Movie review: ‘Furious 7’
Directed by James Wan
Starring Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Dwayne Johnson, Jason Statham, Michelle Rodriguez, Djimon Hounsou, Jordana Brewster, Tyrese Gibson, Chris “Ludacris” Bridges, Elsa Pataky, Lucas Black, Tony Jaa, Ronda Rousey, Kurt Russell
Rated PG-13, Action, 137 minutes
“Furious 7,” the seventh installment of the “Fast and Furious” franchise, is crammed to the rafters with stunt driving and declarations of familial love. The first requires a suspension of disbelief, but the second seems particularly related to death of series co-star Paul Walker, the actor cast as undercover cop Brian O’Conner. In the original film O’Conner’s assignment was to infiltrate Dom’s (Vin Diesel) crew so law enforcement could finally catch Dom, suspected of stealing high-value items, in the act and take him down. Instead, Brian’s admiration for Dom’s value system grew, and Brian fell deeply in love with Dom’s sister Mia (Jordana Brewster). Eventually, Brian chose to become a member of Dom’s crew.
On Nov. 30, 2013, halfway through filming the seventh chapter of this popular series, Walker died in a car crash when the Porsche Carrera GT driven by Walker’s friend, financial planner and amateur racer Roger Rodas, collided with a light pole in Valencia, Calif., at 80 mph.
Subsequently, the script was reworked in order to deliver a film that included Paul Walker in most of its scenes. Walker’s younger brothers Caleb and Cody worked as body doubles and judicious use was made of outtakes, pasting Walker’s face and voice atop their bodies, while seamlessly integrating the actor into the action. The results are satisfying where Walker’s presence is concerned, but the script, even for a “Furious” film, is especially corny. Now a father with his second child on the way, O’Conner’s dangerous lifestyle is given much lip service, but this film elects not to kill Walker’s character in any of a half-dozen opportunities to do so.
Besides making you wonder whether plans exist to bring O’Conner back for an eighth film, the knowledge that his character’s fate has not been resolved feels as though the series refuses to let him go.
All other series regulars return, including an especially buff Dwayne Johnson as federal agent Luke Hobbs, whose interests currently dovetail with those of Dom and Dom’s crew of outlaw drivers.
The film’s baddie, Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham), has targeted Dom and his crew for destruction because, in the sixth film, their actions put Shaw’s brother Owen into an irreversible coma. Hobbs stands in Deckard’s way, so he too makes the death list, slated to be killed with Deckard’s weapon of choice, a bomb (as if this franchise hadn’t conjured enough things that go “booooom”).
Meanwhile, computer genius Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel), has been abducted by a gang planning to use her “God’s Eye” surveillance program in some very bad ways. This prompts a ghostly and outlandish CIA operative, going by the name of Mr. Nobody (Kurt Russell), to promise Dom that he can locate Deckard and give Dom carte blanche to do as Dom will with his mortal enemy in exchange for the crew rescuing Ramsey so she can deactivate her computer program before it is put to nefarious use.
In order to retrieve Ramsey, Dom, O’Conner and the rest of the gang, Dom’s wife Letty (Michelle Rodriguez), computer whiz Tej (Chris “Ludacris” Bridges) and loudmouth Roman Pearce (Tyrese Gibson) all parachute from 10,000 feet, while behind the wheels of various souped up cars, onto a mountainous road that contains the motorcade that surrounds Ramsey.
However, a complication set in Abu Dhabi leads up to a major car heist. To retrieve a sheik’s W Motors LykN Hypersport car that the sheik keeps in a special room of his penthouse, Dom and O’Conner must make the car fly from the 50th floor of an Etihad Tower into an adjacent high-rise — and then again into a third skyscraper.
Though little of this film makes much sense, when we aren’t being hammered with its theme of loyalty to family, the stunts are undeniably fun. Vin Diesel and, up till now, Paul Walker have supplied the film with plenty of heart, but there’s a studio-mill sameness to this script that indicates the franchise could use some major retooling.
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