Release Date: April 3rd, 2015
Cast: Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Jason Statham, Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson, Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese Gibson, Ludacris
Director: James Wan
Studio: Original Film, One Race Films, Relativity Media
Distributor: Universal Pictures
Genre(s): Action, Crime, Thriller
Go see this movie? GO see this movie! Go see this movie. Go see this moooovie. Ok. With that out of the way maybe I can articulate this intelligently. Probably not. I’m too damn enamored with it. This latest entry in a franchise that started as street racers and thieves has grown. I hadn’t been following the series too closely but apparently somewhere in the last three movies, after that weird kid went to Tokyo and learned to drift with Bow Wow, these turned into full blown action super-spy flicks. These are the movies Vin Diesel had in mind when he left the franchise after the first film and moved on to xXx. Hell, they are soap operas with nitro running through their veins, where love triangles have been replaced by vengeance quests. So over-the-top, the lines can make you cringe laughably just as much the action will leave you breathless.
The Set-Up: Jason Statham shows up as an even more pissed version of his Transporter character who is the older brother of Bard – I mean Dracula – I mean Luke Evans from the 6th movie. I guess that guy was a big ol’ bad ass but Statham is his leaner, meaner brother. That’s not even true, Evans is a lean dude, Statham is rippppped. Anyways! He’s on a path for vengeance for his brother’s defeat and crippling, and he’s after our guys!
The pursuit of vengeance takes us around the world to Tokyo (briefly), the Caucus Mountains, Abu Dhabi, and of course L.A. All of which provide the backdrop for the most ridiculous action set pieces. You’ve seen the cars parachuting from a cargo plane (and that’s only in the first act!), but in addition to that most magnificent piece of cinema history you have multiple fist fights, cars racing through buildings, driving off cliffs, and explosions.
In addition to the plot of revenge for Statham’s Shaw, we have Kurt Russell popping in as some sort of black ops government agent Mr. Nobody who is willing to help our gang of supersoldierdrivers find Shaw. To kill a shadow, he says, you just need to shine a little light. This leads to the inclusion of two more villains played by Djimon Hounsou and Tony Jaa as well as a hacker, Nathalie Emmanuel and her program God’s Eye. A sort of super surveillance program that puts every camera and microphone on the planet under her command. Sound familiar? Yeah these sort of Big-Brother plot devices seem to be the thing these days though I hope that trend dies. I get it, it’s topical! But having movies where the good guys are getting this device for the U.S. Government (a group with less than stellar track record when it comes to spying on citizens, yes I know I’m now on a list) leaves a questionable taste.
That said, this movie doesn’t try to be smart. It doesn’t try to be serious. It certainly doesn’t try to be realistic! It’s big, dumb, and loud and it does all of that full of heart. As it tells you repeatedly this movie is about family and loyalty, the motivation for our good guys is the same for the villain and I like that a lot. You never question the motivation or actions of Shaw, he mirrors Diesel and the gang.
Now, the biggest thing. The singular thing all are wondering. What about Paul? Well I can say the folks behind Furious 7 handled it amazing. I dare say if his passing hadn’t been such huge news when it happened folks might not realize the reconstructing they had to do for the film. There certainly is a bit of a golden burnish about his looks but I was never taken out of it. That’s all I’ll say, I’d rather let the movie do the talking when it comes to what they have to say to their dear friend. It may go in an expected sappy tone but I’ll be damned if I didn’t appreciate it.
Final Thoughts: This movie is a love letter between friends, fans, and family. We all are gifted to see such a thing, and blessed that it is so damn entertaining. Guys, I’m biased as hell. But I loved this movie.