Confessions Of A 'Fast & Furious' Newbie: What I Learned Watching 'Furious 7'
As of a week ago, I had never seen a Fast & Furious movie. (I'm going to take a moment to let that sink in...) I had seen footage from trailers and bits I glimpsed while running on the treadmill at Planet Fitness, but I had never actually sat through an installment from beginning to end. We all have those films we queued up on Netflix but instead re-watched 30 Rock for the umteenth time: For me, it was the cinematic extravaganza of high-octane car races, big-breasted babes, and cheesy catch phrases. ("This time it ain't just about being fast.") However, I finally popped my cherry at a press screening for Furious 7 earlier this week, and it was not unpleasant.
If you're like me and are naive to the franchise, let me tell you, one does not simply go slow during your first time. Much like the title suggests, you're thrown into the fray at top speed right from the first seconds. I thought I was prepared for the next two hours or so, but no words can really describe the ingredients that culminate in this display of male pissing matches. And, like the cliche of a person obsessing over the person who took their virginity, I'm frantically edging variations of "Fast & Furious" into the back of my notebook.
Much like that hot lifeguard you've been flirting with every summer vacation, Furious 7 is attractive but simple. It was extremely easy for me to pick up what was going on. Here are some background details I gathered in the first 30 minutes or so:
- Jason Statham plays Deckard, the psychopathic brother of Owen, Luke Evans.
- The Rock clearly loves playing Hobbs — watching his gargantuan biceps plow through glass walls as he says lines like, "Woman, I am the calvary!" are some of the most entertaining moments of the film.
- Vin Diesel is the boss man — he is pretty much his character, Dom, as they both appreciate family, Corona and, I assume, ethereal pieces of fan art that can only be found on Diesel's Facebook page.
- Michelle Rodriguez plays Letty, Dom's girlfriend... or, rather, former girlfriend. She has amnesia and doesn't even remember that she helped start this drag-racing event that now attracts the likes of Iggy Azalea. (Yes, she has a quick cameo in this movie.)
- Paul Walker plays Brian O'Conner. A quick Google search of the first film reveals he was an LA police officer that went undercover in the world of street racing. But now he's married to Jordana Brewster's Mia, Dom's sister, and the two have a son, who's the cutest thing ever put to the screen. Brian is adjusting to suburban living but he "misses the bullets."
- Ludacris is Tej, the genius tech guy of the group who loves to play games on his phone and make fun of Roman, who...
- ...is played by Tyrese and acts like he doesn't know what hands are or how to use them.
All of these folks are in trouble. Well, except for Deckard, because he's the one out for revenge on them. He put Hobbs in the hospital, he blew up Brian and Mia's house, and he would've killed Dom if Kurt Russell hadn't swooped in to save the day... I'm not joking. Basically what happened is that the F&F gang really effed up his brother in the last movie, and now he wants to return the favor. There are some inside jokes and references that seasoned F&F watchers will pick up on, but they're not even really that obscure for me. I mean, I can tell by the title that most of these characters have been together for seven movies already. They're close, and I get it. And this whole "one last ride" thing means they're all trying to go into retirement, but they keep getting pulled back into this world.
If the other movies are anything like Furious 7, then there's a basic formula to them. A big action scene. Some dialogue to move the plot along with lines like, "things are going to be different." More action. Some minor dialogue. Change location!
This movie changes location I can't remember how many times. We start with a brief scene in London, then go to the Dominican Republic, then to Los Angeles, then to the Middle East at some point, and back to LA. With every scenery swap comes the montage of sweeping vistas accompanied by head-pounding hip-hop. Take the footage you'd see before an episode of The Real Housewives of Orange County or something and edit it with music and a frame progression worthy of an amateur YouTube rap star. There are at least three of these moments in the film.
But what people watch these movies to see are, obviously, the car chases and fighting scenes. And there's plenty of them. All of them become far more ridiculous after the other. Cars parachuting out of a plane? Check. A bullet-proof car leaping in between two skyscrapers? Check. A fight between Ronda Rousey and Michelle Rodriguez? Check. The Rock totally not trying to wield a machine guy like it's his Dwayne Johnson? Check.
The thing is, though, Furious 7 embraces this aspect of itself. It knows what it is — the fast food of films. You don't watch it for something substantial. You watch it because it's bad for you but tastes so, so good. I can't remember if it was when The Rock crashed an ambulance onto a drone or when he started firing away at a helicopter or when he decided he was done with bedrest and smashed his arm cast to smithereens, but at some point or another you accept Furious 7 for what it's worth — a helluva good time.
The only sad thing is that we won't see the late Paul Walker in this franchise in the future. People in the audience around me were tearing up during the film's final montage of Walker's moments throughout the films. From a filmmaking stand point, this seemed completely out of place. We've been going balls to the wall for more than two hours, and all of a sudden we're going to throw in an in memoriam as part of the movie? That said, I dare you not to bear the weight of the room's emotions on your shoulders while watching it. Anyone who's a F&F fan, a Paul Walker fan, or just a human being will appreciate this moment.
After watching my first F&F movie, would I go back and watch the other ones? Sure! People always have unique memories associated with their first times, and I'm now ready to explore this new frontier.