Furious 7 Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Jason Statham. Directed by James Wan. Rated PG-13. Opens Friday.
The latest in a series of movies with ridiculous, fragmented titles, Furious 7 has a few new things going for it, including a new director, James Wan, the horror master behind Saw, Insidious and The Conjuring. And though the director of the previous four films in the Fast and Furious series, Justin Lin, did some good things on 2011’s Fast Five, Wan definitely approaches the seventh movie with fresh eyes.
The terrific opening sequence shows Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) visiting his brother Owen, the defeated villain of Fast & Furious 6, in the hospital. As Shaw leaves, the camera lingers on two out-of-focus nurses, cowering in the corner. He goes further, and we see his trail of destruction, smashed furniture, strewn bodies, fires, etc. It’s a doozy of an opening that sets up a great bad guy. If a movie is only as good as its villain, what could go wrong?
Shaw begins going after our beloved team, and one of them—not Paul Walker’s Brian—is killed. (Walker finished shooting most of his scenes before his death in November 2013, and his younger brother Cody stepped in to provide body shots. Digital magic did the rest.) A mysterious secret agent (Kurt Russell) appears and offers the team unlimited cars to blow up, if they will stop Shaw and also rescue a valuable hacker named Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel).
The simplistic writing comes in blocky chunks, as the team—Dom (Vin Diesel), Brian (Walker), Letty (Michelle Rodriguez), Roman (Tyrese Gibson) and Tej (Chris “Ludacris” Bridges)—accepts a challenge, pulls it off with maximum razzle-dazzle and destruction, talks a little and gets a new challenge. Jordana Brewster’s Mia gets to stay at home with the kid, and Dwayne Johnson’s Hobbs is in the hospital with a broken arm and leg (though he still gets the best lines). A second villain (Djimon Hounsou) turns up, and so do lots of girls in bikinis.
Happily, the usual machismo and pissing contests that made up the bulk of the movies thus far are mostly gone, replaced by sentimental “family” bonding. But nothing can stop the movie from raging on far too long—137 minutes—and running out of gas early. There’s a fantastic 90-minute movie in here somewhere, but even in its current form, this behemoth is all set to cheerfully turn off the brains, and empty the wallets, of millions of fans.