Furious 7 says goodbye to series mainstay Paul Walker while taking car chases to seriously outlandish and fantastical extremes. In some ways, the film has become more of a science fiction offering rather than a car chase movie, and that’s fine by me.
I have to admit that part of me got uncomfortable watching Paul Walker race around in cars a little over a year after he died in a fiery car crash. You can say Walker died doing something he loved a lot, but I think irresponsible and reckless speeding dropped way down his favorite-things list during the final moments of his life. Like, to the way, way bottom of that list.
That said, Furious 7 does spark some life into a very tired franchise by going totally bananas, and it’s pretty remarkable how Walker, who had allegedly only filmed half of his scenes before he died, is inserted into the movie posthumously.
Yes, you can spot some of the moments when his face is grafted onto one of his brothers’ bodies, or archival footage is inserted to look original, but it still looks pretty darned good. It’s not too distracting, like when Ridley Scott sloppily pasted Oliver Reed’s face onto a stunt double in Gladiator.
Director James Wan, primarily known for horror movies like Saw and The Conjuring, has delivered the franchise’s best offering since the first one. He goes balls-out crazy with the stunts and scenarios while making Walker’s character blend in smoothly. Vin Diesel is still a task to watch and listen to, but the addition of Jason Statham as a seriously bad guy helps to balance things out.
First and foremost, this movie gets my blessing for the sequence involving Vin Diesel’s Dominic Toretto and Walker’s Brian O’Conner jumping a car through not one but two skyscrapers in Abu Dhabi. Now, there’s no way in hell that anything like this could actually happen without people getting mushed, but you won’t care once you see how Wan and friends present this nuttiness. Logic doesn’t matter when the special-effects choreography is this good. While Wan won’t necessarily make you believe that cars can fly, he will put a stupid smile on your face while watching it.
While the skyscraper sequence is far and away the franchise’s high-water mark, the film contains a couple of others that garner second and third place showings. A mountainous car chase that ends with Walker’s character trying to escape a truck teetering on a cliff, and a parking garage street fight are both epic.
The film also features Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson battling a helicopter with a really big gun, Rambo-style, and Toretto avoiding capture by driving his muscle car off a mountain. It’s a movie that gets a big rush out of continuously topping itself, and it could care less about things like reality.
On the bad side, there’s a stupid subplot involving Letty’s (Michelle Rodriguez) amnesia—good Christ, I hate amnesia subplots!—and another stupid one involving Brian and Mia’s (Jordana Brewster) home life. And there are also all of those times that Diesel is required to emote, which is always a sketchy affair on movie screens.
In Diesel’s defense, he does look pretty badass in his street fight with Statham. Statham, who I can only take in small doses, is used perfectly in Furious 7. He’s this franchise’s equivalent of the liquid metal Terminator in Terminator 2: Judgment Day.
Throw in Kurt Russell as a craft beer-loving federal agent named Mr. Nobody, and you really can’t go wrong, even with the dopey and sluggish moments. For the first time in a long time, the good outweighs the bad in a Furious movie.
Will there be an eighth film, even though Walker is no longer with us? Um, given that the movie made nearly $144 million in its opening weekend, I think it’s a foregone conclusion that Universal will find a way to keep the engines running on this sucker.
The bigger question is how will they ever manage to top that skyscraper jumping sequence? I think they are going to have to add dinosaurs or rampaging gorillas to this franchise to keep things interesting.