'Furious 7' delivers while falling short of recent films in the franchise

A quarter-mile at a time

The Spectrum

Film: Furious 7

Release date: April 3

Studio: Original Films

Grade: B

Furious 7 is a film that can’t decide what it wants the stakes to be. Paul Walker's death during the production of Furious 7 added more tension to the already intense film – but even with that, the film seems uncertain.

The crew of 2001’s The Fast and The Furious has come a long way from boosting DVD players off tractor-trailers in Los Angeles. The franchise has become a globetrotting adventure, full of ridiculous stunts, gorgeous cars and enough gunfights to fill an Expendables film.

It would be easy for the franchise to cross the line of ridiculousness.

Thankfully, Justin Lin, who directed The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift – arguably a low point in the series – Fast 5 and Fast and Furious 6 – the two best films in the series – along with James Wan, Furious 7’sdirector, have kept their hands on the accelerator, their films behind the line and delivered an enjoyable ride from start to finish.

Furious 7 is no exception, falling just a bit short of the finish line compared to the last two films in the series – but certainly not where the box office is concerned.

The record-setting and franchise-best-selling Furious 7 picks up where the Fast and Furious 6 left off with the crew adjusting to life back home.

That adjustment is catastrophically halted when Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham, Spy) seeks vengeance for what Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel, Guardians of the Galaxy), Brian O’Connor (Paul Walker, Brick Mansions) and the rest of the crew did to his younger brother.

Shaw should mark the greatest threat to the crew yet – even with the number of villains they’ve taken down and toppled to date. Shaw, a “monster” operative created by the covert fringes of government that seep their way into Furious 7, makes an explosive introduction that leaves the Toretto and his “family” being hunted.

While the peril has never been bigger, the film can’t decide how Shaw matches up to his would-be victims on his vengeful warpath.

The dangers throughout the film are given further levity by the jaw-dropping stunts that occur throughout with little to no injury to the crew, leaving them seeming more invincible than possible prey to Shaw’s predator.

But Furious 7 hasn’t lost the series’ roots, even as gunfights, military vehicles and other aspects have entered the franchise. It’s still well vested in family, with cars, settings and stunts that match the high-caliber stakes the franchise finds itself at and that fans have come to expect.

The film includes a number of luxury vehicles ranging from a $3.4 million Lykan Hypersport to a Bugatti Veyron and Aston Martin, but doesn’t forget the tuners or ‘old-fashioned American muscle’ cars the series began its street-racing roots with.

In the presence of the franchise at the height of its success, it’s hard not to look back at where it has been and what it has become. It’s here that Furious 7 falls a bit short of its predecessors.

The fights, though spectacular, aren’t as good as some in previous films, particularly a few notable ones throughout Fast and Furious 6, the return to the crews’ roots seems like a lull while the film waits to shift up to the next gear and the plot feels more familiar.

The past few films in the series have felt as much like genre-jumpers as globetrotting adventures, strung along by what fans have come to love and embrace in the series. Fast Five was a heist, Fast and Furious 6 was a spy film and Furious 7 finds itself somewhere in between in scale and tone.

In returning to its roots, Furious 7 feels a bit too familiar for its own good. But it’s hard to realize that as the film flies by on screen, stringing along one stunt and fight scene to the next.

It would be easy to discount what this series has become as ‘Expendables on wheels.’ Furious 7 is further proof this franchise is too well done for such a moniker. It has some corny acting, some cheesy moments and it straddles the line of disbelief enough.

But it’s hard to remember all that as the film crosses the finish line, rolling into the credits and pays tribute to one of the series’ biggest cast members.

Living life a quarter mile at a time has paid off once again.

Jordan Oscar is a contributing writer and can be reached at jordan.oscar@ubspectrum.com