The Sterling Standard in Movie Reviews 

Follow Us On:



Thrill Ride

 137 Minutes
Rated: PG-13
Directed by: James Wan
Starring: Vin Diesel, Paul Walker
Furious 7

At first glance, Furious 7 looks much like Fast and Furious 6, its predecessor in the turbocharged action series that has lit up theater screens for nearly 15 years. However, while I frankly didn’t think much of FF6, this latest installment is clearly the best in the franchise and a movie that will set the standard against which escapist action epics will measured for years to come. What’s the difference? Primarily a new director, an attempt to make the action sequences a bit more plausible, some key new acting blood, and, sadly but most important of all, a real life tragedy that alters the impact of many scenes in the movie.


As most people are aware, Paul Walker, who, along with Vin Diesel was the heart of the franchise, died while Furious 7 was filming. Not only did he die, but he did so while racing a car at a very high speed, in other words, doing what his Brian O’Conner has done dozens of times during the course of the series. So, every scene in which O’Conner talks about his family and the danger of what he is doing takes on a meaning much greater than what the somewhat juvenile screenplay originally intended. And watching him duke it out with martial arts whiz Tony Jaa or leap off a bus teetering on the edge of a cliff brings a bittersweet note along with the thrills.


Walker’s presence and his current absence influence Furious 7, but for most of the film, he’s merely a cog in a well-oiled machine that’s been gradually assembled over the course of seven movies. Unlike some series in which the films are largely interchangeable, the backstory of the Furious films is a veritable soap opera, with characters having their ups and downs from one to the next. So, this time out, Dom Toretto (Vin Diesel) and his amnesiac wife Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) are trying to repair their relationship despite her not remembering that they ever actually got married. And Brian is trying to adjust to family life as the husband of Dom’s sister Mia (Jordana Brewster) despite his admitted love of the thrills of what he and Dom do (a really bittersweet moment).


Trouble naturally intrudes on these domestic crises in the form of Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham), brother of the big baddie Dom’s crew took down in FF6. Deckard wants revenge and he’s very skilled in all sorts of black ops, especially at showing up undetected where he’s not expected and wreaking havoc. Dom gets help in finding Deckard from a most unlikely source, a good guy covert ops type named Mr. Nobody (Kurt Russell). Nobody offers Dom a deal. If Dom and his team rescue a hacker who’s been kidnapped by a crew of mercenaries led by General Jakande (Djimon Hounsou), Nobody will loan Dom the program the hacker had been working on, a McGuffin called God’s Eye that can find anyone anywhere (much like the technology on the TV show Person of Interest).


This backstory slows down the first half hour of the film a good bit, especially since Dom gets to intone about the importance of family on more than one occasion. Let’s face it, Diesel’s acting range is tested once he gets past saying “I am Groot,” and these scenes are a bit hokey if unquestionably sincere. Fortunately, however, the script gets them out of the way just about the time that Nobody makes his pitch to Dom, and the last 90 minutes of the movie are pretty much non-stop excitement.


How exciting? To rescue the hacker, Dom and his team have to parachute out of a transport plane in their cars, land on a curvy mountain highway, and catch up to a convoy that is transporting the hacker in a heavily armored bus. Later, the action switches to Abu Dhabi, where the program they need is inside another fancy sports car that’s in a vault at the top of one of one of the Etithad Towers, among the world’s tallest skyscrapers. Dom and Brian eventually jump the sports car from one tower to another to another. The finale goes one better: the team members are pursued by a drone missile through the streets of Los Angeles.


Furious doesn’t stint on human combat either. In addition to two fights between Walker and Jaa, Michelle Rodriguez goes at it with MMA champion Ronda Rousey, and Statham tangles with both Diesel and Dwayne Johnson (as FBI agent Hobbs) in separate scenes. These are drawn out, well choreographed fight sequences, and, indeed, all the action appears to have been carefully planned out and painstakingly photographed. With the exception of the drone missile sequence and one or two other obvious physical impossibilities, most of the action seems to be at least arguably within the laws of physics and driving skills (there are no tanks driving 70 mph in this one). As a result, audiences can allow themselves to suspend their disbelief in what they’re seeing and enjoy. By the time some of the action does get outlandishly cartoonish, audiences have easily bought into the movie’s entire vibe.


The action is occasionally choppy and chaotic, but Wan never loses sight of the story he’s telling in each scene, so the audience can follow each chase and fight as it progresses. In fact, the choppiness appears more due to the nature of the editing necessary to cover the fact that the work wasn’t all done in a single take than to use the camera to create the action. Furious is thus an enormous improvement on junk like Taken 3.


The action is outrageous at times, and the characters are wildly macho, but these over-the-top flourishes make the movie fun to watch. Diesel and Statham play games of chicken three separate times in the film, willing to crash cars into each other rather than back off. And, when Johnson is recuperating in the hospital with a broken arm suffered in an earlier explosion, he smashes the cast and winds up grabbling an enormous machine gun to go looking for the villains’ helicopter. It’s as if Wan, Diesel, and the rest consciously try to top themselves as the film progresses.


Then, once the excitement ends, the really touching moment begins. Furious 7 isn’t the first movie to say goodbye to a departed cast or crew member, but its finale, obviously written after Walker’s death, is perhaps the best. The movie ends with a montage of shots from the various Furious movies followed by Walker and Diesel in their cars going side by side down a deserted desert country road for a couple of miles before Walker’s car goes down a turnoff, obviously for the last time in the series. It’s sincere, heartfelt, and touching, a tribute to a cast member who was obviously loved by all.


And that ultimately is what separates Furious 7 and its predecessors from other action franchises, even the best like the James Bond movies. Diesel’s dialogue may be hokey, but the sense of family and togetherness is there, and, what’s more the family has grown over the years, especially with the introduction of Johnson into the ensemble. This sense of family is noticeable in the action, in the desire to give viewers as much as they can in each movie, in the easygoing banter between Roman (Tyrese Gibson) and Tej (Ludacris), and even in the little touches like Kurt Russell exchanging a knowing wink with Diesel at a key moment. People talk about the “worlds” of Star Trek or Star Wars but the truth is that the characters in the “world” of the Fast and the Furious feel just as real for many. Fittingly for Paul Walker and the rest of the cast and crew, Furious 7 is easily the best of that world.

Read other reviews of Furious 7:


Furious 7 (2015) on IMDb