By Susan JAMES
“Furious 7,” the seventh film in the “Fast and Furious” franchise, is a worthy successor to the series and a worthy tribute to the late Paul Walker aka Brian O’Conner. This tale of unmasked avengers and the women who love them opens with a bang and rarely pauses for breath during the next two-plus hours. But unlike other action films, the “Fast and Furious” franchise has put a premium on plot and character so audiences are asked to actually care what happens to Dom (Vin Diesel) and Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) and Brian and Mia (Jordana Brewster). Malaysian-born director James Wan has used his extensive experience with video games to create a visual rollercoaster ride that actually pushes out the boundaries of action sequences. Five cars gunning it out of a plane at altitude into free fall anyone?
“Furious 7″ picks up where No. 6 left off. Comatose villain Owen Shaw, brought down in No. 6, has, as it turns out, an even more badass brother Deckard Shaw, played with appropriate glittering-eyed grimness by Jason Statham. Deckard, former British black ops baddest of the bad, has sworn to take down the crew that took down his brother and begins by putting Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) in the hospital and blowing up Dom’s home. Not a good move as it turns out. Luckily for Dom, government super spy “Mr. Nobody” (Kurt Russell) shows up with a proposition.
Here is where the movie diverges into ABC’s “Person of Interest” territory. “You are being watched. The government has a secret system, a machine that spies on you every hour of every day.” Only this machine hasn’t yet gone online and its creator, an anonymous computer hacker named Ramsey, has been kidnapped by an evil African warlord played by Djimon Hounsou.
Mr. Nobody offers Dom the future use of “God’s Eye” as the machine is known to locate Deckard Shaw if he can retrieve both Ramsey and the hardware from the bad guys. The offer is really unnecessary because wherever Dom goes, like Mary’s evil little lamb, Shaw is sure to follow. All Dom has to do is glance over his shoulder and psychoman is standing there with a gun, a grenade and a grimace.
There are a lot of moving parts to both story and stunts but Wan keeps them moving and it is a tribute to the actors and their comfort with their characters after 15 years of working together that we care about their relationships and their fates. Will Letty come out of her amnesia and remember the years she has spent with Dom? Will Brian finally settle down as a family man with Mia? While the storyline definitely has roots in all that has gone before, newcomers to the series don’t need to worry. The movie holds up well on its own. International locations and stupefying stunts come at you fast and furious. What started as a movie about car racing has morphed into a mythology that is in its own way as gritty and engrossing as the more self-promoting mythologies of “The Lord of the Rings” and “Star Wars.” Vin Diesel’s Dom is every bit the tarnished knight that Aragorn or Han Solo are. And it’s a pleasure to watch him once again wrecking havoc on the nasties of the world.
See you at the movies!