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Film Review: Furious 7

Paul Walker and Vin Diesel ride together one last time in Furious 7 (Image  ©  Universal Pictures) 

Paul Walker and Vin Diesel ride together one last time in Furious 7 (Image © Universal Pictures) 

Growing up, the only kind of movies that had sequels beyond a trilogy were horror movies. As long as a horror franchise could eke out a profit, they would just crank out a new film every year or so and you almost always got diminishing returns. 

Yet here we are in 2015 and the seventh film of a franchise is likely to make more money than any Hollywood executive could possibly put up his nose.

Yes, Furious 7 just came out, the seventh in the Fast and Furious franchise. I'm sure even if you're not a fan of the films you are well aware that costar Paul Walker passed away last year. This is his final full film and that has probably evoked at least a morbid curiosity in some people. For others, this is a chance to see a well liked actor have one last hurrah.

Whatever your thoughts on that particular issue, the series is, at this point, a power in of itself and whatever I have to say you were either not planning on viewing it or were going to the theater regardless. But at least I can prepare you a little bit.

Furious 7 picks up right where Fast and Furious 6 left off. The gang (sorry, family) is moving on with their lives. Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) is patiently trying to help the love of his life Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) put her life back together as she tries to recover her memories of the last fifteen years. Brian (Paul Walker) is trying to be a family man and a good husband and father while his wife Mia (Jordana Brewster) patiently encourages him.

Since these guys have spent the last six movies operating just a little bit outside the law their past comes back to haunt them. One of their own, Han (Sung Kang), is brutally murdered during a street race in Japan by Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham), the bigger, meaner, more dangerous older brother of the sixth film's antagonist.

After a few action sequences where Deckard tries to kill Dominic, Brian and Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson), Dominic is approached by Mr. Nobody (Kurt Russell), a guy who runs a U.S. black ops unit so dark they don't even have a name. In exchange for the rescue and return of a computer hacker who has developed a program called “God's Eye”, Mr. Nobody promises to give Dominic's crew all they need to take Deckard out once and for all.

If you've seen the past two films you know exactly what you're getting into here. Lots of action, fast cars, lots of women gyrating their hips in skimpy outfits and a huge suspension of disbelief. What makes the series so attractive is its broad strokes. You don't have to be a car lover to enjoy the last few entries. You don't have to know much about the first three or four movies. Fast Five was sort of a soft reboot into something more entertaining for the masses and it's working like gangbusters. 

Want to see The Rock use a minigun? Want to see Vin Diesel and Jason Statham punch the shit out of each other? Want to see a million+ dollar car get fucked up? What about T&A? Do you like women in bikinis and close-ups of asses? Do you like handsome men in tight shirts and/or no shirts? Do you prefer explosions? Hell, do you like humorous and easily-understood jokes? All of that is here in abundance. 

Even more surprisingly Furious 7 once again shows something few expected such a film franchise to develop: a heart. Despite all the action and racing, at its core this movie shows some serious depth. There's actual character development from all corners (well, except from Tyrese Gibson's Roman but that's because someone has to be the irreverent joker and butt of all jokes). Michelle Rodriguez, Paul Walker and Dwayne Johnson all get some added depth that actually makes you relate to them. 

I've become more accepting of film fluff over the last few years, but even cynical 25 year old me would probably still have enjoyed this movie. My only lasting issue with this movie and the ones that came before it is how much you really, really, really have to just go with it. Don't ask how Statham's character always shows up at the perfect moment, seemingly knowing where the protagonists are going to be before they do. Don't try to figure out how much time really needs to pass in order to build all the awesome cars and technology that seems to pop up every other scene. Please, please, please don't think too hard about ask how the hell a warlord can bring military technology into L.A. and blow shit up at random without the U.S. military ever showing up. 

Yes, my issues are small compared to the sheer joy and entertainment of the entire movie but they're still issues. But despite all this, Furious 7 is a really fun film. Even better, whether it was originally or if they changed it after Paul Walker's death, the ending is both powerful and loving. It's obvious that everyone involved with this franchise is family both in front of and behind the camera. That's why I walked out of the theater with a tear in my eye.