“Furious 7” is next-level bonkers

By Eli Fine

(Universal Pictures)
(Universal Pictures)

Early in “Furious 7,” Brian O’Conner (a mix of Paul Walker and some awfully creepy post-mortem CGI) tells his son, rather randomly, that “cars don’t fly,” this being Brian’s way of chastising his son for throwing his toy car on the ground. Having seen previous installments of the “Fast and Furious” franchise, I took this non sequitur as a decent indicator that we’d be getting a flying car or two in this movie.

And I wasn’t disappointed, because holy crap do cars fly a whole bunch in “Furious 7.”

Not halfway through the film, Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) and his whole gang drive armored cars out of an airplane mid-flight. Huge parachutes release, the cars glide down to land on a highway and we’re thrown right into the next gigantic action set piece of the movie, which involves Brian running up the side of a coach bus as it falls off a huge cliff.

I’m not an action movie guy by any stretch. I rarely care enough to see an out-and-out action movie like “Furious 7, and when I do see them, I rarely enjoy them. That’s why I wasn’t expecting much from this movie, and that’s why I’m so surprised that it blew my mind the way it did.

I’m not saying that I loved it. I’m also not saying that it’s a good movie. It isn’t. I’m saying that as a collection of insane sequences and massive, ridiculous set pieces, “Furious 7” manages to be more unique, exciting, wacky and crazy than any number of recent blockbusters.

Consider the latest “Transformers” film, last month’s “Insurgent” or any other recent action movie that you want. None of those movies contain anything as mind-blowingly senseless as Vin Diesel driving a car – nay, flying a car – through the top floors of three huge skyscrapers in Abu Dhabi, crashing through the windows of each building and interrupting multiple fancy-dress parties. None of those movies feature performances as colossally, laughably terrible as the ones given here by the likes of MMA fighter, Rhonda Rousey and rapper Iggy Azalea. None of those movies have an unabashedly long sequence devoted entirely to the product placement of Corona beer, wherein their main characters talk extendedly about how they only drink Corona.

“Furious 7” alone can lay claim to all of these things.

Even the movie’s more calm, character-driven scenes (of which there are maybe two) seem like director James Wan was doing cocaine immediately before filming them. Toward the beginning of the movie, Dom and his sister Mia (Jordana Brewster) have a phone conversation about keeping Mia’s family out of harm’s way. As Wan intercuts between the two characters, the camera arcs around them grandly, sweeping around as if this were some epic scene, when in fact it’s just a phone conversation. This is a little jarring at first, but it absolutely fits with the totality of the movie whose motto seems to be “all out crazy.”

The movie opens with an exhilarating credits sequence in which the movie’s villain, Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham), breaks into and destroys a hospital. Not only is the sequence really fast and arresting, it introduces us to the film’s best performer in Statham. Statham is perfectly cast as Shaw. Whereas most action blockbusters have generically evil, boring villains, Shaw is 100 percent an engaging, threatening and perfectly over-the-top villain. Statham has a ton of screen presence and chews up the scenery in appropriately British fashion.

The amount of civilian deaths Dom and his gang cause in “Furious 7” must number in the thousands. The gang crashes into multiple police cars, causes huge pile-ups, explodes highways, destroys skyscrapers and much more. The movie doesn’t care about theoretical civilian deaths, and the characters certainly don’t care either. This is only slightly troubling, as the movie does portray a hugely heightened universe, and the gigantic civilian death toll is only a small facet of the film’s absolute insanity.

Vin Diesel mumbles his way through the movie. He is barely understandable at times, and when he is discernible, the things he says are ridiculous to the point of being laugh-out-loud funny. My personal favorite Dom line comes at the end of the movie when he is gearing up to fight Shaw. Shaw grabs a crowbar, but Dom aims a shotgun at him instead of grabbing a crowbar for himself. In a callback to an earlier scene, he says, “You thought this was gonna be a street fight?” Then, he throws down his gun, grabs two huge metal wrenches and comes at Shaw, saying “You’re damn right it is.” This type of nonsense permeates “Furious 7.”

I enjoyed myself entirely during “Furious 7.” Whether I was having fun watching cars fly, watching some of the very solid supporting performances (Nathalie Emmanuel, Djimon Hounsou and Tyrese Gibson are especially good), or simply listening to the crazy dialogue, I had a better time than I ever expected to and am now eagerly anticipating whatever bonkers, crazy and Looney Tunes stuff they come up with for the inevitable eighth film in the series.

Eli Fine can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @ElazarFine.