I'll be honest with you: Nothing I could have read, watched, or heard would have properly prepared me for Fast and the Furious 7. Fast paced, action-packed, and absurd beyond all belief, this latest installment in the wildly successful cars-and-cons series packs a punch I didn't see coming. Yes, it's silly. Yes, you'll probably still groan at the painfully bad dialogue and ham-fisted attempts at following its already skeletal plot. But you know what? You'll feel something, and that's something.
Shortly after Owen Shaw's (Luke Evans) face gets acquainted with an airport runway, his older, stronger brother, Deckard (Jason Statham in stunning form) decides to pay Dom Torreto (Vin Diesel) and company a visit. Ruthless, cunning, and frighteningly persistent, Deckard vows to avenge his fallen brother and won't stop until Torreto and his family have paid the ultimate price (I know, I thought the plot was original too).
While Furious 7 sticks closely to this tried-and-true formula, it brilliantly (and unexpectedly) adds another variable to the equation that the other films didn't touch on quite so well: emotion. After Paul Walker's tragic death in November 2013, the filmmakers scrambled to figure out how to give his character, Brian O'Conner, the loving, respectful onscreen send-off he deserved. Thankfully, they put together a moving farewell that not only wraps up O'Conner's story nicely, but adds a layer of depth that just isn't present in any of the other movies.
The cast returns to do what they're supposed to do: look cool, kick some serious ass, and deliver dialogue that was probably written by a nine-year-old. Tyrese Gibson's Roman and Dwayne Johnson's Hobbs provide most of the film's humor, while Michelle Rodriguez's Letty and Vin Diesel's Toretto carry most of the emotional weight. Paul Walker's Brian O'Conner breaks some necks and cashes some checks, but his role in the movies has always been far more than a physical one. He's a father who wears his reluctance to leave Dom's team like a bright red scarf while still happily tackling the pressures and demands of fatherhood. Franchise newcomers Djimon Hounsou and Jason Statham hop onboard as the film's outrageous villains, expertly mixing class and camp as they shoot, kick, punch, and blast their way to their desired goals.
Over the years, the Fast and the Furious movies have supplied adrenaline junkies with the high-octane, high stakes action they so desperately crave, each successive installment increasing the dosage of death, destruction, and absurdity to ensure that their loyal customers keep coming back for more. When you boil it all down, though, the franchise's formula is no mystery. The equation goes something like this: hot women + action + absurdity=a damn good time. They taught you guys that in school too, right? No? It looks like my eighth grade remedial math teacher has some serious explaining to do, then.
All jesting aside, the movie surprises, enthralls, and entertains in a way that its predecessors couldn't. Fast Five comes closest to eclipsing this latest entry, but even it can't top what Furious 7 so effortlessly delivers. We've reached the point where every ticket to a Fast and the Furious film comes with a guarantee: you'll have a blast, even if your better judgement tells you you're killing brain cells every minute you spend staring at the screen. And you know what? That's absolutely fine, because most of the people who buy their tickets to these movies know exactly what they'll get.
Paul Walker may not return for another Fast and the Furious film, but the impact he had on Dom and his crew will echo throughout the franchise for as long as they continue it. Personally, I think Furious 7 provides every opportunity for the filmmakers and the studio to lay their magical cash machine to rest and mine other franchises for moneymaking potential. Sadly, the box office numbers produced by this beefed up entry have likely already encouraged producers and studio executives to move forward with a bunch of ridiculous, unnecessary sequels. Even sadder? We'll be lining up to see every one of them.