What is this “Fast & Furious” family? This motley muscle-car crew? This garage-grease-monkey covert-operations group who use automobiles (as overheard from a newscast) “in what can only be described as vehicular warfare?”
Alpha-mechanic Dom Toretto’s (Vin Diesel) various vehicles have never been put through the wringer quite so vehemently as in the engine-block-destroying “Furious 7.” That’s a good thing. Like banging your head between a couple of trash can lids, except fun!
The players: alpha-man with the plan—Dominic Toretto, ex-cop Brian O’Conner (the late Paul Walker) who married Dom’s sister Mia (Jordana Brewster) sometime around the 5th installment, and Dom’s wife Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) who lost her memory a movie or two ago. (There’re seven of these things!)
Then there’s gigantic lawman Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson), Roman the comic relief (Tyrese Gibson), and Tej the hacker (rapper Ludacris). Stunt drivers all, except for Hobbs.
Hobbs’s job is to say “Woman!” a lot (as in, “Woman … I am the cavalry!”) and brandish his gargantuan guns, including the ones that shoot bullets.
Here’s what goes on: “Furious 6” ended with a post credit-roll teaser, where Jason Statham, star of the hugely popular “Transporter” movie series (in which Statham plays Frank Martin, a British hit man/consummate stunt driver) comes screeching up sideways, thus (sort of) uniting the mighty “Fast & Furious” and “Transporter” franchises—boom! And “F&F” fans everywhere howled in ecstatic anticipation.
Three-part synopsis: First, Statham’s “Furious 7” character, Deckard Shaw, turns out to be the big brother of Dom’s last enemy, Owen Shaw. Deckard’s gonna drop death on Dom’s doorstep.
Two, there’s an omniscient surveillance program called “God’s Eye.” It has a myriad channels because it taps into every device on the planet that has a built-in aperture: cellphone, parking-lot camera, and such. Terrorists (Djimon Hounsou and Tony Jaa) have taken the God’s Eye!
Three, Kurt Russell plays a suit who commands a big garage for Dom to tinker with cars in, and a private mercenary platoon. He appears out of nowhere and proffers his services to help Dom take down Deckard, in return for saving the God’s Eye. Uh-th-that’s all, folks!
What Makes These Things Work
This reviewer will now steal from himself (from the review of “Fast & Furious 6”): “What defines an “F&F” movie? Vin Diesel’s triple-mega-bass voice, the slo-mo quadruple charisma with which he delivers those basso lines, rendering even the most snicker-able of lines unsnicker-able, and the quintuple coolness of the fact that Vin drives cars, and his name is “Diesel.”
Then I talked about how the camera loves Vin’s big arms, but loves Dwayne Johnson’s bigger arms more, and about how the microphone loves Vin’s ultra-low-frequency voice. The combo of which gave us the sextuple blockbuster, “Furious 6.”
So what begets the septuple “Furious” blockbuster? Tragically, original mega-star Paul Walker, in a case of life imitating art, died off set in a fiery fast-car crash during the making of this film.
It must be said that it may figure heavily in pulling in many a fan. The franchise has serious fandom; they’ll want to say their goodbyes. More on this later.
More ante-upping: In “6” they used Gina Carano, former MMA superstar and brunette knockout, to fight Michelle Rodriguez.
In “7” they use current female UFC champ and blond knockout Ronda Rousey to fight Michelle Rodriguez.
How can they possibly up the ante for “Furious 8”? They’ll have to put a blond wig and lipstick on Chuck Liddell and let him fight Michelle Rodriguez. Will there be an “8”? Oh yes.
But basically this is a tale of three bald bad-boys: Diesel’s basso baldy, Johnson’s Brahma-bull-sized baldy, and Statham’s Brit baldy.
There are many baldy dust-ups, one such incorporating pencak silat stick-fighting, except tire irons are used. And, because this is “The Rock” we’re talking about (Dwayne Johnson’s earlier showbiz career was as a World Wrestling Federation star nicknamed “The Rock”)—many baldy smackdowns. In “The Rock” versus “The Transporter” baldy smackdown, every head-butt could crush a rhinoceros’s head.
And then there’s the vehicular warfare. At one point, Dom launches his famous black 1970 Dodge Charger off a ramp—in order to ram a chopper in the sky! Vehicular warfare indeed!
What else? Lots of jumping out of cars doing 110 mph, rolling briefly, and then walking away like nothing happened! Driving off cliffs like in “Thelma & Louise”—but surviving! Flipping crashes with enough g-force whiplash to decapitate, and people just walk away! Amazing!
But here’s the highlight of the film: There’s a monster of a red, 3.4 million-dollar Lykan HyperSport sitting in a billionaire’s Abu Dhabi sky-high penthouse. Dom basso-basso rumbles the incredibly stupid line “Nothing sadder than a beast in a cage.”
Out the smashed window Dom and Brian go, flying through the air in the beast, and crash into another skyscraper a quarter football field away. But oops! No brakes! What now? Stomp the gas, and out the other side of that skyscraper they go … again! Way up there in the middle of the air! And crash-land … in a third building!
For some reason, the way it’s timed, along with the fact that you’ve never seen this before, plus the triple running-gag aspect, make it the single most hilarious scene in movies all year. The audience was howling with laughter, and this reviewer was too. It’s worth seeing the movie just for this stupid, stupid set piece. You’ll be chuckling for days.
All in all, “Furious 8” is just way too much, every which way—cars, baldy-fights, drones, buses hanging off cliffs, computer hackery, general stupidity—but the tension and adrenaline rush throughout the action sequences never let up, which is really an accomplishment. However, comic book violence, in the end, does a disservice to boys. Heroes are only truly heroes when the consequences are real.
Finally, there’s the send-off for Paul Walker’s character Brian, which is also a tribute to Walker himself. The film-clip montage shows Walker in his stunning, blue-eyed golden-boy era, becoming (inadvertently, one hopes) an invitation to watch all six prequels to “Furious 7,” since all actors involved look so young, restless, bold, and beautiful. And with seven installments, make no mistake—this is a vehicular soap opera.
And the send-off itself is the vehicular version of the military Missing Man formation. Very moving. For those out there who have followed and loved this car soap, and feel a part of the “Furious” family, tears will be shed. Bonds have formed.
However, despair not. Apparently the studios have already green-lit not one, but three more “Furious” sequels. Vroom!
Director: James Wan
Starring: Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Dwayne Johnson, Michelle Rodriguez, Jordana Brewster, Tyrese Gibson, Ludacris, Lucas Black, Jason Statham
Running time: 2 hours, 17 minutes
Release date: April 3
3.5 stars out of 5