Furious 7

Paul Walker as Brian, in a scene from "Furious 7."

"Furious 7," starring Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Jason Statham and Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, reunite to give us yet another fast-paced, high-intensity and overwhelmingly explosive variation on the previously successful formulaic films.

"Furious 7" picks up where "Fast & Furious 6" left off. The saga continues, but alas, this will be Paul Walker's third and final film to be released posthumously. Sadly and ironically, Walker died in a car crash in November 2013. Although he is primarily known for his role as Brian O'Conner in the "Furious" films, this reviewer remembers him fondly in the role of Skip Martin from "Pleasantville" and as Nolan Hayes from the intense and emotional one-man film called "Hours."

"Furious 7" starts with a bang — and a crash and several more ka-booms — as is expected. We now find that the crew must be reunited to defend themselves against Deckard Shaw who seeks revenge for his brother's severe injuries. After several glass shattering fights and an exploding house, the group is enlisted by Mr. Nobody (Kurt Russell) to help rescue a computer hacking/code-writing damsel in distress. In return, Mr. Nobody will give the crew access to "God's Eye," which will enable them to track Shaw and eliminate him. Of course, this will require traveling to Abu Dhabi, Tokyo, and various scenic places around the globe where impressive car chases, fights, and explosions look that much more stylistic.

Credit is given with this film's efforts in attempting to write sub-plots involving each of the main characters. Hobbs (Johnson) is a father and a cop who is injured and is hospitalized (with his shirt off, of course) fighting the demons of bad '70's television programming from his hospital bed. Toretto (Diesel) and Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) wrestle with her amnesia and Brian (Walker) and Mia (Jordana Brewster) tackle parenthood and which buttons to push to open the automatic door in their Honda Odyssey. Humor is not lost on these situations nor is it lost in the banter among the group. Roman (Tyrese Gibson) and Tej (Ludacris) have a wonderful antagonistic relationship that adds levity exactly where it doesn't, and couldn't possibly, belong — which is perfect.

The aerial panoramic views of various cities of the world are dizzyingly beautiful. With amazing chase scenes requiring various angles of shooting, this aspect of the cinematography is captivating and at times, breathtaking. With amazing stunt work, car driving, and some sort of cinematic magic making things like cars jumping from one high rise to another look truly realistic, you won't take your eyes off the screen. Unfortunately, the stop-frame filming of the fight scenes is visually disturbing which does makes you take your eyes off the screen. As I mentioned in the review for "Fast and Furious 6," it is always perplexing that people can be tossed through windows, beaten with crowbars, and bounced off of moving cars with only a minor scratch on the cheek. Have no fear, this Superman imperviousness continues in "Furious 7."

"Furious 7" doesn't try to be anything more than what it is: a high-action film with impressive stunts and bouts of physical demonstration of brute strength and a bit of wit. Don't expect anything more than that. The acting isn't great, but did you expect it to be? Diesel's delivery and lack of emotion brings you to laughter, but perhaps that's the goal. It's an action flick and that's it. And, unfortunately, but not surprisingly, this film is completely sexist. Not only are there a myriad number of scantily clad women, the gratuitous tush shots are so up-close and personal that no one but a gastroenterologist could get any closer. Then we have Johnson's character with the most memorable and offensive lines. There are, however, a few prophetic phrases sprinkled into the mix in an attempt to make it more meaningful, but this just feels strangely awkward. And unfortunately, there are several lines that Mr. Walker utters that foreshadow his fate.

Overall, if you can look at this film as a comedic endeavor with lots of action and absolutely nothing more — as in the previous six "Furious" films — then you can enjoy it. It's chock full of car chases with cool cars, more fight scenes and explosions than you can count, and preposterous situations that will make you chuckle. The final 20-30 minutes are all shoot 'em up, blow 'em up scenes that just never seem to end. But this constant bombardment just becomes boring.

But there is a nice touch at the end of the film, an homage to Paul Walker's work with video clips from previous "Furious" films. It's sweet and quite touching. He will be missed.

1 1/2 stars

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