Furious 7 (8 out of 10); Directed by James Wan; Starring Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Michelle Rodriguez, Jason Statham, Dwayne Johnson and Kurt Russell; Written by Chris Morgan; Rated PG-13 for prolonged frenetic sequences of violence, action and mayhem, suggestive content and brief strong language; 140 minutes; In wide release on April 3, 2015.
The Fast and Furious franchise hasn't made a name for itself for its deep acting, storytelling or filmmaking. Fans go in expecting fast cars, beautiful, scantily clad people and lots of 'splosions, and most of the series has provided that in spades. Some misfires in the middle gave way to a decent fifth and sixth outing, but this final film has trumped them all and is easily the best in the series. Not only fun and frantic, it also pays tribute to the late Paul Walker and delivers a satisfying and touching experience.
Due to the twisted continuity of the films -- four, five and six are prequels -- "Furious 7" takes place after the events of "The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift" with ex-MI6 assassin Ian Shaw (Jason Statham) on a mission to hunt down Dom (Vin Diesel) and the rest of his crew in revenge for their nearly killing his little brother. Brian (Paul Walker) is happy yet not content with his new life and family and agrees to come out of retirement to help Dom and the crew put the Shaw issue to rest once and for all. Mr. Nobody (Kurt Russell) and his shadowy government organization rescue them and promise to do everything in their power to stop Shaw if Dom and Brian will do them a favor -- rescue a brilliant hacker and her tracking program from a notorious terrorist. The crew races across the globe in an attempt to guarantee her safety and also stay one step ahead of the madman out for their blood. Enemies join forces and force an epic showdown in the streets of L.A. where fast cars and fancy driving may not be enough to help Dom and his family survive.
While this isn't high art by any means, "Furious 7" is definitely one of the more entertaining movies to come along in awhile. In fact, the only other recent one I can think of that I've enjoyed this much was "Kingsman." Yes, it's incredibly stupid and has no idea how gravity or the laws of physics work, but the whole experience of watching cars literally fly through the air and the streets is exhilarating. Newcomer James Wan has an incredible eye for shooting action and doesn't disappoint anywhere. Whether it's jumping cars in between and through luxury high rises in Abu Dhabi to having them literally fall from the sky, he never lets up or fails to eke out the most excitement possible in each shot.
The same can't quite be said of the script which, while not horrible, is definitely the weakest point in the film. I wasn't expecting "The Godfather", but the rewrites and edits are evident throughout as characters react or respond to things that were never mentioned or said anywhere else. It's also too long, clocking in at nearly two and a half hours. It's entertaining throughout, but there are a few too many moments where we are waiting for everyone to stop talking about family and get to the next action set piece.
The best thing here is the thoughtful and poignant respect they paid to Paul Walker. Without spoiling anything, I can say that they give his character a proper send off that was befitting of his role in all seven of the films. The wonderful montage showing some of the his well-known moments in the series combined with a touching voice over by Dom will no doubt leave moviegoers a bit misty-eyed as they exit the theater.
Too many action movies take themselves far too seriously or end up being brain dead., but "Furious 7" never forgets what it is and what it wants to do. It delivers a surprisingly well-done and fun thrill ride that also squeezes in a poignant ending. Film snobs will absolutely hate it, but if anyone is willing to sit down and just enjoy the spectacle for what it is, they'll have a good time. It's big, dumb fun with heart ... and nitrous.