Film review: Fast and Furious 7

Wan provides the wow for Walker’s final bow

In the interest of full disclosure, prior to Fast and Furious 7, this reviewer had only seen the first of these films and not a jot between them. I remember almost nothing of that early entry to this hugely successful franchise, but since I’ve never returned to it, one can assume that I might not have qualified for the target demographic.

Jason Statham, who with every film is slowly transmogrifying into a chop-socky Bruce Willis, plays a hardass Brit with special forces training (for a change) and a dying brother in hospital in London. He holds the Furious family (Walker, Diesel, Ludacris et al) responsible for his ailing brother and follows them around the world in a travelogue game of cat and mouse to take his revenge and collect serious air miles.

Master of horror onboard

James Wan is primarily a horror director whose star has risen in the last decade with such box office juggernauts as Insidious, The Conjuring and the Saw franchise, the original of which he cut his teeth on back in 2004.

Wan conceives and co-writes much of the material he works on and his films are proficient at eliciting his desired response from the audience. While clearly derivative popcorn fodder, Wan borrows from the best (he cites David Lynch as an influence for his two Insidious films) and his work is, if nothing else, well crafted.

The suspense is unbearable

On paper, Wan may seem an odd choice for a previously established franchise – whose primary concerns are flying bullets, bouncing boobs and vehicular warfare – and yet, Wan proves himself a first-rate journeyman whose experience in horror means he certainly knows where to put the camera.

Point in case would be the nailbiting sequence somewhere around the middle of the two hour plus running time (a tad indulgent given the subject matter) that begins with Team Furious in freefall out of a plane – while strapped into their cars – and ends with Conner (Walker) negotiating a scenario not unlike the end of The Italian Job. This is where Wan excels: not with the performances, which are serviceable at best – only Walker’s gravitas, Russell’s wrinkles and Diesel’s bass growl can make this nonsense seem fleetingly credible – or the action, which is all up to scratch, but rather the moments he cranks to unbearable suspense. It’s precisely this skill he’s honed making horror. Here, he uses it to shamelessly milk Walker’s entrapment in an overturned bus – sliding towards, and over, a cliff – for all its worth. The result is a spectacular set piece.

No room for philosophy

Anyone looking for depth should be ejected from their seats for lack of cinema savvy – Fast and Furious 7 is at its most embarrassing when it tries its hand at philosophy – “An open stretch of road helps a man clear his mind – and think” – and most at home when dialogue is at a minimum.

If, unlike me, you were eagerly awaiting 2 Fast 2 Furious after seeing the first film, then you shouldn’t miss out on this. Fast and Furious 7 delivers what it promises and, in the matter of paying tribute to the late Paul Walker, Wan manages a well-intended, if mawkish, degree.