Paul Walker’s untimely death “Furious 7” pops to mind every time characters walk away from some physics-defying, digitally-enhanced car crash in the film.
“No more funerals,” characters pledge to one-another at several moments in early scenes. And in the movies, at least, that can be arranged, no matter how fatal the crash.
Games of chicken that end in high-speed head-on collisions, cars plunging over cliffs, tumbling down mountains, cannot help but make you remember how Walker died. But the audience appetite for this franchise and studio cynicism means that death won’t erase any character or allow this fishtailing tale to wrap up.
Jason Statham is the villain this time, the “ex-special forces” brother of the heavy from “Fast & Furious 6.” He aims to kills off Dom and his crew. But Dom, thanks to the intervention of a fresh Fed (Kurt Russell) with endless cash and an endless supply of cars, thinks otherwise.
The plot, such as it is, drags us from Azerbaijan to Abu Dhabi, the Dominican Republic to Southern California, the crew pursued by the assassin and, oh by the way, a terrorist (Djimon Hounsou) who wants this “God’s Eye” gadget that a sexy British hacker (Nathalie Emmanuel) made, whose rich pal has hidden inside a hypercar.
Of course he has. And of course it’s one of the world’s most exotic sports cars, as the vehicles have co-starring roles in these movies. This is a series whose 2001 birth, along with the rebirth of TV’s “Top Gear” a year later, signaled the arrival of “auto-erotica,” the return of car culture — Porsche porn, Ferrari fetishism. The vehicles range here from Aston Martin and Bugatis to a Lykan Hypersport, vintage Dodge Chargers, Torinos, Camaros and Barracudas, something of a let-down from the earlier movies.
Action-packed and head-slappingly stupid, “Furious 7” would seem a fitting coda to the fourteen years of “Fast & Furious” films. This should be the last film, thanks to co-star Walker’s death and the attempt to round up characters from all seven films in one big send-off. Every player, from Vin Diesel and Michelle Rodriguez to Tyrese Gibson, Dwayne Johnson and even Lucas Black (“Tokyo Drift”) gets a big moment, a fight or comic showcase. Tony Jaa of “Ong Bak” dresses up a couple of punchouts as a villain’s sidekick.
“Saw” creator James Wan and a team of editors keep the brawls big and the picture on the go, even as it stops for the occasional stiff Diesel soliloquy.
“Looks like the sins of London have followed us home.”
Watch every other actor in the cast act rings around him, even Statham, who looks a troubled at the reduction in status here. Diesel just stands there, too bulked up to move, and recites his lines.
Check out the montage of Walker moments from the series to see how far his screen presence shrank over the course of these seven films. He was better in the little-seen indie fare he acted in between “Furious” paychecks, more committed and animated.
Johnson trash-talks the hurt he’s going to put on the bad guys, villains trot out the trite “I am impressed,” after this convoy hijacking or that precision pursuit through the desert.
But the fun is in shorter supply. And all these gear-jamming chases and wince-inducing explosions cannot hide that this ride has long been on a road to nowhere.
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for prolonged frenetic sequences of violence, action and mayhem, suggestive content and brief strong language
Cast: Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Michelle Rodriguez, Jason Statham, Dwayne Johnson, Ludacris, Kurt Russell, Tyrese Gibson, Jordana Brewster
Credits: Directed by James Wan, written by Chris Morgan. A Universal release.
Running time: 2:17