'Furious 7' film review: Absurd, silly & fun flick best of the 'Fast' series
"Furious 7" (opening in theaters April 3) is a sprawling globe-trotting adventure packed with charisma, energy and stunts that defy every rule of physics. The latest entry in the "Fast and Furious" series continues the franchise's unlikely trend of somehow improving with each new flick.
In short: Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel), Brian O'Conner (Paul Walker) and the rest of their crew return to the U.S. after helping the government take down a terrorist in the previous "Fast and Furious" film. However, the terrorist's older brother - Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) - seeks revenge against Toretto's crew for the death of Deckdard's brother. (Watch the trailer)
First things first: the untimely death of Paul Walker, who died halfway through filming, casts a long shadow over "Furious 7." It's clear this movie was initially supposed to be a fun revenge-action flick - but was re-tooled dramatically to become Brian O'Conner's swan song. It's also well-known that Universal finished the movie after Walker's death by using his brothers as stand-ins and calling upon the CGI masters behind the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy to complete the movie.
But even the most macabre fan with the sharpest eagle-eye for CGI will have a tough time discerning the scenes Walker filmed from the CGI-assisted scenes featuring digital Paul Walker. The digital recreation of Walker is absolutely seamless. Save yourself the time looking out for "digital Paul" and just sit back and enjoy this audacious theatrical ride.
And what a ridiculous and thoroughly fun action flick it is. The "Fast and Furious" series has absolutely perfected the action-flick forumla, somehow combining excess, stupidity and pure charm to kick out an outrageous, if preposterous, popcorn flick.
If the actors were a little less likable, if the stunts were a little less bold and the guilty enjoyment was a little less fun, then the sheer and outright stupidity of "Furious 7" would overwhelm everything else about this movie. There's a half-hearted story thread involving Letty's amnesia that is dropped into the movie sporadically. Deckard Shaw is a total badass for sure, but that's about all he is -- Statham doesn't have a lot to work with for this one-note, revenge-obsessed assassin with little dialogue and virtually no character arch. Several franchise characters make appearances that are little more than glorified cameos. Thank god that two of the three scenes Dwayne Johnson shows up in are absolutely awesome action/fighting sequences.
But all of this film's faults are forgiven - because "Furious 7" is just so much damn fun. The movie starts pretty quickly with an absolutely bonkers fight between two main characters. And the filmmakers know enough to keep the action sequences squarely car-centric -- but they take the stunts to an absurd next level: by jumping cars between high rises and throwing cars out of airplanes.
Here's to hoping the next "Furious" movies include the new Kurt Russell character, who reminds us why Russell was once a headlining action star in his own right. His wry and secretive government agent is over-the-top and awesome -- so he naturally fits into franchise's bizarre cast of characters. For a series that began as a undercover cop/criminal buddy action racer, Russell's character make sense for the franchise's future, which is clearly about globe-trotting adventures/heists designed to stop crazed terrorists.
Finally, without spoiling anything, core "Fast and Furious" character Brian O'Conner is indeed given a proper sendoff. O'Conner might not be the main character of this particular movie, but his storyline is the heartbeat of "Furious 7" -- and the movie's closing tribute to O'Conner and Walker is surprisingly sweet and moving. And it's this unexpectedly touching element - of a character's final adventure before life as a family man - that elevates "Furious 7" above every other movie in this awesome series.
Final verdict: "Furious 7" is the very best and most entertaining popcorn action flick of the season. And even by the "silly/stupid/fun" standards of the "Fast and Furious" series, this is the very best movie in the series so far.
"Furious 7" opens in theaters nationwide March 3 (with early screenings the evening of March 2) and is rated PG-13 for prolonged frenetic sequences of violence, action and mayhem, suggestive content and brief strong language.