Real men, like Vin Diesel, have feelings, too. They just don’t get all-Oprah about it.
That was the challenge of “Furious 7,” probably the last in the popular franchise that began with the unlikely success of “The Fast and the Furious” in 2001.
Fans had been wondering since late 2013 how the series would handle the accidental death of its star Paul Walker. Without revealing too much of what’s under the hood, let’s just say it’s appropriately poignant without being maudlin.
Chronologically the follow-up to 2006’s “Tokyo Drift” (see sidebar), this one opens with Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) still running in the red over his younger brother, a casualty of Drift prequel “Fast & Furious 6.”
Dom (Diesel) may be in over his head this time, especially now that Shaw’s aligned with international terrorist Mose Jakande (Djimon Hounsou) so a government covert operations chief (Kurt Russell) offers his well-equipped team to help.
From there the supercharged action never idles, taking the globetrotting crew on a mission to recover “God’s Eye,” an omnibus hacking device. It starts with them driving off the back of a cargo plane to parachute into Jakande’s remote lair. Then it’s on to Abu Dhabi, where Dom steals a billionaire’s Lykan HyperSport (top speed 242 MPH) from a penthouse before racing through two other towers never touching asphalt.
When he’s not espousing the value of family, Diesel utters nuance-free zingers that make the bones of a gearhead (or someone like me with a Pinto in their past fitted with headers) oscillate. For instance, he rips the cover off his garaged black Charger and mumbles, “Time to unleash the beast.”
Other fun comes from watching Walker pilot a minivan in frustration or Duane Johnson, sidelined for most of the film, busting out of his arm cast with a flex of his massive biceps. But overall the vibe is stylized high-octane action and a return to an era that was classic cool — Steve McQueen cool.
Solid effects round out the entertainment; whether it’s a high-speed car-to-car exchange of a hacker or the collapsing multi-level garage closing in on Walker, they’re exhilarating and not overdone.
Old school fun not for those with a heart condition or for Prius owners who’ve launched a change.org petition to outlaw muscle cars.
One of the best installments and a fitting goodbye to Walker.
Med-City Movie Guy’s rating: 4 Honks
A premium convoy
“Furious 7” broke box-office records with its strong opening weekend, and some industry analysts say it might eventually gross $1 billion. But it didn’t just dart out of nowhere. It followed, you guessed it, six other films (and two shorts). Here they are in chronological order according to their, err, plots.
The Fast and the Furious (2001)
Hard to believe, but Paul Walker’s character Brian O’Conner started out as an undercover cop whose investigation introduced him to Dom Torreto’s (Vin Diesel) extended family of illegal street racers and part-time hijackers. He falls fast for Dom’s sister Mia. Michelle Rodriguez co-stars as Dom’s capable partner and love interest.
2 Fast 2 Furious (2003)
Walker is having a tough time on his own until the FBI sends him to Miami to find Vanilla Ice’s five-point-o … wait, what? Actually, he’s sent there to infiltrate a drug lord’s money laundering operation. Directed by John Singleton (“Boyz n the Hood”). Typical dialog: “Your engine ain’t as big as your mouth.”
Fast & Furious (2009)
Dom is back, teaming with O’Conner, now an FBI agent, to bring the drug smuggler responsible for Letty’s (Rodriguez) death to justice.
Fast Five (2011)
O’Conner gives-up law enforcement to help Dom take sanctuary in Brasil and orchestrate one big score to fund the new life. Introduces Dwayne Johnson as US Agent Luke Hobbs. Fans have voted as the best scene Dom and O’Conner driving through Rio dragging a huge bank vault. That’s one way to take the money and run.
Fast & Furious 6 (2013)
“The Expendables” meet “The Italian Job.” Hobbs promises amnesty if Dom and company can catch rogue agent Owen Shaw. Letty is reintroduced as having been only injured. Two hours of near non-stop action (by which I mean car chases that play loose with the laws of physics) only occasionally interrupted by storyline. One of my favorites.
The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift (2006)
If you’ve ever played Mario Kart you know what it means to drift. Now imagine two hours of it. Also called, “The one without Paul Walker” and “The weakest one in the series.”