Fourteen years ago, when The Fast and the Furious was released in cinemas, I would have laughed at you if you told me that it was a film that would be the beginning of a multi-billion dollar behemoth of a franchise still going strong in 2015.
The film has spawned six sequels, a theme park ride opening at Universal Studios in Hollywood later this year and an army of fans who would agree that a Fast & Furious film is like watching Top Gear while on speed.
I was never a big fan of the first four films in the franchise but then in 2011, some much needed energy was injected into the franchise with Fast Five, a film that changed the landscape of the series, taking it from a tired street racing formula to all-out action films full of outrageous stunts and set-pieces.
In Fast & Furious 7 (or Furious 7 depending on where you live), the franchise has its most outrageous entry yet. You might actually walk out of the film thinking it is possible for a car to fly, just not like in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang bear in mind.
Fast & Furious 7 finds Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) and the rest of the crew being hunted by Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham), an ex-special forces soldier who vows to get revenge on the crew responsible for crippling his brother, Owen Shaw (Luke Evans).
With Toretto realising it is too dangerous to wait for Shaw to come to them, he is given a chance by Frank Petty (Kurt Russell) to get a head start on Shaw and find him before he finds them and makes them pay.
He sends the team out to rescue a hacker known as Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel), who has created a device known as ‘God’s Eye’, a computer program that hacks into digital devices to track a specific person.
They’re given a free pass to stop Shaw by any means necessary, leading to a white-knuckle ride that will make sure you put your seatbelt on next time you get in a car.
What struck me most about this film is the new heights of insanity it takes the franchise to. We have seen a safe being dragged through the streets of Rio in Fast Five and Toretto defy the laws of physics in Fast & Furious 6 however, Fast & Furious 7 tops the lot with two set-pieces that will leave your jaw on the floor.
The first is a scene involving the crew being dropped out of a plane in their cars to rescue Ramsey from a terrorist convoy. It’s pulsating and spectacular, and that’s before the cars have even hit the road. I enjoyed the final chase in Fast Five but I think this might just be my favourite set-piece in the whole franchise.
The second is a death defying leap Toretto and Brian (Paul Walker) take between not two but three skyscrapers while driving a supercar in Abu Dhabi. It’s absolutely ludicrous but you just have to embrace it, much like new director James Wan has clearly done with his efforts here.
The franchise has never been renowned for the acting ability on show but they find a way to make it work to the film’s advantage. There is plenty of chemistry between the cast, making both the comedic and dramatic moments that little bit more believable. Newcomers Kurt Russell and Jason Statham clearly have a lot of fun with their roles but the film could have done with more Dwayne Johnson, the charismatic actor who played a huge part in reviving the franchise.
Obviously there is the tragic death of Paul Walker hanging over this film and I was wondering how they were going to handle it. His brother had been used to complete some of his scenes and those particular scenes stand out due to some suspicious CGI. With that in mind, Fast & Furious 7 becomes the perfect tribute to Walker and those final scenes will definitely leave many in the cinema with a tear in their eye.
While I didn’t think this film was better than the fifth or sixth of the series, Fast & Furious 7 is an immense amount of fun that gets the Summer blockbuster season off to a blistering start. I can’t even begin to think of the craziness that will ensue in the eight film of the franchise.