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Review

'Furious 7' review: Paul Walker's final ride an action masterpiece

By Bruce Kirkland, Special to Postmedia Network

Entertainment Review

Furious 7

4.5 stars

  • Starring: Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Dwayne Johnson, Michelle Rodriguez, Jason Statham, Kurt Russell, Ludacris, Tyrese Gibson, Jordana Brewster, Lucas Black, Nathalie Emmanuel, Elsa Pataky
  • Directed by: James Wan
  • Written by: Chris Morgan
  • Duration: 137 minutes

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*WARNING: THIS REVIEW CONTAINS POTENTIAL SPOILERS*

Loud, long and laughably over-the-top, Furious 7 is one of the best pure action movies ever made.

A guarantee: Thanks to the adrenaline rush, giddy fans of The Fast and the Furious franchise will be intoxicated by the relentless and spectacular action scenes. These elaborate sequences push Furious 7 to 137 minutes.

A probability: They may even shed a tear for Paul Walker as Furious 7 finishes off with an intensely emotional yet quietly reverential denouement. Dominic Toretto’s gruff lectures about family are made heartbreakingly real.

A possibility: Furious 7 will mark the end game for the Vin Diesel’s crew and future sequels will spinoff in other directions. Jason Statham will certainly return as the badass villain and Kurt Russell makes a great impression as Mr. Nobody, warranting some more work in the series. Nathalie Emmanuel is eye candy as the super-hacker Megan Ramsey.

As for Furious 7 itself, there is absolutely nothing intelligent, nor clever about it. But horror director James Wan (who launched his career with the original Saw movie) packs it with action from beginning to almost the end. Furious 7 opens with a hospital carnage sequence in London, wreaks havoc in the Republic of Azerbaijan, destroys a trio of towers in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates and moves on to a cataclysmic climax in Los Angeles, where our heroic outlaws fight the evildoers on an epic scale. Some side scenes are set in Japan (which reunites us briefly with Tokyo Drift's Lucas Black) and the Dominican Republic.

The filmmakers, of course, did not shoot in some of those places. Furious 7 was filmed in Tokyo, Abu Dhabi, Los Angeles and various U.S. locations in Colorado and Georgia.

Some words of warning: If you do not enjoy action movies, Furious 7 is obviously not for you. There is no clever plot. This is not a James Bond film. The storyline is just another excuse to get the crew back behind the wheels of their fast and furious vehicles. Meanwhile, if you do like action but thought Furious 6 (2013) was so extreme, so ridiculous and so illogical that you lost interest — especially during the infamous long runway scenes — Furious 7 will drive you nuts. It is even more extreme. That, however, is a wonderful thing for millions who like this kind of insanity.

Furious 7 was written for Wan by Chris Morgan, who has been with the series since Fast Five (2011). After the death of Walker — on a break during production — Morgan tweaked the script and came up with that tribute scene at the end. Thanks to Diesel, who handles raw emotion with respect and tenderness without ever losing his cool, the tribute works.

What is unsettling is that there are a couple of moments in the movie where it is obvious that Paul Walker’s brothers stood in for him to complete his scenes as Bryan O'Connor. In particular, the family beach scene seems odd on that level, but it might have been the tears in my eyes that distorted the images.

As for the upbeat parts of Furious 7, the plane drop sequence — in which the crew parachutes into Azerbaijan inside their vehicles — is breathtaking. So is the subsequent mayhem on the highway, with the highly effective Statham as the joker in the deck. But my favourite thrill in the movie is the triple-tower, flying-car routine. Wow!

Director Wan and his stunt team expertly move from gigantic set pieces — with cars, trucks, buses, helicopters, drones, missiles and other equipment — to intimate fight scenes — where men and women fight hand-to-hand and fist-to-face.

The best of those fights involve Statham and Dwayne Johnson (with The Rock back in a reduced, yet significant role) and Statham and Diesel (with Diesel growing a double chin, yet still physically dynamic as a street fighter). You should also watch out in Abu Dhabi for MMA fighter Ronda Rousey, the scariest woman on the planet.

By the end of Furious 7, audiences will be exhausted, exhilarated and maybe a little emotional.

Twitter: @Bruce_Kirkland

bruce.kirkland@sunmedia.ca


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