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It seems bizarre to think about it now, but I remember sitting in a theater 9 years ago and watching THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS: TOKYO DRIFT. Despite the vast number of films I have reviewed over the past 13 years, I still recall the experience vividly. Throughout the entire duration of the movie, I was convinced that I was watching the death of a franchise.

Furious-7  In fact, it wasn’t until the last scene in the entire movie that I smiled for the first time. This, of course, was when the noticeably absent Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) made his brief cameo. It was a clever addition that provided some (much needed) entertainment. In the back of my mind, however, I couldn’t help but think, “Ugghh, I guess this means there is going to be another one!?”

It took a few years, but as predicted, FAST & FURIOUS (the fourth installment of the series) was released in 2009. What was a little less predictable, was the fact that the movie was actually pretty good! It was a definitive step up from the TOKYO DRIFT disaster, and proved to be a huge box-office hit. Two more sequels followed (FAST FIVE, FAST & FURIOUS 6), which largely reunited the original cast, and chucked Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson in for good measure. These were also entertaining flicks, filled with clever action and some humor along the way.

During production of FURIOUS SEVEN, tragedy struck. One of the mainstays of the FAST franchise, Paul Walker, was killed in an (unrelated) automobile accident. Due to the unexpected tragedy, the fate of the film (and the entire franchise) was largely unknown. In the end, the cast and crew decided that Walker would have wanted them to continue, and, with the help of Walker’s real-life brothers, production was completed.furious-7-paul-walker

As is the case every time you sit down to watch a movie that has been released after the death of a performer, there is a level of sentimentality and sadness that can’t be shaken. This is certainly the case with FURIOUS SEVEN. Having said that, you also need to enjoy the film for what it is. This aspect proves to be adequately attainable in this action blockbuster.

FURIOUS SEVEN picks up after the events of FAST& FURIOUS 6. Ruthless criminal Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) vows to destroy those who injured his brother Owen (Luke Evans) and quickly sets out to do so. After he breaks into the DDS office of Hobbs (Johnson), he discovers the identities of all of those who were responsible for Owen’s demise, and he and the agent have a solid rumble. After severely injuring the agent, Shaw escapes and then heads to Tokyo where he kills Han (Sung Kang), and sets his sights on the rest of the crew.

Shaw attempts to blow-up Toretto’s home and everyone in it, which includes Brian (Walker), Mia (Jordana Brewster) and their young son. Dom and Brian realize that this attack is a declaration of war, and the onslaught of violence will never cease so long as Deckard is alive. Along with Roman Pearce (Tyrese Gibson) and Tej Parker (Chris “Ludacris” Bridges), they decide to do everything in their power to bring the baddie down.

Furious-7-Jason-StathamThere are actually still a few more subplots that I haven’t even gotten to yet (an international terrorist trying to steal a computer hacker’s device that would allow him to rule the world, plus the secretive government agency who is looking to bring him down) but the real matter at hand, is whether or not the movie is any good. This, I think, will largely depend on whether or not you liked the past few installments of the franchise. If you did, you are in for a treat, and if you didn’t, well, should you really be seeing part 7 to begin anyway?

The action sequences in FURIOUS SEVEN are long, elaborate, and for the most part, pretty darn fun. Stuff explodes, everyone fights, and cars are destroyed with a reckless abandon. It would be fair to believe that the automobile sequences would feel repetitive and unoriginal, but when you are watching the mayhem unfold, that feeling is completely absent. Sure, witnessing the absurdity of a mountainous chase/heist sequence, and the ridiculousness of seeing jumping-a-car-through-three-buildings is somewhat silly, it remains the standard on which this entire series has been based. For those who paid admission to see exactly that, there is no way to be disappointed. Statham proves to be an excellent addition to the series, standing as a menacing and believably ruthless villain. He doesn’t deliver many lines of dialogue, but his character is supposed to be short on words, and brash in actions.

As for Walker and the tragedy that surrounded him, FURIOUS SEVEN delivers a effectively sentimental good-bye. With the touching song “See You Again” by Wiz Khalifa (co-written by Charlie Puth) and a stirring voice-over by Dom (which in actuality is a tribute from Diesel to his fallen friend) the screen fades to white, with the words “For Paul” emblazoned across the screen. Whether you are a fan of the franchise or not, it is a fitting and emotional farewell.


A special thanks goes to Regal Cinemas at Destiny USA for allowing me to attend this month’s film.

Brian Miller