Furious 7 is pure, action-escapist fun, from the cheesy tough-guy one-liners to the mind-blowing stunt sequences. If you're a fan of the series, you'll love it. If you never liked the films before, this won't sway you. And no, , .
The good news is, what the Academy thinks is irrelevant. What the popcorn munchers who pack multiplexes think, however, is. And chances are they're gonna have a ball.
The Fast & Furious franchise has never been about realism, so pointing out that the events of Furious 7 stretch credulity to heretofore unexplored new frontiers—even when compared against prior outings—is both obvious and unnecessary.
The secret of F&F's long-running success is that the films are fully aware of what they are, and everyone involved is winking along, in on the joke, having a blast. Except this time around, there was no way it could be all smiles behind the scenes, because Paul Walker's tragic and untimely death occurred well before production was complete.
And herein lies the triumph of director James Wan and the compelling ensemble of actors the series has accumulated over the years: they pull it off. No, there's no way it could have been easy, and yes, there are moments where, despite herculean efforts to be seamless, you know a scene was cobbled together to work around Walker's absence. But as a whole, the thing works—because miraculously, Walker was on hand for most of the big set pieces, and those are as raucously entertaining as they are absurd.
The basic plot is this: Following the events of Fast & Furious 6, which we learn left bad-guy Owen Shaw alive but in a coma, we meet his brother Deckard Shaw, played by Jason Statham, who is a badass on an entirely different level. To underscore this, we're shown the aftermath of him tearing through scores of special-ops types in a bid to visit his brother in the hospital. He's pissed, (which happens, chronologically, at the end of Fast & Furious 6), and now wants to exact revenge on Dom Toretto and his extended movie family. If you've seen the trailer, you have all the setup you need:
Along the way, we pick up Djimon Hounsou as a terrorist and second supervillain, Nathalie Emmanuel as a gorgeous computer hacker responsible for this film's plot-driving MacGuffin—a surveillance tool with near-magical godlike spying powers, and Kurt Russell, clearly enjoying himself as a cool-cat secret-agent type with bottomless government resources at his disposal. The whole plane-jump scene? He's the sugar daddy that helps make that happen.
Along the way, there are fistfights and crashes that look wildly unsurvivable, but from which everyone basically walks away—not since the A-Team was on TV has there been so little consequence for involvement in onscreen vehicular destruction. You don't care because it's thrilling to watch, from the air drop, to the ensuing mountain chase, to the Lykan Hypersport's Abu Dhabi skyscraper leap.
You root for Dom and co. to win, because they're your team. You've rooted for them for the last 14 years. You root for Brian O'Connor because you know this is the last time you'll watch Paul Walker portray him in the series that launched him to stardom.
The rest of the gang will return. This film's conclusion leaves zero doubt that the story will continue. And then you'll cry, because when it's time to say goodbye to Paul Walker for good, it's handled beautifully.
Furious 7 is hardly perfect. It's loud and fun and utterly preposterous. And then when you least expect it, it's surprisingly poignant.
When you leave the theater, you realize just how much you're gonna miss this guy: