What It’s About
If you want more substance than fast cars, furious fists and a poignant farewell to late actor Paul Walker, “Furious 7” is not that movie.
Great expectations aside for the latest episode of Universal’s biggest franchise, cutting back on repetitive extremely loud explosions and concentrating on only one villain would have resulted in a less mind-numbing — and ear-splitting — movie. But finesse is immaterial here, as is logic.
The laws of physics are not considered in any of the gravity-defying stunts that make up this successful template. You have two choices: Chuckle at the implausibility of five cars being dropped out of an airplane at 12,000 feet or marvel at the audacity, and just go with it.
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New director James Wan (“The Conjuring”) called the shots this time, taking over from Justin Lin, who made the last four. Starting where “Furious 6” ended two years ago, it also follows 2006’s “Tokyo Drift.” If you are not familiar with preceding events, the timeline can get a little wonky.
When we last saw our heroic band of brothers, Dom (Vin Diesel), Brian (Paul Walker), Tej (Ludacris) and Roman (Tyrese Gibson) were successful in teaming with U.S. agent Hobbs (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson), were exonerated and were able to return to America.
Back in L.A., Brian and Mia (Jordana Brewster) are raising son Jack and Dom is trying to help restore memory of his significant other Letty (Michelle Rodriguez). She was previously thought dead but was found alive — and an amnesiac.
But they had put criminal mastermind Owen Shaw (Luke Evans) in intensive care, and his brother Deckard (Jason Statham), a former British special forces assassin, seeks vengeance. He already killed Han (Sung Kang).
At the start of “Furious 7,” he is hunting Dom’s crew. They will now start their engines.
In addition to staying one step ahead of this new foe, the group is recruited by a government official, “Mr. Nobody” (Kurt Russell), to rescue a super-hacker Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel). She has invented a surveillance device, God’s Eye, able to track down anyone through ultra high-tech. A terrorist Jakande (Djimon Hinsou) has kidnapped her. If God’s Eye gets in his hands, it will be disastrous. If the good guys prevail, they can use the newfangled program to hunt down Deckard.
The mumbo-jumbo is insignificant, and is just a means for a bunch of massive blasts and preposterous but dazzling stunt pieces, like a bus cliffhanger and a car playing hopscotch through three skyscrapers in Abu Dhabi.
The muscles and the muscle cars are the stars of this series, but Dom and his crew are appealing because of their loyalty and genuine affection for each other.
When the script calls for kinder, gentler exchanges, that’s when the cast shines. The guys (and gals) emerging from twisted metal and collapsed infrastructures might be the eye candy, but the genuine relationships are what give the franchise its heart..
The acting requirements are simple — minimal words spoken with dramatic pauses, with well-placed quips thrown in. The trademark comedic bickering between Gibson and Ludacris is welcomed.
Adding action superstar Statham (“The Transporter”) and two-time Oscar nominee Hounsou (“Blood Diamond,” “In America”) as the villains lends credibility, although the story is overstuffed because of it.
The classy casting of Kurt Russell, who knows how to maximize a scene to his advantage, is a positive move.
But the centerpiece will always be the bromance between Diesel and Walker, no matter how much destruction and how high the body count reaches.
Walker died in a horrific car crash in 2013, and hadn’t completed the film. Through modern technology and use of his two brothers as body doubles, the filmmakers successfully gave his character a fitting sentimental send-off. Every scene he’s in takes on more meaning.
Be ready for a man-cry during the tribute to Walker. The final montage of Brian, undercover cop/FBI agent, loving husband and father, trustworthy friend and all-around good guy, will tug at your heartstrings and makes the film all the more memorable.
What Doesn’t Work
The first movie in 2001 focused on the elite street racers and used their skills in sequels to fight for truth, justice and the American way.
In recent films, the focus has enlarged beyond the automobile derring-do to include global situations, usually involving drugs, arms and terrorists. Danger always lurks, and their superhuman qualities save the day, not unlike any comic-book series.
But remembering its roots would make it more special and set it apart in the pantheon of visual effects extravaganzas. The quest for more doesn’t necessarily make it better.