Film Review: Furious 7

Seventh entry in the high-octane franchise won't disappoint fans, and serves as a moving tribute to star Paul Walker.
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The highly anticipated sequel to Fast & Furious 6 faced disaster when star Paul Walker died in a car crash halfway through filming. Furious 7 can't quite shake its morbid pall, but that won't stop fans from turning this into another box-office blockbuster.

Walker's role as former FBI agent Brian O'Conner may be truncated, but what remains carries an added poignancy, while fitting into the franchise's overall theme of family. Furious 7 honors the actor without exploiting him, a difficult balancing act.

Otherwise, it's business as usual: macho posturing, gold-plated production values, mind-boggling stunts, tone-deaf dialogue. Furious 7 pushes so far beyond the laws of physics that it turns into a live-action cartoon, one with essentially indestructible cars—and people. In an early scene, Hobbs, the fed agent played by Dwayne Johnson, falls three flights onto the roof of a car. Result? A broken arm. It gets weirder from there.

Hobbs had been fighting Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham), the aggrieved brother of the villain foiled in Furious 6. A "legitimate English badass," as slick government agent "Mr. Nobody" (Kurt Russell) describes him, Shaw brings much-needed menace to the entire film.

Mr. Nobody teams up with Dom Toretto (Vin Diesel) and his crew to find "God's Eye," a hacking device that can locate any individual on the planet. If Dom can grab it, Nobody will let him use it to track down Shaw. But that means fighting fearsome mercenary Mosi Jakande (Djimon Hounsou), first in the Caucasus Mountains, later in the streets of Los Angeles.

Chris Morgan's screenplay needs a lot of huffing and puffing to get up to speed. Dom has to deal with his girlfriend Letty's (Michelle Rodriguez) amnesia, Brian has to send his wife Mia (Jordana Brewster) to the Dominican Republic, and honor must be paid to the departed Han (Sung Kang) and his girlfriend Gisele (future Wonder Woman Gal Gadot). Add in time for Roman (Tyrese Gibson) to sputter and Tej (Chris "Ludacris" Bridges) to bicker, and it feels like much of Furious 7 is idling in neutral.

But when the core action finally arrives, Furious 7 comes close to setting a new standard for chases. The Caucasus sequence—which starts with cars parachuting from a cargo plane—captures everything that has made this series a fan favorite, from dizzying camerawork and editing to wildly imaginative stunts. If nothing that follows works quite as well, the sequence is so flat-out fun that it sweeps viewers into a plot that keeps playing "Can you top this?"

"Cars can't fly," Brian tells his young son early in the movie, but Furious 7 proves the opposite, no matter how unbelievable the stunts get. They jump off cliffs, crash out of skyscrapers, challenge helicopters, and more than once smash into each other head-on.

The last two Furious entries upped the hand-to-hand combat. Director James Wan (The Conjuring) answers with fights between Johnson and Statham (not long enough), Diesel and Statham (brutal and inconclusive), Rodriguez and UFC star Ronda Rousey (vivid and pulsing), and Walker and Thai martial-arts star Tony Jaa (Ong-Bak). This last, very satisfying encounter lets the two show off parkour moves, and remind viewers how physical an actor Walker was.

If Furious 7 has a failing, it's that Wan tends to over-direct. Every moment in the movie feels too calculated, from the wind that caresses Letty's hair as she gazes at her tombstone to the ominous carton from Tokyo displayed prominently on Dom's porch. And Wan's editing scheme is so breathless that it's hard to see how good the movie's stunts are. But these are minor flaws. While never as giddily entertaining as Fast Five (so far the highlight of the series), Furious 7 works so well it almost guarantees another sequel. (The onscreen title is Furious Seven.)

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