Everyone needs a guilty pleasure and since 2001, audiences from across the globe have flocked to see The Fast & Furious franchise in all its over-the-top glory.
However, filming on the latest instalment, Fast & Furious 7, was delayed after the tragic death of lead actor Paul Walker, so does his untimely passing hurt the resulting movie?
Fast 7 continues after the events of Tokyo Drift and features the usual loveable rogues returning in their respective roles, including a beefed up part for Jason Statham who made a cameo in the sixth film.
Vin Diesel, Dwayne Johnson, Michelle Rodriguez, Jordana Brewster, Tyrese Gibson, Lucas Black and Ludacris all reprise their characters as they do battle against Statham’s villain, Deckard Shaw, who fans will remember is the brother of Owen Shaw from Fast 6.
The premise remains as simple as in previous instalments but continues the series’ trend for over-the-top action pieces that border on the ridiculous. Despite this, Fast 7 is the most watchable of the entire franchise with stunning locations, brilliant practical effects and surprising emotional heft.
James Wan directs what looks like a tourist information film for LA, Abu Dhabi and Tokyo but manages to keep the story flowing throughout the slightly overlong 137 minute running time. The fast cars and beautiful women are thrown at the audience thick and fast and the brakes aren’t applied until ten minutes before the end credits roll.
Thankfully, this is exactly what the series has become known for and the gorgeous settings are brilliantly juxtaposed with action-packed sequences including the much-marketed mountain plane drop in Azerbaijan that is an absolute wonder to behold despite its constant use in the film’s trailers.
Vin Diesel’s Dom is what has grounded the series over the last 14 years but here it is Paul Walker’s Brian O’Conner that we find the most intriguing and it’s really no surprise. Ever since his death, fans were worried how tasteful the film would be, but there is no need to worry.
Despite the action, the fights and the sunshine, Fast 7 manages to provide a rollercoaster of emotion as the cameras linger on Walker’s face or put him at the forefront of each scene. As the final 10 minutes approach it’s clear that the movie is going to end on a deeply gut-wrenching tribute to him and there were a few tears in the cinema.
Nevertheless, it’s obvious a film that focuses on supercars isn’t going to have much of a plot but director James Wan, who comes to the franchise for the first time, should be commended for fashioning a half-coherent story despite going into the production with numerous delays and seven films in.
Overall, Fast 7 is a great slice of popcorn entertainment and should definitely rank high up as one of the better films in the series. However, the tragic circumstances surrounding its production make it so much more.
Yes it won’t be winning any awards for originality or acting prowess, but its emotional resonance means it’s worth a watch for fans of the series and newcomers alike.