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SXSW Review: Furious 7

At the bedside of crisped brother Owen Shaw (Luke Evans), older, meaner Deckard (Jason Statham) vows revenge on the crew that turned his sibling into a pin cushion. The camera pulls back to reveal a high security hospital-turned-war zone and Statham slowly saunters past gunned-down guards, ravaged rooms and fizzling tech. The world pisses itself in the presence of Deckard - your appropriately chewy badass action movie baddie at the center of the latest Fast film. It's a rightfully outrageous moment that aptly sums up Furious 7 in its complete and stupid glory; it's so dumb, it's so good.

In this seventh installment of a series that has become an unspeakably popular epicenter of big blockbuster entertainment, Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) and his "family" are tasked with a new mission that might be their most deadly yet. Under the tutelage of shadow-organization commander Frank Petty (Kurt Russell), Toretto, Brian (Paul Walker), Letty (Michelle Rodriquez), Tej (Ludacris) and Roman Pearce (Tyrese Gibson) must rescue accomplished but mysterious hacker Ramsey (Game of Thrones' Missandei, Nathalie Emmanuel) to obtain a one-of-a-kind device called the "God's Eye" that grants its user unparalleled surveillance access. With Deckard hot on their tails, their mission quickly turns into a dangerous game of survival. Reaching for a brief tagline, one might say that Furious 7 is the most explosive Furious yet.


Anyone who's up with their Fast and Furious lore know that former Torreto clan member Han (Sung Kang) is capped in his car - both in Tokyo Drift and Fast & Furious 6 - but Furious 7 rewinds time again to populate the circumstances surrounding the group's exposure to the ex-black ops mission man who is Deckard Shaw. The sequence in question involves the first of many sinewy man-on-man fist fights that ends in an earth-quaking explosion and seeing Dwayne Johnson and Statham go tete-a-tete is exactly the kind of wish-fulfillment that our inner 13-year olds demand.

As the larger-than-life qualities of the Fast franchise - which most notably ramped into an unparalleled level of make-believe with Fast Five's mid-air, tank-ejecting Letty snag - continue to up the ante, the set pieces become bigger; a bullet-proof car jumps from Dubai skyscraper to skyscraper; the cars go faster; Furious 7 features a "super-car" that tops out at 240 mph; and the bikinis grow smaller; no comment. It's the zoom, zoom equivalent of a superhero film with cars that feels no need to contain itself within the boring realm of reality. This is a film where The Rock can fire a torn-off helicopter mini-gun, where humans can be exchanged through the windows of driving vehicles, where physics itself is a variable to be played with like Neo in his Matrix. It's juvenile entertainment to the Nth degree and a puerile wonder to behold its limitless, totally excessive, hilariously stupid glory.  


To make matters worse (read: better) whenever a high-octane moment has reached its apparent climax, Statham and his permanent scowl inexplicably appear to supercharge the action and push it into a shameless realm of reality-as-lol. His impossibly contrived cat-and-mouse chase is just another splendid example of how the makers of the Furious world refuse to conform to any notions of logic. With James Wan (The Conjuring) behind the camera, rolling and flipping with the action and milking each scene of its each and every absurdity, the result is definitively bonkers and contains the highest ratio of balls-to-the-walls action to not-balls-to-the-walls-action yet. 

Throughout the past year, much attention has been drawn to the "retirement" of Walker's Brian. Having passed away ("passed away" seems like the wrong word in light of Walker's horrific death) in the midst of filming, production froze while producers and director's scrambled to figure out what the hell they might do with the yet unfinished film. After a few months of complete shut down and a delayed release date, Furious 7 marched inexplicably forward. Walker had reportedly completed most of his chief photography but important segments had yet to be filled so facial replacements, motion capture, CG models and body doubles - Walker's brothers were used to capture the physique of their late brother - were employed to fill in the "slight gaps in production."


Knowing this to be the case, one is extra observant, wanting to catch the scenes where Walker isn't really Walker and it's a testament to the technical wizards of Weta that such a task it often impossible. Sure, there's a moment or two where Brian's face looks slightly artificial or it appears that one of his brothers is walking in his shoes but goddamn if it's nigh impossible to tell with any degree of certainty. Though skydiving cars and miles of vehicular manslaughter prove Furious 7's outrageous special effects mastery, it's the seamless construction of "Brian" that makes the film a technical showcase.

Even through Vin Diesel's almost total inability to act (though the guy has thrived playing a tree and a robot), Furious 7 has a beating heart centered around - as all the Fast films have - the importance of family. However strange the construct of Gibson, Ludacris, Rodriguez, Johnson, Walker and Diesel, the odd troop communicate this idea better than most big budget features. And though many wonder what form Walker's onscreen departure might take, those being honest with themselves know that his ending is an appropriately respectful fore-drawn conclusion.


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