With Furious 7, the superhero season has begun — and these guys (and girls) are so poised in their invincibility that they don’t even bother to put on spandex costumes.
The juvenile implausibility of the stunts has always been the strength of the franchise.
Even The Hulk has a bad day, but nevermind: The seventh film in the fossil-fuel-burning series is one of its most infectious and thrilling (though Fast Five is still the best), with almost breathless action sequences taking place on cliff-hugging Azerbaijan highways, Abu Dhabi penthouses, and the series’ home turf of LA.
That we’ve seen the actors and their characters in seven films in the past 14 years gives the franchise a sense of urban lore. Vin Diesel’s character, Dom, keeps intoning about how his team is not a gang, but a “family” and the longevity of the series has given credit to the tight-knit ensemble.
Walker’s death in 2013 put a mournful dimension to the family angle, and watching him so alive on the screen for the last time is at once sad, exhilarating and surreal (after his death, his character was played by his two brothers, with the help of computer-generated tweaks).
Joining Diesel, Walker and co are Dwayne Johnson as the crazy cop Hobbs and Jason Statham as the new arch-nemesis Deckard Shaw, a black-ops assassin hell-bent on killing Dom and his friends.
Our own Tony Jaa plays Kiet, an angry henchman who has two, quite lengthy hand-to-hand combat scenes with Walker — and who speaks about three words. Oh, we also have Kurt Russell, all creased and shaded, as chief of an undercover agency that assists Dom and his gang in a subplot.
As in the past few films, it’s like an Ocean’s Eleven that ditches suaveness for raw energy. It’s also like Mission Impossible sans spy-craft smugness — only with streetwise camaraderie and outrageous auto stunts.
Then again, a franchise has to grow with its audience. The early films were cocky, youthful and rebellious, portraying street-racing as a form of subversion. (Which is why young riders in Southeast Asia worship Dom and Brian.)
In the latest film, we still have a scene in a racing outpost populated by tattooed guys and women in thongs, and the action is still flashy and brash. But Dom’s team is basically working with the government now (albeit its underground arm). Their gadgets, cars and guns are more polished, and their mission doesn’t have the intense, personal drive that fuelled Dom’s and Brian’s gang years.
The rest of the team will certainly come back for more. But for how much longer?
Starring: Vin Diesel,Paul Walker,Dwayne Johnson, Michelle Rodriguez,Kurt Russell,Jason Statham,
Tyrese Gibson,Chris Bridges,Tony Jaa and Jordana Brewster
Director: James Wan
Running time: 137 minutes