It's remarkable how the Fast & Furious franchise has been able to continually build upon itself to somehow achieve a staggering seventh entry with no visible signs of slowing down aside from the unfortunate and untimely death of F&F co-hander and stalwart, Paul Walker. Fans can rest easy as Furious Seven (as it's titled in the film) may be so unbelievably, almost aggressively stupid yet remains so joyously enjoyable and fun. It actually makes for an endearing and a fitting tribute to Walker's character and legacy, while also serving as a proper send-off for the series into a new direction.
One of the many questions facing the delayed film was the work of Saw director James Wan taking over the reigns from four-time helmer Justin Lin who is widely credited with the franchise's revitalized success (along with Dwayne Johnson's entry in the series). Wan's visual style and wall-to-wall theatrics lift the film and (fuel) injects it with the same globe-trotting thrills and insane car racing stunts the franchise is known for and finds a way to dial the antics up even further.
Furious 7 finally pays off Han's death, originally seen in the third film, Tokyo Drift, making it the first true chronological sequel to take place after that film. Enter a myriad of fairly generic but amusing enough villains played by Jason Statham, Djimon Hounsou, and Tony Jaa, along with Kurt Russell as a shadowy agent funding the team's mission to take down another ring of international terrorists. This is where I remind you how the first film featured our heroes driving Honda Civics and stealing DVD players fifteen years ago.
Everyone continues to do their part from unabashed star Vin Diesel, who takes the bulk of the film's running time away from the ensemble cast, to his amnesiac lover Michelle Rodriguez, comedic reliefs Tyrese Gibson and Ludacris, a mostly sidelined Jordana Brewster, and newcomer Nathalie Emmanuel. If the film lacks anything, it's Johnson's overall presence and chemistry with Diesel, as his Agent Hobbs is essentially relegated to an extended cameo, bookending the film with some insane sequences only The Rock could pull off earnestly.
The series has clearly run out of ideas for stories (if it ever had any to begin with) but still has plenty of cleverly paced and executed action sequences. Statham's Deckard Shaw is hunting Dom's crew and shows up wherever they go to get revenge for his brother (the previous film's villain played by Luke Evans). Diesel's Dominic Toretto has to find a device (the "God's Eye", the film's MacGuffin) to hunt Shaw even though they have zero trouble finding him.
The plot even compared to previous films is absolutely ludicrous but serves as a way to get the story back and forth from continent to continent and back to their Los Angeles homebase again for scene after scene of all out action and car racing. It's a testament to everyone playing it straight, a lack of irony or winking that only enhances the joyously silly nature of everything within the film.
Watching the on-screen mayhem, it's impossible not to be affected by the presence throughout of Walker's final performance. You twinge every time gets behind the wheel of a car or does something incredibly dangerous looking. His performance, enhanced visual effects, facial CGI, segments/dialogue taken from his other films, and stand-in work by his brothers, Caleb and Cody, are fairly seamless as he remains a major force in the film throughout.
Wan has taken his skills in the horror genre to manufacture a thrilling entry in the Fast & Furious franchise and fitting sendoff for the Brian O'Conner character and many elements of the series overall. It's a fairly remarkable achievement in action choreography with fluid momentum and amusing scripting by Chris Morgan as it mostly closes out the dense mythology of the previous six films. Furious 7, not only embraces, but heightens all the trademarks of the franchise and continues to advance all the joyful, kinetic energy of its predecessors.
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