At this point, I think the “Fast and Furious” franchise has become the coolest job for an action star in town. Sly Stallone can try his very best to convince us that the new “Expendables” won’t suck as much as the first two, but no matter how many movie stars they add, those films remain nigh unwatchable, while it feels like each new “Fast and Furious” gets better at what they do.
I’m excited to see what James Wan does with the series for several reasons now. First, I think Wan has reached a new level of sophistication and polish as a filmmaker, and while he’s done a great job with horror, it’s good to see him trying something else completely. I think it’s important for good filmmakers to be able to work in any genre they want to work in, but Hollywood doesn’t always feel the same, and it’s easy for someone to get stuck doing something just because they’ve done it well in the past.
I’m also curious to see how they build off of the somewhat bizarre continuity that they’ve set up for the series. The last film seemed to finally fold “Tokyo Drift” into the timeline of the series, meaning they’re now moving forward from the end of that film, and it seems like that means Han is no longer part of things. However, they did bring Jason Statham in, and that seems like a good thing.
Even better, though, it looks like Kurt Russell is also joining the series, and that’s pretty much the definition of of good news. Kurt Russell doesn’t work nearly often enough at this point, and while there are movie starts whose charisma fades over time, especially when they’re not working, that is not the case with Russell at all. I know that not everyone digs “Death Proof,” but he’s so great as Stuntman Mike in that film. I love the evil version of Stuntman Mike, but even more than that, I love it when things get reversed and he suddenly becomes a weeping baby. Russell seems more than willing to subvert his own onscreen persona in the right film, but when he plays it straight, he’s amazing. That is an uncommon skill set, and it makes him a very exciting addition to the series.
According to Variety, Russell will be playing whatever role they originally offered to Denzel Washington. I’m curious to see if that means he’ll be a good guy or a bad guy, since both sides of the equation seem equally important in terms of casting for this series.
Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, and much of the cast that has become increasingly dense over the last few years will return for the new film, although The Rock appears to be sitting this one out. Narratively, that’s actually probably good news, because it might get ridiculous to keep bringing Dwayne Johnson back to ask them to help him work the “right” side of the law over and over. At this point, this series is the most important ongoing series that Universal owns, and part of making sure that continues to last is making sure that you can trade cast members in and out of the series without denting the box-office. How much elasticity is there in the premise? That’s what matters most to any studio these days.
How many adjustments to the cast will we see before “Fast and Furious 7” finally hits theaters next year on my birthday weekend? It’s going to be a fascinating next step, with screenwriter Chris Morgan onboard again. By now, he should be credited with the success of these films, and it seems like they’e in great hands.
“Fast And Furious Seven” opens July 11, 2014.