Furious 7 ***1/2 (out of five)
Furious 7 is not quite as enormously entertaining an action-minded car-theft film as the last two instalments of this unlikely franchise. That said, within its own weird universe, it’s pretty damn good.
What made 5 and 6 so magical was, besides the spectacularly nutty plots and the out-of-this world car action sequences, the beautifully constructed “family” ways of the diverse ensemble. In this film, that ensemble and sense of family is deeply diminished. It’s Vin Dielsel’s show this time, and, although he’s a terrific action movie lead, the script doesn’t allow him to share his soul with his fellow players as it has before.
The film is extremely energetic and, after a slow burn, very kinetically engaging for about two hours on full tilt. It doesn’t make a lot of sense – which seems much to do with Paul Walker’s death causing the filmmakers to alter the film halfway through shooting – and frankly feels like four action-inspired chapters rather than a movie with a beginning, middle and end. But those chapters are chock-full of very loud, gear-grinding action (and some excellent hand-to-hand combat) combined with the series’ now-trademark sense of its own absurdity. Jason Statham adds to the colour as a super-villain, but The Rock is unfortunately sidelined for much of the film. Diesel bears the brunt, and, like always, he bears it well.
Walker’s death is dealt with, of course, and sensitively. James Wan had a supreme challenge with one of his two leading men dying halfway through production, and, if this episode is a little less coherent than the previous two, it’s still very much a Fast and Furious movie, which means it’s two tons of fun.