Subtlety is not the reason the “Fast and Furious” franchise became a box office juggernaut.
Rather, it’s all about roaring engines, outlandish stunts, bikinied babes, music-video pacing, racially diverse (if one-dimensional) characters and a playful sense of camaraderie — elements that appeal to audiences all over the world.
“Furious 7” doesn’t mess with the formula, though this latest entry can’t help coming off as bittersweet, what with the 2013 car-crash death of leading man Paul Walker as filming neared completion.
If the action is spectacular, giving us violent ballets of speed and destruction, the film’s attempts at emotion are simplistic and sappy. But the lingering sense of loss over Walker’s demise gives the material a dramatic underpinning it doesn’t really deserve.
“7” concludes with flashbacks of Walker from the previous films, and even sneerers may reach for the Kleenex.
Mostly though, Chris Morgan’s screenplay and James Wan’s direction keep things moving. Like a second-grader with ADD, the film is impossibly restless (is there one shot that lasts more than 10 seconds?). The dialogue is often stunningly (intentionally?) bad, filled with cliches from the action movie playbook.
This time around the blended team of crooks and lawmen — the alpha dog Dominic (Vin Diesel), Brian (Walker), Letty (Michelle Rodriguez), Roman (Tyrese Gibson), Tej (Ludacris) and Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) — are being stalked by an implacable and seemingly unbeatable enemy.
Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham), brother of the criminal mastermind the crew took down in the last film, wants revenge and methodically goes after our guys.
The chase will take us from Los Angeles to London, the Dominican Republic, Tokyo, the Caucasus Mountains in Azerbaijan, and the United Arab Emirates.
Along the way our heroes team up with a government spymaster (a smarmy Kurt Russell) to grab a computer hacker (Nathalie Emmanuel) who has developed an all-powerful, all-seeing program called God’s Eye. Simultaneously accessing information from every cellphone, computer, website and surveillance camera on the planet, God’s Eye can locate anyone in seconds.
Of course the bad guys, Shaw and his terrorist buddy Jakande (Djimon Hounsou), want her program for their own nefarious ends.
As is standard operating procedure here, the plot is merely a threadbare framework on which to hang several mind-boggling action sequences. In one, the good guys drop in their souped-up cars from a military transport plane, open their parachutes, land on a treacherous mountain road and attack a convoy of bad guys.
In another they stage a “Mission: Impossible” heist of a priceless car from atop the world’s tallest building in Abu Dhabi. Mixed martial arts champ Ronda Rousey pops up as an oil sheik’s bodyguard who brawls in high heels and evening dress.
Occasionally “7” tries to get serious — or what passes for serious in this alternative universe. Walker’s Brian, for example, is having trouble adjusting to normal life with his wife, Mia (Jordana Brewster), and their young son. He “misses the bullets.”
Dominic’s squeeze Letty, suffering from amnesia after her last traumatic outing, breaks up with him so that she can find herself.
Yeah, I didn’t care either.
Holding it all together is Diesel, who comes off as a steroid-stoked Buddha; even in the midst of chaos he calmly delivers proverbs in a rumbling basso: “Everyone’s looking for the feel, but what’s real is family.”
Find more of Robert W. Butler’s reviews at butlerscinemascene.com.
Rated PG-13| Time: 2:17
FAREWELL, PAUL WALKER
Paul Walker hadn’t completed his scenes in “Furious 7” when he was killed in a one-car accident a year and a half ago. His younger brothers, Cody and Caleb, not only endorsed the continued production of the movie but signed on as his stand-ins, with the help of CGI.
Star Vin Diesel called the experience “surreal,” telling “Extra” hours after wrapping, “On some levels, it was very cool to know that his brothers were supporting this and wanting to help. On another level, they triggered memories, unintentionally at times. …
“It is a very tricky task for an actor to … be in that stage of mourning and also have to pretend the person’s still there. It made the experience that much more arduous. It was the hardest film I’ve ever done.”
In an Instagram post with Walker’s arm around him, co-star Tyrese Gibson wrote, “To this day his arm is still around my neck with love and protection … Rest in heaven …”
| San Francisco Chronicle