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Fast and Furious 7

Film Two Stars
As always, I like to put myself in the audience mind-set when reviewing a film, but for this franchise there's no need, I enjoy Fast and Furious just as I love fast cars, both driving them and watching them being driven at speed. I love the sound and the looks, and with the Fast and Furious film franchise (that's a lot of F's!) I do enjoy how they have built the core of the film around the family, the teamwork and the characters above all, but still included those cars.

The films may have stumbled along the way, taken a wrong turn here and there, faded a little, but with the fifth they really did build something new and quite a bit stronger. I liked Furious Five (Fast Five) (Filmstalker review), it took the great elements of the Fast and Furious franchise and added something extra, a much more intelligent plot bringing in the idea of a heist thriller at the core of the story, and it worked, it worked well. Not just for the fifth film either, it promised a platform on which could be delivered an equally powerful sequel.

FastandFurious7.jpgWell that sequel was, inspiringly, Fast and Furious 6 (Filmstalker review), and it did not live up to the fifth. It did some interesting things and definitely built on the scale and scope that the fifth had brought, but it lost the dramatic element that had been snuck in with the whole heist, and some of the practicality in the events.

How did the fifth film succeed so well, it wasn't just practical effects and the heist plot was it? Well it didn't forget those two key elements of the core of the franchise, the team i.e. the family, and the cars. These two aspects are key to the franchise.

So the disappointments for Fast and Furious 7 are that half the film forgets the team aspect and it only really comes back for Paul Walker, the cars seem to be the eye candy that even play second place to the ladies in the film, and the premise and stunts turn completely insane.

Before you leap to the keyboard and start typing incredulously about escapism, etc., let me say this. There is a level of escapism around every film, but each film contains its own boundaries that the audience are introduced to during the film and throughout a franchise. Once they are set-up you accept them and live with them, it makes the film work in its own world. Every film has its own fantasy and, once you have accepted it, stepping over these boundary lines can make you lose touch with the reality created in the film, even the craziest of realities.

That's how Fast and Furious is. They've created this reality of the street racing crew and built on that, gently nudging those boundaries further, and that's why some of the films work better than others, the fifth for example, and why the seventh doesn't.

For my friend Weezy77 and I, this has coined a new term, "seventhed it". This is when a film has pushed its reality boundaries into completely ridiculous, breaking the connection with the audience. Coined from Fast and Furious 7 as it did just that in the latter half of the film.

The stunts become so crazy, race so far over that line, that they make the tank-bridge-leap-save scene in Fast and Furious 6 (Filmstalker review) look boringly standard fare, and that stunt was past believable, it was laughable.

In fact the film leaps so far away from its own accepted boundaries that it becomes more like a Mission Impossible or Michael Bay film at times, losing everything that the franchise made its core, and that's a real shame.

Up to, and including the sequence where they took on the transport bus convoy, all was good, everything was within the Fast and Furious world, and even though some of the moments in that sequence pushed its own reality, they're still within the franchise's world. They work as a team, and the stunts are all about the vehicles. Okay, perhaps the final bus-cliff scene does go too far, especially with the very poorly executed climbing effect with Paul Walker's stuntman - it's obvious he's wearing a harness and wires and doesn't look anywhere near natural - but the core is still all there.

Come to the scene through the L.A. city streets, throw in a military helicopter laden with weaponry and a weaponised drone, split the crew up so it's more or less everyone for themselves, and add in some stunts which are the most unbelievable of the series, and we've just gone into ludicrous territory, and I don't mean the actor/rapper. It was here where the film totally lost me. We were watching a Mission Impossible film directed by Michael Bay, although that feeling had begun much earlier during the UAE tower sequences.

Of course it isn't just the action that I felt had lost touch with the franchise feeling, other aspects of the film had made me think that this was becoming a parody of itself. Just watch those sweeping shots as characters turned to camera and said their clichéd one-liners. They were coming faster than the cars were, and it wasn't long before they became just plain comic. I'm not even going to say how much I laughed at the Rock-plaster-breaking-post-TV-Hulk-scene, a scene that came well after that parody feel had been cemented in.

However it wasn't all bad. The first half was strong and the bus sequence made me come right back to the franchise feel. Then there was the clever start which begins before the end of Fast and Furious 6, meeting it a little ways in. The Jason Statham character was strong and introduced well, and the idea that he enlisted the help of the terrorist in a reflection of the way the crew were enlisted by the covert agency was a nice touch. Plus there was the whole Paul Walker storyline.

Walker's first scene introducing him with the van was superbly done, and just about every action sequence with him in it was filled with tension as I found myself wondering what was going to happen, and were they going to give him a fitting car related ending. They didn't, and even though there was a little disappointment for me there, the ending was wonderfully carried through and filled with reverence and emotion for what certainly seemed like the loss of a true a real friend. While that ending is very emotional, it's the ultimate ending that really caught me, and once again it was perfectly conceived. They really have produced a strong tribute to Paul Walker in that last act.

That though is what is saving the film and is producing the ratings it is receiving. Let me remind you that I am a real fan of the Fast and Furious franchise, I enjoy them and have defended them time and time again when others have thrashed out at them and reviewed them poorly, and derided the idea of a car based film franchise. With the seventh film they've managed to lose me while others, who previously thought less of the franchise, are reviewing the film well, I'm happy to point out that this is one of the weakest in the franchise, and if it weren't for the Paul Walker storyline, I'm sure that many other reviews would be agreeing.

Now that there's going to be an eighth film in the franchise they'll either have to step back from what they tried to do in this film or go back to the core because they are not going to be able to pull another "seventhed it" film, and now they've lost on of the family the core is even more important.

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