Imagine going sky diving, then immediately going para sailing before landing to do some white water rafting followed by a rigorous motorcycle chase through oncoming traffic and then winding down with a marathon city-wide paintball session. That’s about a fraction of the exhilaration you’ll get watching ‘Furious 7,’ the latest spectacle in the greatest modern day action series going today that also doubles as a touching farewell to star Paul Walker. The plot is more personal this time as Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham essentially playing an evil version of his ‘Transporter’ character Frank Martin, Transporter / Transporter 2 [Blu-ray]) wants revenge on Dominic Toretto’s (Vin Diesel) crew after they put down his brother Owen. After hospitalizing Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson), Dom’s FBI ally, Deckard begins his quest for revenge killing Han (Sung Kang) and nearly taking out Dom and his sister, Mia (Jordana Brewster) and best friend, Brian (Walker).
For those still confused with the series’ timeline, screenwriter Chris Morgan neatly ties everything together in a scene that connects the events of ‘Fast & Furious,’ “Fast Five’ and ‘Fast & Furious 6’ with ‘Tokyo Drift.’ And for good measure, the series takes a pit stop at Race Wars, a pivotal scene in the series’ kickoff. Deckard proves an unpredictable enemy, potentially striking from anywhere and vanishing just as quickly without a trace.
Dom and crew get an unlikely assist from Mr. Nobody (Kurt Russell), a government agent who offers to help provided they track down a hacker, Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel, ‘Game of Thrones’) who created the God’s Eye — a device that can instantaneously track anyone. Once Ramsey is recovered, they can use God’s Eye first to find Deckard. But first, they’ve got to spring her from her terrorist captors Jakarde (Djimon Hounsou) and Kiet (Tony Jaa).
If the previous film had more of an action slant, this one is a James Bond meets The Expendables.
After the large ensemble in “Fast Five” and the slightly pared down all-star roster in “Fast & Furious 6,” Dom’s crew is noticeably smaller this time around and the film lacks the cool, assured dynamic provided by Han and Gisele (Gal Gadot). Tej (Chris ‘Ludacris’ Bridges), Roman (Tyrese Gibson) and Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) are back, but the band is missing some key components. Instead of restocking the roster, Morgan focuses more on defining the new characters’ new status quo. Letty is still struggling to regain her memory while Mia is concerned Brian is disappointed with his new life as a minivan driving husband and father.
How much the script was adjusted to handle Walker’s tragic, still hard to believe death is uncertain, but Morgan does a commendable job finding a suitable way to retire Walker’s character from the series. Walker’s brothers and creative use of CGI help flesh out the scenes As Walker died before filming was complete, his brothers and CGI were used to fill in the gaps.
For the most part, it’s hard to distinguish what Walker shot and didn’t, a testament to those involved. Justin Lin, who directed the previous four films, passed the baton to James Wan, famous for his horror thrillers including ‘Insidious: Chapter 2,’ (Insidious: Chapter 2 (Two Disc Combo: Blu-ray / DVD + UltraViolet Digital Copy), ‘The Conjuring’ (The Conjuring (Blu-Ray + DVD)and ‘Saw.’ (Saw: The Complete Movie Collection [Blu-ray]).
Wan’s experience pays off as he squeezes out every bit of tension in the death-defying moments (horror thrillers and extreme action films carry a similar edge of your seat DNA). Wan is a bit guilty of the occasional over-edit during fight scenes and getting too close to the combatants, which distorts the action somewhat. It’s a bit hard to get upset though since Wan is all about topping previous installments with one crazy sequence after another. Word of advice: don’t bring your logical, left-brain thinking friend to see this as they will no doubt get stopped trying to make sense of every questionable physics and logic-defying scene. There’s a ton. They’re crazy. They’re all ridiculous, but you’ll be too busy grinning like an idiot to care. This is a franchise where the filmmakers and stars willingly embrace the absurd so going in your motto should be “everything is impossible, but awesome.”
Keep in mind, this is a series that’s featured a safe being tugged along like a ping pong ball, a highway tank battle and an epic runway airplane takedown.
It didn’t seem like the series could reach another level, but with cars flying through buildings, high speed chases down mountains and drone shootouts in a city, ‘Furious 7’ manages to triple up on OMG moments.
Beyond the big action sequences, Wan gets Johnson to do one of his trademark WWE finishing moves, majorly delivers on the clash of The Scorpion King and Lee Christmas, giving Jaa a showcase to kick tail in a major blockbuster and tosses in a hard-hitting brawl between Rodriguez and UFC star Ronda Rousey just because it’ll excite the fans. At 137 min., the film may be about 15 minutes too long, but you’ll likely be having too much of a blast to care. This is 2015’ first mega blockbuster — a year that may go down in history as the biggest epic blockbuster showdown ever. ‘Furious 7’ may not emerge with the crown, but it’s set the bar high for maximum crazy fun.
Rating: 9.5 out of 10
Photo credit:Scott Garfield/Universal Studios