The Fast & Furious franchise has gone full Toon Town. What began six films ago as Point Break with pimped-out rims has since become the world’s most expensive Road Runner skit — essentially The Rock hitting Jason Statham over the head with an anvil while Vin Diesel sticks his finger in a light socket. Horror maestro James Wan (standing in for series stalwart Justin Lin) has embraced the saga’s unreserved silliness wholeheartedly, shaking the bottle, popping the cork and letting it all burst forth in a fizzing, frothy fountain of swollen muscles and polished chrome.
The film opens with Statham’s salty killer Deckard Shaw growling “bollocks” at his ailing brother’s bedside. We pull back to see that he’s slaughtered two dozen SWAT members and shot up half the hospital just to deliver a ‘get well soon’ in person. Segue to an outrageous, cock-measuring punch-up with The Rock, and Wan has set the tone for the entire movie. To appraise the plot in too much detail would rather miss the point. Suffice it to say this is senseless bobbins from top to bottom and makes not one lick of sense if regarded with anything approaching logical scrutiny. As with the previous instalment, Diesel’s ragtag band of street-racing ragamuffins have somehow graduated from small-time crooks to a globe-trotting Special Forces outfit — a kind of wifebeater-sporting IMF with a throaty V8 stuffed down its trousers.
They flit from London to LA via Abu Dhabi and Azerbaijan in search of mysterious device ‘the God’s Eye’, which will help them track down Shaw — a premise somewhat undermined by the fact that Shaw himself is in hot pursuit, dropping in on every location they visit like a bestubbled T-1000. But of course, none of that really matters when you’re watching a live-action Looney Tune in which people jump supercars between high-rises and pull doughnuts on the edge of cliffs. This boasts set-pieces that might well be the franchise’s most demented yet (which is saying something after 5’s safe-dragging cars and Diesel’s cross-carriageway tank flight in 6). Paul Walker runs the length of a bus roof as it slides off a cliff, Diesel flings his ride at a helicopter and the entire team parachute out of a plane in their cars. Furious 7, as it’s known Stateside, exalts in wanton carnage, giddily surpassing Michael Bay levels of destruction by the story’s end.
While The Rock continues to gnaw on the lion’s share of both lines and laughs (muscle-flexing his way out of an arm cast is a particular joy to behold), F&F7 is very much Diesel’s film. Meat-sandwich Dom is the unlikely source of both exposition and emotion here, and though the amnesia subplot with Michelle Rodriguez’ Letty is risible (one chapel-based flashback will make you laugh out loud), he fills the role admirably. Sadly, it comes by way of necessity as Paul Walker’s death mid-shoot required substantial changes to the script. To the credit of all involved, the joins are largely seamless. Walker’s brothers, Caleb and Cody, stand in for the actor in a few long shots and CG trickery competently fudges the close-ups. It does add a slightly sombre note to an otherwise upbeat film, but the care with which the issue is handled forms a genuinely moving tribute to the actor, Toretto’s usual guff about “family” striking a chord that it never has before.
Fast & Furious is Hollywood’s most ludicrous (and Ludacris) franchise by a car-length, and 7, which feels like a trolley dash in a napalm factory, is the most gonzo instalment yet. But despite dialogue that makes The Expendables sound like Shakespeare and action to make even Wile E. Coyote cock a disbelieving eyebrow, this is a gleeful, exuberant romp of a movie. Not bad, then. Just drawn that way.