How beautifully tasteless is Furious 7? At one point, Kurt Russell, playing a government heavy standing at the keg station of his customized bunker somewhere, sings the praises of his just-poured “Belgian ale,” swishing it around his glass, inhaling its hoppy aromas, going on and on. He offers one to Vin Diesel, who growls “…I’m more of a Corona man.” To which Russell responds, “I figured you might say that,” and whips out a branded, commercial-ready bucket of Corona long necks on ice. Then at the end of the film, when it’s paying tribute to the dear departed Paul Walker, there begins an emotional flashback montage of Walker in the previous movies. One notable shot of which depicts Vin and Paul sitting at a kitchen table, bonding over cartons of Chinese food and, you guessed it, a couple of ice cold Coronas.
That’s right, THERE IS PRODUCT PLACEMENT IN THE IN MEMORIAM TRIBUTE. This is a film that wants you to feel wistful about paid advertisements from days gone by, your eyes as misty as the outside of a cold Corona bottle at the thought of Brian O’Connor finding his beach in the sky. That’s how beautifully tasteless Furious 7 is. This is blockbuster as art.
Walking out of my screening, there was a woman not just crying or sobbing, but bawling, her body shaking so hard she had to lean against an overflowing theater garbage bin to keep from crumbling to the sticky floor, her boyfriend making sympathetic circles on the small of her back with his palm. Part of me commiserated, because look, a real guy with a real family died tragically, and people who knew him cut up a tribute montage more blatantly tear jerking than the opening of Up. But another part of me had to bite my lip to keep from cracking up at the idea of a woman feeling such intense sadness less than five minutes after watching Vin Diesel cure his movie wife’s amnesia by killing a helicopter with a muscle car. “Not the guy from the Corona commercial!”
That’s the beauty of Furious 7, that it’s a movie so utterly without shame, that talks big and backs it up double. It’s an us-against-them action movie where the heroes succeed by being more jacked, more tatted, having better cars and more meaningful jewelry. In that way, it’s also a story about America. It’s the gloriously idiotic, jingoism-tinged pro wrestling morality play Michael Bay has been trying to make for his entire career.
Jason Statham plays the bad guy, and his entrance sets the tone for the entire movie. We catch up with him at a hospital littered with hundreds of dead commandos, whom The Stath has apparently dispatched while wearing a dapper trenchcoat. “Take care of moy brothah,” he tells the hospital staff, referring to a guy on a ventilator who I assume the gang had maimed in the last film. Why did he have to kill commandos to get into a hospital? Wouldn’t it take the doctors’ focus off keeping the Stath’s brother alive having a half-exploded hummer in the middle of their lobby? The beauty of Furious 7 is that it knows these questions don’t matter, only attitude. The Stath is announcing “I’M THE BAD GUY!” and the dead commandos are just flair. “Whoa, this guy is bad,” you think to yourself. This is a movie to be watched with a giant foam finger, not a head full of questions.
It took six or seven movies to get there, but Furious 7 is a movie that knows exactly what it is. Every character makes a ridiculous pro wrestling entrance. The Rock wears an Under Armour muscle shirt in every scene, and every line he says could’ve come straight from a WWE promo interview. Every line Vin Diesel delivers is an ellipse-filled masterpiece of existential buffoonery that could’ve come straight from one of his Facebook updates. “The problem with taking a fight to the streets… is that the streets always win,” he says, before a parking garage collapses beneath him.
The plot, which is mostly beside the point, concerns a thumb drive containing a program called the “God’s Eye,” which can track a person anywhere using all the surveillance cameras in the world (timely!). This program was created by a computer whiz played by Missandei from Game of Thrones (Nathalie Emmanuel), who we eventually see bouncing down a beach in a skimpy bikini, the camera cutting between closeups of her sopping wet labial mound and shots of Tyrese and Ludacris sitting on lawn chairs high fiving about it. She’s the type of sexy computer hacker who can roll down a cliff, emerge from the wreckage of her car, pop off her helmet and her hair is still perfect.
Anyway, Statham wants to kill the Diesel gang because they maimed his brother. Kurt Russell will help Gang Diesel kill Statham if they get him the God’s Eye, and to do that they have to take it from an African warlord played by Djimon Hounsou, who’s holding the God’s Eye, along with the sexy hacker, in a caravan of buses and bullet proof Mercedeses in the mountains of Azerbaijan, where they’re apparently just driving in circles waiting for someone to f*ck with. Point is, there’s no conflict in the script that can’t be resolved through driving fancy cars, even if they have to skydive those cars out of a plane. After the gang jumps dune-buggy versions of their signature rides out of a plane and surrounds the caravan, Jason Statham randomly shows up in a souped-up dune buggy of his own! Where did this guy come from?? Who is supporting him? Where did he get that fancy dune buggy? “It doesn’t matter where Jason Statham got his dune buggy!” You can practically hear The Rock screaming into the camera as the audience holds up pictures of his face. The point is the ridiculous stunts, and the more transparently thin the justification for them, the better.
Even when the story takes the gang to a Jordanian billionaire’s penthouse party in Abu Dhabi, a confined space hundreds of floors above the street, it’s still their car skills that save the day. “Dom? Cars don’t fly,” Paul Walker warns, as if he’d never seen one of these movies before, or literally driven his car out of a plane 10 minutes earlier. Vin Diesel guns the engine and jumps a supercar from building to building in the Etihad Towers in Abu Dhabi, thousands of feet above the ground. It’s so perfect. The ridiculous scale trumps all logic, and the 9/11 revisionist symbolism of Americans going to the middle east to crash their cars into Arab buildings was so inspired I wanted to hum the national anthem.
Did I mention The Rock flexes so hard his cast explodes? As ridiculous as the ridiculous scenes are, the “serious” scenes might be even ridiculouser. Dom has a number of tender moments opposite tough girl Michelle Rodriguez, as he tries to convince her to out-tough her own amnesia. Go get ’em, Letty! Show that brain disease how tough and Latina you are! Probably the most successful of which sees Vin Diesel in his burliest tank top preparing to take a sledgehammer to Letty’s tombstone. “Don’t do it, Dom. That part of me is already dead and buried or some sh*t,” Letty says metaphorically.
I’m paraphrasing, but the point is, you can never have too much tombstone-smashing imagery. And the only actor with a funnier “serious face” than Michelle Rodriguez is Vin Diesel, whose puffy neck waddle and growly voice make everything he says slightly reminiscent of a talking boxer doggy.
The more serious he got, the harder it was for me to hold it together. There was a wedding flashback sequence (Vin wearing a virginal white wifebeater tank with diamond bling necklace) that had me covering my face with my hands and burying it between my knees to keep from making a scene.
This movie… it’s really quite something. It’s not an action movie so much as the id of an action movie. If the hand-to-hand scenes hadn’t been shot in that tired, high-shutter speed shaky-cam style, I’d probably give it an A+.
Vince Mancini is a writer and (average at best) comedian living in San Francisco. You can find more of his work on FilmDrunk, the Uproxx network, the Portland Mercury, the East Bay Express, and all over his mom’s refrigerator. Fan FilmDrunk on Facebook, find the latest movie reviews here.