Furious Seven

Posted by Joel Copling on April 2, 2015

For the first time in this series, "Furious Seven" gets right to the heart of what this series really wanted to be about: the idea of a kind of family that transcends blood relation--although I think we can chalk that achievement up to the unintentional maturity that results from the untimely death of one of its co-stars. In every other way, this movie finally gets the formula mostly right, even if it was always just fast cars, speeding bullets, characters whose heroics were more like antiheroics, and the ogling of peripheral female characters from the backside to the chest. Director James Wan is having so much fun here that the self-serious dialogue that pervades any scene without carnage barely makes a dent. There is an important sense of humor here.

And that includes the darker kind, right from the opening sequence, in which Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham), brother of the villain from 2013's "Furious 6," walks away from the hospital holding his brother and leaves the building in a decimated state. We do not see the action scene itself, but the morbid joke is that we needn't: This is not someone to come up against. But he's killed one of a number that include Dom (Vin Diesel), Letty (Michelle Rodriguez), Roman (Tyrese Gibson), and Tej (Chris "Ludacris" Bridges), injured Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) in a fight, and destroyed Brian's (the late Paul Walker, who gets a touching tribute at the end and in the form of his brothers, who replace him physically and seamlessly in certain scenes) and Mia's (Jordana Brewster) home in an attempt on their lives.

So the rest of the film is almost entirely a revenge thriller, if not for the requisite plot surrounding it. The team is approached by a shadowy government official who nicknames himself "Mr. Nobody" and is played by a game Kurt Russell. He explains that Shaw is going after someone named Ramsey (Nathalie Emanuel), herself a captive of another operative played by Djimon Hounsou (who might as well not have showed up, for all the importance his character holds). She's built a program called "God's Eye," which is basically an omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent surveillance system that makes the same thing from 2008's "The Dark Knight" look weak in comparison. The thing is a MacGuffin, mostly--to be used in the admittedly rudimentary finale but not even remotely interesting as a MacGuffin.

This is only to say that, whatever the film gets right, the good in Chris Morgan's screenplay outweighs the bad, which still occasionally raises its head. The business with the God's Eye is rubbish, which allows for everything else to take center stage; in other words, as Ebert once said, it's about how it's about all this. There's an attempted rescue via cars that back out of planes mid-flight, which then culminates into a spirited race down a mountainside and a fistfight between Brian and an operative played by Tony Jaa in an out-of-control bus headed toward a cliff. There's a particularly clever bit involving a bulletproof, ultra-rare car that Dom and Brian drive through three whole skyscrapers to get distance between themselves and Shaw. Wan treats his action sequences as if he just can't wait for you see what else is up his sleeve, and "Furious Seven" is solid fun because of it.

Film Information

Vin Diesel (Dominic Toretto), Paul Walker (Brian O'Conner), Michelle Rodriguez (Letty), Tyrese Gibson (Roman), Chris "Ludacris" Bridges" (Tej), Jason Statham (Deckard Shaw), Nathalie Emmanuel (Ramsey), Kurt Russell (Mr. Nobody), Dwayne Johnson (Hobbs), Jordana Brewster (Mia), Djimon Hounsou (Jakande), Elsa Pataky (Elena), Lucas Black (Sean Boswell).

Directed by James Wan and written by Chris Morgan.

Rated PG-13 (prolonged frenetic violence/action/mayhem, suggestive content, brief language).

137 minutes.

Released on April 3, 2015.