The entire plot of Furious Seven is discussed below, in detail and at length. Consider yourself warned of spoilers.
Since last we saw the dudes and dudettes who populate the Fast and Furious franchise—charitably described by your humble reviewer in 2013 as "James Bond flicks for the Ryan Lochte set"—much has changed, both in the series and in real life.
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In the real world, series star Paul Walker perished in a fatal car crash in 2013 during a break in the filming of this movie.* That led to the release of Furious Seven being pushed back and Walker’s character being "redeveloped."
Of course, those of us who don’t follow every tidbit about the life and times of the various members of the Fast and Furious cast may have missed this news. (I know I did.) As a result, for much of the interminable 140 minutes of Furious Seven, I kept wondering just when Walker’s character, Brian O’Conner, was going to meet his doom.
Would it be when he tries to escape a bus sliding off a cliff by leaping onto the back of a moving car? Would it be while fighting Tony Jaa in a tight stairwell? Perhaps he’ll be blown up by the attack chopper owned by a terrorist destroying for some reason large portions of Los Angeles? Or maybe he’ll die trying to rescue his best buddy Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) from the Terminator-like Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham), a nigh-on unstoppable former SAS operative out to kill Dom and his friends for taking his brother out in one of the six (!) previous installments of the series?
Let’s focus for a moment on Deckard, the lone bright spot of Furious Seven. The film opens with a relatively inspired gag. Deckard—whom we were introduced to in a coda at the end of the last film, during which he brutally murdered fan favorite Han Seoul-Oh—is talking to his bro in a hospital bedroom. As the camera pulls back and Deckard leaves the room, having vowed revenge against Dom and Co., we see two terrified nurses and a hospital in ruins. Then the camera tracks to a smoldering hallway littered with the corpses of police officers and we begin to imagine the havoc this man has wreaked.
Director James Wan has actually stumbled onto a clever, relatively subtle, and undeniably humorous way to introduce the character. We kick things into a higher gear moments later, when Deckard goes mano-a-mano with Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson), a government agent whose computer has info Deckard needs. The Transporter fighting The Rock is pretty much everything you’d hope it would be.
Unfortunately, it’s downhill from here.
Dom and his friends vow revenge against Deckard after he blows up Brian’s house and kills Han. But to find Deckard before he finds them, they’ll need "God’s Eye," a device that magically uses closed circuit cameras and cell phones to track anyone’s movements anywhere in the world.
A government spook named Mr. Nobody (Kurt Russell) is, naturally, happy to lend this all-seeing, all-powerful piece of spyware to a band of known criminals. The only problem is that the creator of God’s Eye has been captured by a terrorist named Jakande (Djimon Hounsou), and can be recovered only by parachuting a quintet of souped-up sports cars into a remote mountain pass.
After rescuing the hacker, the gang heads to Abu Dhabi, where she has stashed the chip that runs the magical computer program. It has been hidden in a car (of course), which Dom and Brian steal, drive through a penthouse, and take from one skyscraper into a neighboring skyscraper.
This happens twice.
In possession of the magical spyware machine, Dom and Brian and Mr. Nobody and a team of soldiers track Deckard to an abandoned factory, where they discover that Deckard and Jakande have teamed up. Our heroes lose the magical spyware machine to our villains. Frowny emoji.
The movie culminates with an extended, endless battle throughout the streets of Los Angeles. The hacker tries to hack the magical spyware device while Jakande pilots an attack chopper above the streets of L.A. and Dom and Deckard go hand-to-hand on top of a parking garage.
The only moments during which this sequence is even remotely bearable are those that involve Statham or Johnson. If 8 Fast, 8 Furious could revolve solely around these two, the film would be massively improved.
But let’s go back to Brian, whom the ignorant among us kept expecting to die. He doesn’t. Instead, there’s a coda in which Dom and the rest of the guys see Brian and his wife frolicking on the beach. And they decide that the vaguely weird-looking (hologram or CGI or something) Brian is so happy they should just let him retire. So that’s what they do—without, you know, telling him.
But then! Brian drives up next to Dom on the highway in a heavenly white car, where he says something to the effect of, "You thought you could just leave me?" And then they have a short race before Brian slows down and takes the off ramp. That’s right: He literally leaves the series via a highway off-ramp. #symbolism
Look, I’m in favor of relatively pointless action flicks as much as the next guy. John Wick made my top ten list last year. I even kinda-sorta enjoyed the previous three installments of this franchise, despite the fact that they were aggressively brain-dead.
But Furious Seven is a movie constructed of clichés ("You do whatever you gotta do"; "After this, we’re done") and lines that aspire to cliché status ("There’s a billion things that’s wrong—but not in this moment"), a movie that manages to be not only dumb but also kind of boring and, for large stretches, relatively humorless.
It will gross at least $800 million worldwide.
*He died in a Porsche that was going 100 mph in a 45 zone. The irony of his demise is so macabre and so depressing that I’m just going to leave it be.