‘Furious 7’ Review: Magnificently Stupid

'Furious 7'

Movie Rating:

3.5

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.

32 comments

  1. Bolo

    I love these movies and I’ll be seeing this one sometime this weekend. They’re the best action series out there right now (I’m not really into superheroes). They’ve got to get Keanu in there somewhere.

  2. Warner

    These movies are everything that “The Expendables” series wants to be … old school throw back B movie action. Looking forward to seeing it this weekend 🙂 Thanks for the review Phil.

  3. Seeing it tomorrow for sure, got my wife caught up on Part 6 over the past couple nights so we are ready to go 🙂 Cant wait, I love how ridiculous this series has gotten, some of the best filmed action scenes in a long long time….

  4. Chris B

    Great work Phil! I was wondering if you could give us a bit more background info on yourself actually. Did you take any Journalism studies in post-secondary or are you completely self taught when it comes to writing? Is it your full-time profession or do you have a “day-job”? What’s your review methodology? Do you binge-watch a couple movies in one day and bang out the critiques or is it a week-long writing process? Also, who are some of your favorite critics and inspirations? And lastly, what’s your all-time favorite movie? Thanks!

      • Chris B

        Oh yeah! that to! Also, why is the sky blue? Is there life after death? And will the Cubs ever win another world series?!

    • Phil Brown

      Sure, why not?
      -I went to film school, but I’ve been reviewing movies since high school. No journalism education, just too much movie watching.
      -This is all I do; however, given the current state of my bank account I should probably consider changing that at some point.
      -I don’t have a specific review methodology. I just watch n’ react and try to be honest while still judging every movie on it’s own terms rather than some sort of cinematic platonic ideal. But I do have favorite critics that intellectualize in an casually unpretentious manner that I hope to emulate in some way, if that helps (folks like Nathan Rabin, Pauline Kael, Roger Ebert, Mark Kermode, Amy Nicholson, etc.)
      -I watch movies almost every day and normally write stuff every day as well. I don’t really have any sort of set schedule.
      -It’s tough to pick a specific favorite movie, but a few that immediately spring to mind are Taxi Driver, Trainspotting, Shoot The Piano Player, Dr. Strangelove, Fargo, Evil Dead 2, The Godfather 1&2, Annie Hall, Boogie Nights, Touch Of Evil, California Split, Jaws, and Something Wild. There are many, many, many others. But I’ll leave it there.
      -My favorite color is red.
      -If I were a tree, I’d definitely be a birch tree.

      • Phil Brown

        The sky is blue because you want it to be, stupid. I don’t believe in life after death, but I do believe in Santa. The Cubs will win the World Series because Back To The Future told us so.

        • Deaditelord

          Bah. The sky is blue because you want it to be? That’s crazy talk Phil. I mean honestly, what’s next: You claiming that the grass is green because it’s greener on the other side? Don’t be filling impressionable minds like Freakyguy with your heretical, revisionist logic! 🙂

          Since we all agree that Back to the Future’s vision of 2015 is real, do you have any ideas as to how the Cubs manage to beat Miami in the World Series when both play in the National League?

          • Chris B

            Yes I was a bit perplexed at the “…because you want it to be, stupid” response to my question as well, for the following reasons:

            1. My personal wants and desires have no bearing on the particular hue of said sky

            2. I’m not stupid.

            However, there is a possibility this was in reference to some movie I’ve never seen. Sort of like an in-in-IN joke for Uber movie nerds. If I COULD pick the color of the sky though.,,I’d go with Vanilla…

            At any rate, thank you for the reply.

      • Ryan

        Do you think it’s fair to judge a reviewer on what their personal favorite movies are (as far as whether or not you can take their reviews to heart)?
        Almost every movie you listed, I am either impartial to, or actually disliked.

        • Chris B

          I’m not sure what you mean by fair. If a reviewer loves the same stuff that I do, I think obviously there’s a much higher chance I’ll feel the same way about a new release. And if they love all the stuff that I detest, I know it’s probably best to take their opinion with a grain of salt because there’s a good chance it will differ with mine. Ultimately, I was curious as to Phil’s personal faves because of the sheer amount of movies he must have seen by this point (and the fact it’s his job to judge movies as objectively as possible). To pick favorites from the literally thousands he’s obviously watched
          might expose me to a few great films I’ve never heard of. I’m the same way with other critics and filmmakers. I’ll check out top ten lists of directors from every era. Tarantino has some really interesting picks. I may never have discovered William Friedkin’s Sorcerer if I hadn’t read about it in his top ten. It’s all about finding that next great film…*shrugs*

        • Phil Brown

          Hang on…you’re either impartial to or dislike The Godfather? Are you absolutely sure that you like movies at all?

  5. Ryan

    I just can’t understand why people are okay with these horrible movies….but HATE horrible movies like Transformers.
    They are both ridiculously dumb….and both nearly unwatchable

    • Chris B

      I think part of the reason is people believe they instantly gain credibilty by shitting all over anything Michael Bay directed. “What?! You like a Bay flick?! You don’t understand art you uncultured swine!!”

    • Bolo

      I’ve been asked this question many times. I get that a lot of people feel that if you like one dumb loud macho action flick, you’re obligated to like anything else the hits all the same checkboxes. I’ve tried to explain the differences many times, but the best way is with the following analogy:

      Michael Bay is to regular dumb macho action movies what death metal is classic rock.

      I just find Bay’s style is to pile moneyshots and loud noises end to end for three hours and I just find it exhausting to watch. His action sequences have no rhythym to me. Even within an individual scene there’s no setup, build-up, and payoff; let alone any kind of pacing or structure to the overall movie. It just feels like three hours of noise to me. The guy is in perpectual climax mode and I just don’t like it.

    • Taste is in the eye of the beholder. I don’t usually go for the brainless B movies, but these are absolutely hilarious, and Phil Brown’s review is one of the best I’ve seen in a long while. And the beauty of all of this is that this is only my opinion! You have yours.

  6. Zerozep

    I would never defend the first five of these movies but I actually enjoy them, shamefully, but 6 and 7 were just taken to another level of stupid. It takes itself so seriously yet it seems like it’s making fun of itself at the same time. I’m not sure why I can enjoy movies like transformers and even tmnt but dislike the last two of this series so much. At least in the older ff movies it seemed liked there were some rules lol and some fun ideas that I didn’t see coming but this one reminded me of when I was eight and used to play with my toys, that’s the kind of action they are doing, even with my brain at the door it was making me cringe. But I must say they did do a very well done send off for Paul that was quite touching, which was the only reason I saw this after the last one. This will definitely be the last ff I will see and I will continue to shamefully enjoy the fist five.

  7. I just don’t think Vin Diesel or The Rock have a lot of swagger. They’ll never be Schwarzenegger, Willis ( in his prime), Bronson, Eastwood, Stallone. Even Steven Seagal was a decent action star in his early days, but the Rock and Diesel, I don’t buy their badassery. Statham’s got alot of charisma and I’ll bet he’s good in this movie. It’ll be a rental for me.

        • Chris B

          I think it’s hard to compare 80’s action heros with those nowadays simply becuase today’s audiences are much more jaded and cynical. There’s no way movies can get away with ridiculous one-liners and sill action scenes the way they did in the 80’s. Unless it’s done in a self-parodying style like these movies or The Expendables series.

          • That could definitely be part of it although I don’t consider myself too cynical , but I was just stating that no matter how hard I try, I just can’t 100 percent get into The Rock or Diesel. I didn’t find him particularly interesting as a wrestler, (the eyebrow schtick). As an action star, he’s just kind of meh. Now he’s a major player for the F&F franchise and the trailers like to exploit that. Take the trailer for Furious 7 as an example. The scene where he’s like, “I AM the cavalry”, with his helicopter gun. I know it’s supposed to be like aw yeah what a badass, but I just kind of roll my eyes at it. Then there’s Diesel, who seems to get worse and worse as an actor the longer he does it. Triple xxx was total dogshit and the Riddick franchise is lukewarm. I did kind of like Babylon A.D. Conclusion- I would like to see better action stars than Johnson & Diesel.

  8. lalalalalalalala this is my train

    nah… It’s okay , just found it F&F7 is basically trying to replicating Rush in terms of ending, where as the latter has a good, meaningful, gruesome story of 2 F1 racers that kind of ending would work but as opposed to the former where it has ludricuous amount of mindless car chases, girls, explosions, bad-ass set of cars, and crazy stunts it just never worked in these kind of movies, atleast for me

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