A parody movie mocking the ‘Fast and Furious’ series is on the way shortly, but can you help wondering why? There’s no way any parody could possibly be as absurd and hilarious as ‘Furious 7’. This latest cinematic ode to shaved heads, tight undershirts, nitrous oxide and latent homoeroticism has comedy covered already.
Something special happened in the middle of the production of ‘Fast Five’: The ‘Fast and Furious’ series discovered self-parody. That’s not the same thing as saying that the franchise is laced with irony now or that it looks down on its audience. No, these movies will always offer the empty high of an energy drink. However, once an actual pro wrestler joined the team rather than just a collection of actors who look like wrestlers, everyone agreed that it was time to embrace stupidity.
Movie review convention dictates that a plot summary is in order. Even though that’s pretty much impossible and frankly irrelevant here, let’s go for it anyway. Following the events of ‘Fast & Furious 6′, Luke Evans’ brother Jason Statham has vowed revenge and plans to hunt down the whole Fast gang. He starts by killing off Sung Kang, then blows up Vin Diesel’s house, and even puts Dwayne “The Artist Formally Known as The Rock” Johnson in the hospital (for reals!). Diesel obviously doesn’t take too kindly to that sort of behavior, so he puts on his best sleeveless shirt, gathers the gang, and prepares to stop Statham’s shenanigans.
To complicate matters, Kurt Russell shows up playing the head of some sort of super secret government-ish organization. He offers Vin a deal. If Vin and the gang steal some crazy computer chip that can read every camera in the world simultaneously, Russell will deliver Statham to them. It’s an impossible task that involves stealing a hacker from a terrorist, but Diesel agrees since his gang has slowly evolved from street racers to drug smugglers to international thieves to covert government operatives (all at high speed). They’ve got the skillz to do the jobs. Cue the car carnage.
It goes without saying that the plot of ‘Furious 7’ is dumb and full of holes. (The biggest cause of confusion is the fact that Statham shows up at every job Diesel’s gang pulls for Russell, yet Diesel refuses to kill him for some reason that only makes sense when you consume as much Corona as Vin does.) However, that doesn’t really matter. Complaining that a ‘Fast and Furious’ movie is stupid is like complaining that ‘The Texas Chainsaw Massacre’ is violent. That’s why you show up to these things. The real question is whether or not the movie is entertainingly dumb, and this one most certainly is.
Franchise savior Justin Lin (who directed parts 3-6) passed the directorial reigns over to James Wan (‘Saw’, ‘The Conjuring’) and the choice was inspired. Perhaps Wan doesn’t quite have the same sense of ‘Looney Tunes’ action as Lin, but he crafts a close approximation and knows how to create eye candy like few others. He also has essentially a limitless budget at his disposal and uses it to stage such extraordinarily stupid sights as cars driving between skyscrapers or skydiving into action sequences. The movie has plenty of expensive bang-bang for anyone who buys a ticket. You won’t be left wanting for spectacle.
The great Jason Statham was a perfect addition to this franchise and serves as the series’ finest villain. (The Rock was never really a bad guy; he respects Vin and the gang too damn much.) Watching Statham beat the crap out of the Fast gang (in cars and otherwise) while spitting out threatening cockney is special treat. Unfortunately, he’s not in the movie as much as you’d hope. That particular pleasure will be stretched out over the next few sequels with the bulk of this movie given over to the Fast kids doing jobs for Russell. Given the actor’s undeniable charisma, it’s hard to complain.
Diesel once again performs as if he’s a child discovering the world for the first time, and that act hasn’t gotten old yet. Tyrese and Ludacris’ comedy duo provide plenty of laughs. Michelle Rodriguez milks her amnesiac silliness for all sorts of melodrama between fight sequences. The family message is shoved down our throats harder than ever. (This series isn’t about cars goddammit; it’s about family!). The Rock remains the franchise’s secret weapon and steals every scene he’s in, but unfortunately he’s out of commission for most of the movie. Hopefully, that mistake will be rectified in future sequels (although his absence is definitely worth it for the inevitable scene when he announces his return).
Obviously, the death of Paul Walker hangs over ‘Furious 7’. There are a few sequences where it’s clear that stunt-doubling and CGI face-transplants were required, but the issue is never distracting and the movie ends with a very sincere and almost genuinely touching farewell that feels oddly appropriate. That’s the funny thing about these movies. They wear their hearts on their sleeve even when they have nothing to say. It’s part of their appeal.
You can laugh all you want at the boneheaded one-liners, raging machismo, sleeveless fashions, and cartoon blow-em-ups, but the folks behind these movies are very sincere about the nonsense that they’re delivering, even when the silliness stretches into self-parody. If the ‘Fast’ movies knew exactly how hilarious they were, they wouldn’t be nearly as funny. The folks behind ‘Furious 7’ shove their tongues into their cheeks just enough to avoid insulting the audience’s intelligence and then play most of the stupidity straight-faced like they should.
The thing about good B-movies is that they have to be crappy. Laughing at a ‘Fast and Furious’ flick is just as enjoyable as cheering with it. ‘Furious 7’ is like a good theme park ride, offering all sorts of empty fun that you’ll feel stupid falling for even while it’s happening and you love it. The ending suggests that this could be a franchise finale, but given all the money to be made, that’s impossible. This series has to keep pumping, because it only just discovered its idiotic voice.
‘Fast Five’ remains the crowning achievement of the franchise, but at least the follow-ups have been just as lovably good/bad. It’s nice to know there’s one old-school brainless action movie franchise left that plays out on the scale of a comic book blockbuster. This franchise needs to keep kicking until the inevitable sequel that brings in Nicolas Cage to play the villain. That’s a gift that Hollywood needs to give to the world, if only because a shaved head is the only wacky haircut that man hasn’t worn yet.