Furious 7

How do you review Furious 7? More to the point, is there actually any need to review Furious 7? Those of you who want to see it will be first in line at your local multiplex, while those of you who don't will have already decided that it's the latest moronic example of how Hollywood has sacrificed character, intriguing plotting and art in favor of lazily cluttered scenes of impressive action, all of which caters to the lowest common denominator. Seldom will people ever be in-between.

But most of you who are firmly in the latter camp always seem to forget that films like Furious 7 know exactly what they are. They're not trying to sell themselves as anything other than a high-octane ride of audacious, delightfully preposterous and genuinely exhilarating set-pieces that somehow become more impressive and death-defying as both the franchise and the film evolve.

The fact that Furious 7 is able to both match and top the efforts of its previous installments exemplifies everything that is truly great about cinema, and due to the tragic death of Paul Walker during filming, it's also undercut with a potent emotional punch that you can't help but find yourself moved by. In fact, if you let your pretensions go, you'll end up so unashamedly engrossed by Furious 7 that you'll forgive its blatant disregard of narrative, subtlety and gravity and just enjoy and appreciate the rollicking ride for what it is.

So where should I start? Let's get Furious 7’s non-existent plot out of the way first. Fresh off their success in Fast & Furious 6, Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel doing his best live-action Groot impression), Brian O'Conner (Paul Walker) and the rest of their merry band of speed freaks have returned to the U.S. to try and live normal lives.

Unfortunately Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham), the brother of F&F 6 villain Owen Shaw (Luke Evans), is on the rampage for revenge. But after he kills one of Dom’s crew, they each immediately plan their own course for vengeance, which also happens to coincide with the plans of the U.S. government, led by the always magnificent Kurt Russell. They are hunting down a terrorist group, the boss of which is the devilish Jakande (Djimon Hounsou), that have kidnapped esteemed hacker Megan Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel). It's stupid. It's flimsy. But it gets the characters into risqué, glamorous, far-flung places across the globe where they can put their need for speed to good use.

Admittedly, along the way, there is also some cringe-worthy abuse of the medium of cinema. Laughable dialogue is coupled with audaciously derivative scenes of melodrama. There's one product placement scene that even the powers that be over at 007 and Transformers headquarters would wince at. Cynical cameos are forced in just to appeal to a wider demographic, while Furious 7’s 2 hour and 20 minute running time borders on the torturous.

However, even these criticisms can be defended. The hackneyed story strands bring simplistic tension, and up the stakes during Furious 7’s break-neck action as you can't help but feel intimately bonded to each member of the Torretto crew. The fact that Furious 7 has a ridiculously bloated run time pretty much sums up the entire franchise as a whole. I mean, why have 5 relentless action-scenes when you can have 6? You might as well overwhelm the audience to the point of exhaustion than even risk leaving them unsatisfied. And the product placement and cameos? Cinema is a multi-billion dollar industry, so you should really be over that by now.

But even highlighting those faults is frivolous. Want Jason Statham fighting The Rock? You got it. What about Vin Diesel and Jason Statham recklessly playing chicken? Done. How about five cars falling out of a airplane and then expertly breaking into a well-armed vehicle down a winding mountain-side road in a 25-minute action salvo that is structured and amped up to keep your eyes wide with delight? You probably didn't even know you wanted it, but there it is.

James Wan (Saw, The Conjuring) steps into the director's chair vacated by Justin Lin, seamlessly filling the screen with visuals of sex, violence, cars and guns -- all of which is accompanied by a roaring soundtrack of dance-music, engines and explosions. You're never given a milliseconds rest, and the entire blockbuster unfolds like an elongated music video to the most mainstream song you've never heard. Wan also expertly deals with the omission of Paul Walker's Brian O'Connor, while the emotional dedication to their fallen comrade is proudly brazen, and you'll struggle not to get caught up in it.

And it's that undercurrent of affection that elevates Furious 7 above its predecessors. There's nothing subtle or pretentious about it, plus it gives viewers the perfect goodbye to Walker. This rawness and appreciation for its audience has been prevalent throughout the recent additions to the Fast & Furious franchise, and these are qualities that are severely lacking in mainstream Hollywood's output. Last week, Vin Diesel insisted that Furious 7 deserved to win Best Picture at next year's Academy Awards. But it's above such frivolities. Instead, he and everyone around him should just continue what they're doing. Because even though it's stupid, over the top and gratuitous, it's glorious.

Gregory Wakeman