A new enemy is out for revenge, forcing the crew to go on a worldwide hunt to save their family.
Furious 7 is an action-packed thrill ride, and undoubtedly one of the best high octane films you’ll see all year.
That’s basically everything you need to know about the latest in the Fast and Furious franchise, and fans of what has come before will be more than entertained, with several moments earning cheers and applause in my screening.
But there’s also a lot going on here – from the re-establishment of a new timeline for the series (using events in Tokyo Drift) to its new identity as a pure action adventure franchise and the behind the scenes work required after the tragic death of Paul Walker in November 2013.
That’s a lot to place on the shoulders of new director James Wan, who is better known for lower budget horror flicks like Saw, Insidious and The Conjuring. This level of filmmaking is a huge leap, even without the added pressure of changing the film halfway through production, and he mostly handles it well.
Set pieces have become the order of the day since 2011’s Fast 5 and that still holds true here. The film wastes no time in putting punch ups, car chases, heists, explosions, prisoner breakouts, skyscraper escapes and more on screen, and the scale and energy of those scenes is pretty bonkers.
The undoubted highlight takes place about a third of the way through and kicks off with some skydiving cars before launching into a 15 minute sequence of ridiculous stunts and last minute rescues. It’s breathlessly entertaining and impeccably orchestrated mayhem, with multiple forces in the mix and plenty of chaotic car action.
The rest of the film never quite reaches this peak again but there’s fun to be had in toying with skyscrapers in Abu Dhabi and the level of destruction in the finale goes beyond anything we’ve seen before.
The cast continues to expand and there’s lots to like in the new additions. Jason Statham plays his first true villain as Deckard Shaw and seems to be having a whale of a time, getting into punch-ups with much of the major cast and really sinking his teeth into the physical stuff.
Likewise Kurt Russell enjoys himself as a mysterious government agent and Game of Thrones lady Nathalie Emmanuel gets some decent lines and quite a lot of ogling. There’s less for Ronda Rousey to do but its great to see Tony Jaa given a few good moments, as well as some excellent parkour-style action.
The returning cast doesn’t get loads to do, when things aren’t exploding this is mostly a story about Walker and Vin Diesel and the ever-present theme of family in these films. Tyrese Gibson does manage to land a few decent lines and Dwayne Johnson brings down the house despite only appearing in a handful of scenes.
Then there’s the bromance stuff. I was concerned about how the Walker material was going to be handled, both technically and narratively. On the technical side, you’ll see a lot more of the back of his head than in previous films, and there are a few moments where a CG-assisted mask and some overdubbing can be detected.
In terms of the story though, it’s all handled just about perfectly. While the series can feature clunky dialogue, it’s clear a huge amount of care and attention has gone into giving the character a fitting send off, and it manages to be emotional and satisfying without overshadowing the film. The ending is particularly strong, even self-aware, in its tribute to the character and the man but we wouldn’t want it any other way.
If I had a criticism it would be that some of the action lacks the dynamism which veteran helmer Justin Lin – particularly the regular car chases, with some perfunctory payoffs. Despite the ridiculousness of what’s on offer, Fast 5 remains a better film and there are finer moments in the sixth entry. But Lin had four films to hone his craft, and at least two of them were duds, so you have to admire Wan for the fine work he’s done under difficult circumstances. And his fisticuffs are truly excellent.
Furious 7 might not be the best in the series (that honour still goes to Fast 5) but it’s still a rousingly entertaining slice of epic action. The cars are gorgeous, the bullets and explosions are plentiful and the laws of physics be damned and it also manages to be a fitting tribute to the legacy of Paul Walker. Go see it.