'Furious 7' speedy yet long 

click to enlarge Vin Diesel, left, and Jason Statham appear in “Furious 7,” the gleeful new entry in the popular action franchise. - COURTESY SCOTT GARFIELD/UNIVERSAL
  • COURTESY SCOTT GARFIELD/UNIVERSAL
  • Vin Diesel, left, and Jason Statham appear in “Furious 7,” the gleeful new entry in the popular action franchise.
In the seventh movie in the "Fast & Furious" series, horror master James Wan ("Saw," "Insidious," "The Conjuring") takes over and gives things a fresh twist.

"Furious 7" (which continues a series of ridiculously fragmented titles) starts terrifically, setting up a great, nasty villain, Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham). Shaw, visiting his brother Owen (the defeated villain from "Fast & Furious 6") in the hospital, vows revenge. When he leaves, an incredible trail of destruction cleverly orchestrated by director Wan, follows.

Another explosion and some opening titles later, the race is on. Shaw begins his attack against our team.

One team member dies, and the rest rally together: Dom Toretto (Vin Diesel), Brian (Paul Walker), Letty (Michelle Rodriguez), Roman (Tyrese Gibson) and Tej (Chris “Ludacris” Bridges).

Incidentally, Walker completed most of his scenes before his untimely death in November 2013. (For the remainder, his younger brothers Caleb and Cody stood in, and digital magic did the rest.)

Walker's loss provides an elegiac tone in "Furious 7" that happily replaces the machismo and ego-butting contests of the rest of the films; characters realize that family is more important than action.

Of course, there is plenty of action, some as gloriously, gleefully over-the-top as imaginations and visual effects will allow.

Kurt Russell appears as a mysterious secret agent who offers to help the team get Shaw, but they must also rescue a kidnapped hacker, Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel), from another bad guy (Djimon Hounsou).

Thai martial artist Tony Jaa has a couple of fast, lean fight scenes with Walker, while Jordana Brewster's Mia has to stay home with the kids, and Dwayne Johnson's Hobbs is stuck in the hospital with two broken limbs. (Hobbs still gets the movie's best lines and funniest moments.)

The simplistic writing comes in blocky chunks. The characters solve some impossible challenge, regroup and talk, then receive another challenge.

Energy in the 137-minute movie flags in the final hour. Although it would be easy to cut this story down, the filmmakers clearly were thrilled by their set pieces, which include cars much higher in the air than they should be. ("Cars don't fly!" Brian warns Dom in one scene.)

There just isn't enough gas to keep this behemoth going at such speeds. Still, a great 90-minute whiz-bang popcorn action movie is in here somewhere.

REVIEW

Furious 7

Three stars

Starring: Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Jason Statham, Michelle Rodriguez, Dwayne Johnson

Written by: Chris Morgan

Directed by: James Wan

Rated PG-13

Running time: 2 hours, 17 minutes

About The Author

Jeffrey M. Anderson

Jeffrey M. Anderson

Bio:
Jeffrey M. Anderson has written about movies for the San Francisco Examiner since 2000, in addition to many other publications and websites. He holds a master's degree in cinema, and has appeared as an expert on film festival panels, television, and radio. He is a founding member of the San Francisco Film Critics... more
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