Dave White
Furious 7 Review

Dave's Rating:

3.5

Stunt Rock

Furious 7 begins with a funny visual surprise, one I won't spoil for you, but just know that Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) is not a man you cross without consequence. He already killed Han (Sung Kang) in Tokyo Drift and Fast & Furious 6, but he's going to do it again here just in case there's one person remaining on Earth who isn't aware of this franchise's fractured timeline and death rituals. The timeline stuff is, of course, a goof that you just have to go with: Lucas Black is 32 years old and still doing time in a Tokyo high school, and it is now simultaneously 2006 and 2015 but so what/get over it.

The franchise's death rituals used to be a goof. They involve characters who die and then come back to life because uh-huh, sure, fine, why not? They involve characters who should die based on the physical laws of nature surrounding horrific car-mangling accidents, but then don't because shut up. But now the series, after having disregarded reality for so long, finds itself in the no-choice position of having to figure out the proper way to address the mournful elephant in the room named Brian O'Conner (the late Paul Walker).

What becomes of Brian is another detail I won't spoil, but Furious 7's solution to the impossibility of more films featuring his character is, strangely, and satisfyingly, in keeping with the narrative tactics we've already come to know. And you'll probably find yourself blinking back tears no matter what.

But back to Deckard Shaw. He is quite angry. The Furiousers put his brother Owen (Luke Evans) in the hospital, and now Shaw is coming for revenge. This revenge will necessarily be complicated by a hacker (whose identity constitutes a another bit of a surprise), a terrorist with unknown motives (Djimon Hounsou), Tony Jaa, and a shadowy government man named Mr. Nobody (Kurt Russell, given the most glamorous of entrances).

And mostly it involves cars driven by good people who must fight the bad people in the other cars. Director James Wan, taking over for Justin Lin, keeps the focus on the cars rather than people, playing it safe while he finds his footing. He hasn't yet learned to mimic Lin's sense of visual playfulness, and Wan's ability to corral his characters in lighter, comic scenarios lacks warmth. But he knows where to put those cars.

The cars are conveyances, they're weapons, they're airplanes, they're sexual accessories, they're the glue that builds community (known over the course of this series, in the corniest of verbal exertions, as "Family"). Their primary function, though, is as a conduit for a variety of extravagant set pieces: insane, outrageous, essentially magical acts of comfort-violence. They arrive at their destinations either safely or destructively, depending on the ethical qualities and plot necessity of the person inside the vehicle, and they do all of it with extremely loud, explode-y efficiency.

The stunts, especially one flabbergasting, terrifying sequence that takes place in Azerbaijan's Caucasus Mountains, are so extraordinary that they instigated spontaneous applause in the press screening I attended. And if the biggest crime of this installment is that those stunts crowd out everything else, well then that's fine for now, especially for a series as post-reviewable as this. And, oh look, here comes FF8 (producer Vin Diesel, please meet with Helen Mirren, she's practically begging) to correct all that.

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