Outlandishly over-the-top action has the best cinematography of the series, and it’s fun. At the start, Furious 7 dabbles in bikini-clad babes like the early installments and bumps around between subplots. Here’s this for soap opera: Vin Diesel trying to rekindle amnesiac Michelle Rodriguez’ memory for yet another movie! When Jason Statham arrives as a stoic baddie (he was in Black Ops before he went rogue) and goes head to head with Dwayne Johnson, the movie goes into full-throttle action-adventure and never looks back. There’s enough special effects and stunts for five movies.
It’s all very well done by James Wan (“Insidious,” “The Conjuring”), who makes a good argument that horror directors should be chosen for action spectacles – he even demonstrates a good Ridley Scott-ish film noir eye.
Action cliffhangers ceaselessly fill out “Furious 7,” with globe-trotting stops in the Caucasus Mountains and Abu Dhabi before the final blow-out of Los Angeles with enough shattering destruction to equal a 10.0 earthquake. Yet the biggest cliffhanger of all of it is how long will the late Paul Walker last through the movie?
I thought Walker had an underwritten role in Part VI, but you can tell that he was genuinely a bigger part of Part VII from the start. Walker has gone from surfer dude as renegade cop in the 2001 original to lean action star worthy of an “Expendables” movie. In a way, the “Furious” movies have gone from drag racing obsessed to being a better crew version of the “Expendables” mercenaries. Walker in the “Expendables” theory would be the reluctant Dad who wants to jump back into the smash it up action. When Walker is stuck inside an out of control bus he has to jump out in time before it runs out of asphalt, and you get giddy and tense at the same time that he can make it out OK. At the same time you ponder, Walker’s doing the same moves that Tom Cruise can do.
Walker’s real life brothers Caleb and Cody served as body doubles, especially through a warehouse fight. The herky-jerky camera sometimes flashes Paul’s face in a split-second close-up. Other shots in Los Angeles have the crew standing in an arranged line so Paul’s matted image can be super-imposed in the shot.
Paul Walker was a good guy, unpretentious and decent. He made for a good boy scout action hero or loyal protector (2001’s “Joy Ride” is underrated). As the “Furious” movies were only getting better, I would have been happy to see a Part VIII. The franchise will probably survive without Walker, but I will feel a void.
Tyrese Gibson, Chris Ludacris Bridges, Jordana Brewster are back. Kurt Russell does a terrific job as a covert ops boss, Djimon Hounsou and Tony Jaa are plug-in presences as bad guys. Statham has all the usual badass moves, but I can’t remember a single memorable thing he said. Nathalie Emmanuel makes good as a brainy hacker babe, you wish the film would have completed her story.
In Part VII, you will believe momentarily that automobiles can fly. Nah, you won’t. This series is a ridiculous showcase of the impossible. It delivers on promise for eye-popping action fantasy, and this latest installment probably sets a new standard for scenes of flying cars.
137 Minutes. Rated PG-13.
ACTION & ADVENTURE / MINDLESS FUN / FRIDAY NIGHT BLOCKBUSTER
Film Cousins: “The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift” (2006); “Fast & Furious” (2009); “Fast Five” (2011); “Fast & Furious 6” (2013).