollar franchises are difficult to kill, of course, and the producers have already talked of planning for an eighth installment. However, the direction future films would take is up in the air after the untimely death of Paul Walker, the charismatic actor who has anchored six of the franchise’s seven films.

“Furious 7” once again revolves around Brian O’Conner (Walker) and Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel), this time as they return home to Los Angeles after the events of the sixth film (and, to a lesser degree, the third — the franchise’s chronology is a bit of a mess). Toretto tries to help his wife, Letty, (played by Michelle Rodriguez and her dead eyes) regain her memory after being revealed to have amnesia in film six, which is admittedly an improvement upon her previous state of being presumed dead since film four. O’Conner, meanwhile, is settling down with his wife and child and adjusting to life as a regular family man. All of this relative bliss is ruined, however, by Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham), whose brother Owen was the big bad of film six and rendered comatose by Toretto and his crew. Do you see just how much you need to know about this seven-film franchise to follow along?

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There is a story arc involving a hacker and something called a God’s Eye, which is a computer virus that turns your laptop into the NSA. Toretto and his gang rescue her from Shaw’s men, then spend the rest of the film alternately keeping her safe and driving her off cliffs to keep her safe. There are car chases, gun fights, questionable physics and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson even performs his patented “Rock Bottom” wrestling move on Statham in one particularly memorable fight scene.

At the end of the day, what do you expect from a “Fast and Furious” film? It is over the top, full of plot holes and convenient timing and, at points, laughably stupid. But it was also oddly fun. The action sequences involving the cars are phenomenal, though the fight scenes lose some steam thanks to absurd settings and horrible camera work. The film ties itself up nicely with a nice tribute to Walker and where the franchise has come over the years, and the ending does set itself up for an eighth installment, should the producers choose. But as the series continues to grow, and the target audience ages, new fans may be harder to come by. CV

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