The Fast and Furious franchise has been a box office juggernaut, with the last three installments taking in a collective total of $1.7 billion at the worldwide box office. The latest volume, Furious 7, would likely have eclipsed the success of its predecessors to begin with, but the tragic death of series star Paul Walker in the midst of filming has cast an even bigger spotlight on the film.
Production on Furious 7 was halted for several months after Walker’s death in November 2013, and when filming finally resumed, it was with an altered script that promised to pay tribute to the late actor – his brothers even served as body doubles in order to allow his scenes to be completed. The result is a touching and poignant memorial that closes the door on Walker’s character and his story without feeling like the subject is being forced.
But before we get to those tearful goodbyes, Dom Toretto (Vin Diesel) and his crew must contend with Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham), who happens to be an even bigger and more menacing threat than his younger brother Owen Shaw (Luke Evans), the villain from the previous film. Big brother Deckard doesn’t take too kindly to his sibling’s fate, and after murdering Han in Tokyo and breaking into the DSS office to take down Luke Hobbs (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson), he sets his sights on Dom.
What follows is essentially an extended game of cat and mouse, with Dom and his crew trying (and often failing) to remain one step ahead of Shaw. There’s also a convoluted plot that involves the gang working for a shadowy government agent (Kurt Russell) in order to get information on Shaw’s whereabouts – which is really just an excuse the filmmakers needed to have team to hop from one exotic location to another.
Most of the cast returns here, including Tyrese Gibson, Chris “Ludacris” Bridges, and Michelle Rodriguez – all of whom are given an opportunity to shine during the film’s many action sequences. If you’ve seen any of the marketing materials for Furious 7, then you’ve already gotten a glimpse of the biggest moments, but there are definitely some surprises left, including an insane chase during the third act that’s almost as crazy as the bank vault heist from Fast Five.
The needlessly complicated plot – which also introduces a hacker who creates a program to tap into the global communications network and a militant leader (Djimon Hounsou) trying to steal the program for himself – is definitely the film’s biggest weakness. We’re constantly left to question why Dom and his team would ever find themselves involved in this mess, and there are so many threads to tie up that the running time feels about 15 minutes too long.
But let’s be fair: the Fast and Furious franchise has always been about exotic cars, insane stunts, and gorgeous women, and it delivers those things in heaping doses. But closing the chapter on Walker’s character also lends a bit of extra weight to the proceedings, and longtime fans of the series may find themselves reaching for a Kleenex during the film’s final moments. There’s little doubt that audiences will be pouring into theaters this weekend to say goodbye to Walker, and they should find themselves coming away from the experience with a sense of closure and satisfaction.