Furious 7

★★1/2

The Fast and the Furious franchise has seen six movies in twelve years, but Furious 7 proves there’s still a lot of gas in the tank, and that there’s no stopping this speeding car any time soon.

When we last left Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) and his crew, they had just finished taking down a ruthless mercenary group led by Owen Shaw (Luke Evans), leaving Shaw comatose. Having already been reassembled across the globe in order to take down the mercenaries, Dom’s team once again retreated to their safer, more comfortable lives.

Brian O’Conner (Paul Walker) started a family behind a white picket fence. In the beginning of Furious 7, he is seen dropping off his son at daycare with a glow in his eyes and a brightness to his smile. This is the life he truly wants, and he loves every moment of it.

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However, their lives are interrupted by the vengeful and ruthless brother of Owen, Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham), who would love to see nothing more than Dom and all of his friends dead. Even worse, the incredible God’s Eye – a computer terrorism program capable of hacking into and using any piece of technology – is caught in a tug-of-war between a Somalian terrorist (Djimon Hounsou) and Mr. Nobody (Kurt Russel), a mysterious government official. With such a rude awakening, Dom and his crew must once again leave their comfortable lives to answer the call and kill two bad birds with one stone. O’Conner, tragically, must temporarily leave his son and wife, who is now pregnant with their second child.

Jason Statham makes an excellent turn as the villain – a highly impressive and refreshing performance from the rest of his action hero career. While Furious 7 is not Statham’s first rodeo in the antagonist role, it is easily his best. We’ll be looking forward to him playing another villain very soon.

Universal Pictures / Dentsu / Fast 7 Productions

Universal Pictures / Dentsu / Fast 7 Productions

The convoluted plot loses its punch before the midpoint. Even so, Furious 7 is a maturation of sorts for the franchise, as it steers away from its roots in underground street racing in favor of gratuitous action. The franchise’s evolution to its more trigger-happy version today is arguably for the better, and has breathed new life into the series while also garnering a wider audience. This is aided by its incredibly diverse ensemble cast, featuring Diesel, Walker, Dwayne "The Rock" JohnsonMichelle RodriguezLudacris, and Tyrese Gibson.

Watching Furious 7 is a unique experience in that its high-octane action is mixed with the tragedy of knowing this is Paul Walker’s final movie. Each of his scenes are handled with a warm tenderness that do not feel out of place among the fast cars and big guns. Whenever we do go back to the fast cars and big guns, every frame containing Walker becomes that much more precious. The movie exudes toughness while feelings of loss quietly resonate throughout. Whether intentional or not, the effect tugs the heartstrings.

Universal Pictures / Dentsu / Fast 7 Productions

Universal Pictures / Dentsu / Fast 7 Productions

Because Walker died before principal photography of Furious 7 was completed, the filmmakers had to make up for his absence with script rewrites, stand-ins, and even CGI. Their efforts are incredibly successful; O’Conner still maintains a large presence in the movie, even though Walker could no longer be there. His two younger brothers – Caleb and Cody Walker – do an excellent job in his role despite having no acting experience prior to Furious 7. Interestingly, Cody now wants to start an acting career after being inspired by his brother. He will do great.

While Furious 7 does overstay its welcome with a nearly two-and-a-half hour running time, it finishes incredibly strong. After a thrilling conclusion to the action, the final minutes are a sincere, heartwarming farewell to O’Conner – and by extension, Walker – where the subtle feelings of loss that underscored the entire movie finally rise to full force. Who knew that the most touching, heartfelt, and beautiful scene in recent memory would come from Furious 7?

Walker’s final movie is not just a farewell, but a breath of fresh air in a franchise that badly needed it. Instead of running out of gas, The Fast and the Furious will certainly continue speeding onward. The franchise will assuredly survive the loss of Paul Walker, but it will never be the same without him.

Rated PG-13.

Directed by James Wan. Written by Chris Morgan.

Starring Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Jason Statham, Michelle Rodriguez, Jordana Brewster, Tyrese Gibson, Ludacris, Dwayne Johnson, and Kurt Russel.

© 2015 Rex J. Lindeman.   All rights reserved.   |   (760) 274-5948   |   rexlindeman@gmail.com

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