I’m an unapologetic fan of this series. The first film was an exciting hoot. Admittedly, 2 Fast 2 Furious was pretty bad. But I liked Tokyo Drift, Fast and Furious and Fast Five well enough. And Fast and Furious 6 was kind of awesome.
Despite the untimely death of Paul Walker, I suspected this seventh installment might be the pinnacle, followed by whatever diminishing returns the studio could wring out of the franchise before it fell apart. Sadly, this is the film where it actually falls apart.
I’ll start with what I think worked. The B-plot of Michelle Rodriguez’s Letty dealing with her amnesia was thoughtful and, at times, touching. The no-holds-barred way that Jason Statham’s Deckard is a one-man wrecking crew throughout the film is pretty awesome (even if it doesn’t always make sense). The way they made Dom’s (Vin Diesel) penchant for popping wheelies in his muscle cars actually a cool plot point made me smile. And, despite some pretty obviously choppy editing and noticeable face-replacement effects, the way they said goodbye to Paul Walker’s Brian was well handled.
But that’s only a little bit of good in a sea of well produced action sequences that I simply didn’t care about, plot twists that made me want to punch the screenwriter in the face, and sexism at a level that bounced me right out of the story.
I know, it’s odd to be a fan of a series that routinely features scantily clad women dancing around dragsters and get annoyed with sexism. But there’s a point where it just stops being escapism and veers into unacceptable territory.
They flirted with that line in the last film, when Elena (Elsa Pataky) gracefully exits Dom’s life after Letty is brought back from the “dead”. But that was just one little moment during the denouement of the film, tying off a loose end that wouldn’t have felt right to leave dangling.
Mia (Jordana Brewster) hasn’t ever had much to do in this series, beyond being an object of desire for Brian or a responsibility for Dom. But, in this film she responds to Brian’s restlessness with selfless worry that she bores him, rather than the more appropriate anger that he needs to stop being a child and be a father to his son.
Worse still, they had the stones to have the characters all weirded out when a mysterious hacker is revealed to be (wait for it) a girl! I saw the screenwriter trying to have his cake and eat it too by giving Roman (Tyrese Gibson) the speech about how it’s not right for someone like that (a woman) to be good at computers, and having Tej (Ludacris) reveal him as a fool. Nice try. You let the stupid sexist cliche out of the bag. Roman and Tej can’t stuff it back in there with a joke.
As for those action sequences, there’s another fine line between over-the-top fun, as in that insane plane scene at the end of Furious 6, and just plain dumb, as in Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) killing an armed drone with an ambulance. (Yeah, that’s right. I didn’t make that up.)
I mentioned how much I enjoyed Statham in the film… but I really didn’t enjoy the fact that there is no explanation for why he shows up half the time. When Kurt Russell shows up and practically turns the film into parody with his XXX-ish recruitment of Dom and his team, the film takes a crazy left turn (from which it never escapes, sending the story spinning for the rest of the movie), you kind of have to wonder what’s the point anyway? But Statham just keeps showing up, logic-be-damned.
Well, it’s a shame. I was really looking forward to this.