1. Furious 7 has a scene I have been waiting a long, long time to see in a movie, and it happens twice. Two cars facing each other from opposite sides of the street. Two men, nostrils flaring, glowering, revving their engines, respective erect penises in hand. They shift into gear. They floor it. They speed directly toward one another, smoke angrily spewing out of their engines, tires melting, the back wheels shooting upward. It's straight-up, old-school chicken: two motherfuckers going at it, head-on. One of these men is Vin Diesel. The other is Jason Statham. Who will back down? Who will blink first? Who's gonna bitch out? The resolution of this battle of wills, this measuring of male organs, is both inevitable and perfect: It goes down exactly as it had to. It is the logical extension of everything that came before it. The first time it's a giddy surprise. The second time, I dare argue, it approaches the sublime.
2. This is the reason the Fast and the Furious franchise, once nearing death, has been revived so dramatically over the last five years: Under the direction of Justin Lin, the one-time indie auteur of Better Luck Tomorrow who took over the franchise with 2006's Tokyo Drift and ended up becoming one of the most exciting action directors working (he's also doing the next Star Trek and the first two episodes of the next True Detective), the whole franchise has become obsessed with constantly one-upping whatever it did before. An underground drag race? OK, how about a chase through the U.S.-Mexico border tunnel? Not enough? Well, here comes 2011's Fast Five (still the best of the series, to my eyes), where our heroes literally drive their car off a bridge and jump out. (Fast Five also features my favorite-ever Furious action sequence, in which two cars have to maneuver a bank vault through the streets of Rio de Janeiro; it's basically a physics problem calculated at 100 mph with sharp corners.) In 2013's Fast and Furious 6, they maximized, so I thought, what you could do with a car chase by having a bunch of cars drag a plane out of the sky and then, awesomely, drive through the nose right before the plane explodes. Definitely hadn't seen that before.
3. So let's give a round of applause to Furious 7, which, impossibly, finds a way to top that sequence three times. This truly is the Fast and Furious movie to end them all, spectacle-wise, a statement that would mean more if I hadn't said that three times already. (Though Lin leaving after this one probably signals some sort of zenith.) [CORRECTION: Alas, Lin already left, and James Wan is your director here. My apologies, see below.] There are three different scenes in this movie that are so insane as to defy classification; they seem the result of a mad, frothing 15-year-old on a sugar rush just crashing his toys into each other until he has exhausted himself of every imaginable permutation. Car chases have been a staple of movies since there have been movies, but honestly, I can't help but feel this is some sort of peak.
The three sequences: A) Cars chase each other through the Caucasus Mountains, a mountain range where there are hardly any roads and the roads that exist angle almost directly downhill. B) Cars crash from one skyscraper in Abu Dhabi into another. C) Cars are dropped out of a goddamned plane. (None of these scenes are even the big closing sequence, which is also impressive, but not quite as batshit.) Every single one of these scenes will make your jaw drop. It's amazing they even thought of this shit, let alone pulled it off. I tend generally to be rather low-fi with my car chases: I'm a Vanishing Point or Death Proof type of guy, and thus like to see my as few cuts as possible, so they have to show all their work. But here, they drop cars from the sky and crash them from one skyscraper into another. I mean, come on. I'm not a robot.
4. As usual, the scenes that surround the face-melting action scenes are empty sparkle and go on too long and are almost impressively lacking in humor; there are times I wonder if the comedy scenes in these films are outsourced to Michael Bay. This is a series in which the primary source of comic relief is that legendary funnyman Tyrese Gibson. But they still hit all the marks you want them to. There's the usual Vin Diesel growlings about family—am I crazy, or is he actually starting to look like Groot? — alongside your now-obligatory Ronda Rousey cameo and a goofy, glowering, enjoyably oily performance by Kurt Russell, who has reached the point in his career where you start grinning maniacally the minute he comes onscreen. There's also just enough of the Rock in this one; he spends most of the film in a hospital bed, but when he's back upright, you can't say he doesn't make it count.
Meanwhile, Statham is the best villain this series has had, and surely ever will. And there is of course the late Paul Walker, whose brothers helped fill out some of his scenes after his tragic death in November 2013 in a way that's pretty much seamless. Walker's scenes have an unearned but undeniable gravitas, giving the film a level of resonance it shouldn't have—one it isn't the least bit shameful about exploiting—but nonetheless does. Is it possible you'll get weepy for a second during a Fast and the Furious film? It is possible.
5. Fortunately, there's always a blast of burning gasoline to your face to wash away those tears. Because this is Lin's last film, you can see him pulling out all the stops: This is his franchise, the one he salvaged and elevated into something massive and eternal, and he says goodbye to it by throwing everything he has against the wall. [CORRECTION: Again, sorry, James Wan directed this, so let's just say he's throwing everything against the wall because it's his first installment.] This is the best, or at least the biggest possible Fast and Furious movie, and while allowing for the fact that I am not a 15-year-old boy powered by Monster energy drinks, ADD pills, and days-long pornography binges, I can't imagine coming up with any more permutations on cars going great distances in short periods of time than they've put together here.
This is all dumb, of course, but great dumb, Important Dumb, Massive Dumb, Peak Dumb. A guy drives a car out of a plane and lands it on a mountain, and then has a car chase through trees. Then, another guy drives a car out the window of an Abu Dhabi skyscraper and lands it in another skyscraper. Then, the Rock blows a bunch of shit away with a machine gun. This is the pinnacle, people. This is everything they've got.
Grierson & Leitch is a regular column about the movies. Follow us on Twitter, @griersonleitch.
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