By Graham "GSM" Matthews
My take on this movie will be different than most, as this is being written by someone who hasn't seen any of their prior installments in full. I went into "Furious 7" to see a good movie, not for a sixth sequel to "Fast and Furious" and I still walked away extremely entertained and emotionally touched. Thus, I can't vouch for whether it made for a good "Fast and Furious" installment (though I've heard it was the best yet), but I can vouch for how great of movie it was on its own. My expectations were not only met but exceeded, as all of its elements (plot, characters, setting, drama, etc.) delivered. Now, let's get into specifics, shall we?
I can tell you right off the bat that you don't have to see any of the other movies in order to enjoy this one. I had that fear going into "Furious 7," and although you may get more of the references made and returning characters (and especially the flashbacks at the end), they do a good job of catching viewers up to speed that may not be familiar with the series. That's what any successful franchise should do: not alienate those that haven't been following since the start and only appeal to those who have. You bring in any new fans that way. And I can certainly say they've made a fan out of me.
First and foremost, let's address the elephant in the room: I went to see "Furious 7" for The Rock (well, that and the fact that there's nothing else out right now that I haven't seen that peaked my interest and I heard only good things about it). Very rarely does a celebrity appearance on a WWE program make me want to see whatever movie they're plugging, but The Rock and Ronda Rousey accomplished just that with their involvement at WrestleMania 31 last month. Granted, it's Rock and he isn't your typical "celebrity," but it should be noted I haven't seen most of Rock's films, only a select few.
That said, I thought Rock was great in his role as Hobbs. He appeared at the very beginning and then again at the end, but before he showed back up again, my friend asked if he'd ever appear for the rest of the films. Without spoiling anything, it could have used more Rock, but for the time he was in it for, he did exceptionally well. It's amazing to see how far he's come from his early days as an actor over a decade to now; he's a trillion times better and more believable.
Perhaps the biggest "mark out" moment of the movie for me was when he hit the Rock Bottom on Jason Statham. And yes, it was intentional; it wasn't done by accident. Rock apparently asked Statham if he'd be down to take it during the (epic) fight scene during one of the first scenes in the movie, and he agreed to do it. It made the brawl even more memorable as a result and it was a tremendous touch. To Statham's credit, he sold it very well, as he did the stellar suplex on top of a car by Vin Diesel toward the end. Somebody get that guy a raise!
Speaking of Statham, he was one of the best characters in the entire movie. All the protagonists were quite good and each had their own special characteristics that made them stick out, but Statham was just so awesome as the badass villain that was smarter than everyone else and was seemingly impossible to stop. To my knowledge, this was his debut in the franchise and this definitely wasn't his last time you'll see him in the movies (that is if more movies are made, but I'll get to that shortly). He also wasn't random and had connection to the existing storyline, as he was the brother of someone that was killed in a prior installment.
Another character that was one to watch throughout the movie was Ramsey, the British hacker that was kidnapped by Deckard Shaw (Statham) and eventually rescued by the Furious crew. She didn't play a major role and didn't overshadow any of the major characters, but even she was given some solid character development. She teased a romantic interest with one of the other main characters at one point (I won't reveal who) which was never paid off, so it's possible she sticks around for future films, especially since Paul Walker's has been written out and he leaves behind a huge void (not saying she would fill it, but she could only help add to it).
As a casual fan at best of the "Fast and Furious" franchise, the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about it is cars. I mean, it's in the name! From what I've seen in bits and pieces of more recent movies, it strayed away from that and became more of an action flick, and while that was the case with this movie as well, it didn't deviate from its core that made it popular to begin with. There's always evolution with any successful franchise, but to go so far away from its central theme would be asinine, and thankfully they didn't do that with "Furious 7."
There's enough action to keep the casual viewer (such as yours truly) entertained as well as enough storytelling from prior movies to make the hardcore fan base happy. Again, even if you didn't see any of the earlier movies and weren't even aware of them, there are a good number of flashbacks and acknowledgements to fill in the banks. A friend of mine that I saw the movie with shared similar thoughts, though he said some parts of the movie got too "unrealistic." You have to suspend your disbelief with any action flick, but I do agree to an extent that there are some parts of the film that can be a bit hokey. For the most part, however, things are more "down-to-earth" so-to-speak in this film than in the last one according to him.
Last and certainly not least, as much as I enjoyed Rock's role in the movie and all the awesome action, undoubtedly the highlight of it for me and many others was the tribute to late, great Paul Walker at the end. This isn't much of a spoiler because it was made common knowledge before the film's release, but I couldn't have been happier to see his character retired instead of killed off. I don't know if it would have been tasteless, but it definitely would have been the predictable path to take and I was glad they resisted from doing that. The way he was written off was perfect, I'll say that much.
As someone who wasn't really familiar with his work or his involvement in this franchise, even I found myself on the verge of choking up while watching the tribute at the end. The flashbacks to his appearances in prior installments were fantastic and everything about it was beautiful. I'm no Wiz Khalifa fan, but the "See You Again" song that it was set to was a tear-jerker for sure. After going back and doing some research, whatever scenes that weren't completed by Walker before his death, they used CGI with his face being digitized over his brothers'. While watching it, you would have never noticed it.
The tribute alone is worth going to see this movie for, but accounting for everything else, it was awesome. The story was excellent, the action was a ton of fun, and the drama was compelling, hitting on a lot of notes that some of the earlier installments did not from what I understand. I've heard from various people that thought this was the final movie, but Vin Diesel has since confirmed that there will be an eighth. Walker's character had the perfect send-off, but the franchise itself didn't reach a conclusion. Maybe it will with the next one, but I can virtually guarantee you that there will be another. Having grossed over one billions dollars worldwide as of this writing, money talks and a sequel will be made.
"Fast and Furious" fan or not, do yourself the favor of seeing this movie. The Paul Walker tribute, even if you're not all that familiar with him, will have you reaching for your tissues in the film's final scene. Everything else about it is entertaining as well and well worth the price of admission.
Should you see this movie? Yes.