‘Furious 7’ Drives Home Action, Heart
(L to R) Dom Toretto (VIN DIESEL) faces off against Deckard Shaw (JASON STATHAM) in "Furious 7". ©Universal Studios. CR: Scott Garfield.

(L to R) Dom Toretto (VIN DIESEL) ranchiseaces off against Deckard Shaw (JASON STATHAM) in “Furious 7”. ©Universal Studios. CR: Scott Garfield.

By LYNN BARKER

Front Row Features

Fans of the “Fast and Furious” film series will love the impossible stunts and tear up at a touching tribute to late actor Paul Walker in “Furious 7.”

As Dom Toretto (Vin Diesel) always says, “This is about family” and, this time, it really is. A baddie’s relative from the last film attacks the F&F gang and he means business. It’s going to take some amazing action and a high tech device to bring him down, all while Dom and pals bond like never before.

After the action in “Fast & Furious 6,” Dominic Toretto (Diesel), Brian O’Conner (Walker) and the close-knit gang are back in the U.S. living “normal” lives. Dom’s girlfriend Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) is still trying to recover her memory and Brian’s most exciting day in a car consists of driving his young son, with wife Mia (Jordana Brewster), to school.

Things perk up when Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham), brother of critically injured hospitalized F&F 6 baddie Owen Shaw (Luke Evans), is after the gang for revenge. He kills one of Dom’s crew and roughs up (believe it or not) government operative Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson). Dom and crew, including Tej (Chris “Ludacris Bridges) and the cocky yet cowardly Roman (Tyrese Gibson) are out for their own revenge while top secret black ops-type leader Kurt Russell offers to help IF Dom and his crew can help him hunt down terrorist Jakande (Djimon Hounsou).

Jakande has kidnapped high profile hacker Megan Ramsey (“Game of Thrones’” Nathalie Emmanuel) to get his hands on the God’s Eye, a device that can easily track down anybody on the planet in record time. Deal goes: if Dom and crew can get Jakande and the device, Dom can use the God’s Eye to find his enemy Deckard Shaw.

What results is a world-wide chase that travels from winding Azerbaijan mountain roads to the amazing skyscrapers in Abu Dhabi and back to L.A. Action includes cars parachuting out of planes, jumping from skyscraper to skyscraper and some intense hand-to-hand combat. Of course, our heroes are (SPOILER ALERT) triumphant and they say goodbye to one of their own—both the character of Brian O’Connor and the actor who played him (Walker).

Although director James Wan (“Saw,” “Insidious” and “The Conjuring”) might not seem the likely choice for the franchise’s unique brand of over-the-top action, he does a very credible job. In emotional dramatic scenes, however, he does over-direct at times, focusing on the obvious a little too long. Still, “Furious 7” might be the best of the franchise so far.

Stunts are amazing and fun to watch but most are physically impossible making the film more like a superhero actioner than the usual fast car competition. Various scenes depict cast members falling from incredible heights like cartoon characters and ending up with a few scratches and a bandage, but audiences are unlikely to care. We aren’t watching these films for the reality quotient.

Dom and his crew get to dress up and attend a fancy party that rivals any in the “Mission Impossible” or 007 films. This section of the movie might be labeled “Fast and Furious meets Ocean’s 11” for its posh crime caper similarity.

Although a little overly long, “Furious 7” is also packed with humor, much of it coming from the fun/bickering between Bridges’ and Gibson’s characters, and the film has more heart than earlier films in the popular franchise. “Family” really means something this time around, especially with a worthy and tear-jerking yet joyful tribute to Walker who died in a car crash before the film was finished.

Special effects wizards, who created the marvels in the “Lord of the Rings” movies, worked with Walker’s brothers who stood in for him as body doubles while the effects team used face-mapping on computer to reconstruct a pretty darn good duplicate of the actor for scenes still unfinished. It is hard to tell when Walker isn’t really there. Tyrese, featuring Ludacris, performs the touching song “My Best Friend” on soundtrack during the tribute scenes.

“Furious 7” leaves the door open for more F&F movies but we’re not sure that they can top the over-the-top action stunts in this one. For a great combo of visual thrills, humor, true heart as well as a really entertaining time, floor it to the cinema.

Grade: A-

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