Once considered a garish and juvenile series with a relatively limited audience, Fast and Furious has grown to become an action behemoth. What’s most impressive is that the convoluted mix of characters, cars and back stories has been moulded into something that most studios would now kill for; a cinematic universe. Characters come in and out of films, whilst the third film – Tokyo Drift – has been cleverly weaved into the overall chronology.
After a set piece involving a tank and a runway that must have been the length of Europe it was hard to imagine how it could really be topped. But new director James Wan (known for horrors Saw and Insidious) steps in and does just that. Each scene on its own is fantastically enjoyable, but possibly a bit much for one film. Also, have they left themselves with anything for Furious 8? What are they going to do? Go to space?
This far into a franchise it’s hard not to feel a relationship with the characters as we follow their adventures. The well documented and tragic death of Paul Walker in 2013 cast the future of the film and the franchise in doubt, adding a sense of melancholy to the end product. Family is an idea constantly espoused by Diesel’s Dominic Toretto, and it has suffered a big loss. For such an outlandish series the subject is handled with an amazing amount of love and care. Tastefully crafted, the ending provides a meaningful exit from the series without feeling forced. An action film that also hit me square in the feels makes for a pleasant surprise.
New cast members Statham and Russell fit in seamlessly, adding a true threat and a doorway into a larger world, further removing the films from their street racer roots. Less welcome is Ronda Rousey, who is just dreadful despite filling the ‘required girl on girl fight’ in impressive style. Speaking of cars, there is a dazzling array of machinery on display; something for everyone for sure. Fast cars and beautiful women go hand in hand, but maybe Wan should have lingered on the bumpers of the cars a bit longer and not so much those of the ladies. Maybe I’m just getting older, but it did seem rather leery.
It’s rare for films this far into a series to be challenging for the top spot. Fast and Furious 7 just misses out to the sixth film, though it gives it a damn good try with incredible stunts and a good dash of humour. Ultimately it can’t escape the shadow of Paul Walker, and whilst it handles it in a tender way the sadness pervading it takes away a degree of enjoyment.