All in the Family

It’s not often that one gets to enjoy — honestly enjoy — the seventh movie in a series, but Furious 7 is one of those times.

Since the introduction of Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson, who accurately referred to himself as “franchise Viagra” on SNL), the already-enjoyable Fast and/or Furious series has expanded its vision and its team. Ages ago, in The Fast and the Furious, the point was the developing brotherhood between Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) and Brian O’Conner (Paul Walker), who look, in flashbacks, like tiny, glowing children.

Now the franchise is about family, and if you forget that, Vin Diesel will remind you of it (a lot). Family includes Mia (Jordana Brewster), Dom’s sister and Brian’s wife; Letty (Michelle Rodriguez), Dom’s amnesiac beloved; Roman (Tyrese Gibson) and Tej (Ludacris), comic relief and tech support; and Hobbs, who, like Brian, started out on the right (or wrong?) side of the law, and now has an apparently tenuous relationship with it.

The plot involves the wondrously named Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham), who shows up to avenge his villainous little brother (family!), Owen (Luke Evans), who apparently didn’t die at the end of Fast 6. (I would like to believe this leaves the door open for Gal Gadot’s Gisele to return, but probably it does not. Han and Gisele forever.)

Deckard is mad at Dom is mad at Deckard, who leaves an astonishing trail of destruction in his wake. These two drive cars at each other until Kurt Russell shows up and points Dom toward a nefariously clever tracking device and its mysterious hacker-creator. Naturally, the device is greatly desired by a terrorist (Djimon Hounsou), whose many vehicles and henchmen provide Dom with perfectly valid reasons to drive off cliffs and/or parking garages. 

Furious 7 is full of absurd, intricate stunt sequences that are quite gleeful in their lack of bearing on reality. (The first rule of F&F: Don’t ask questions.) In the hands of new director James Wan (Saw, Insidious, other movies I am too frightened to see), these sequences are a little more flash-bang-whoa, a little less sleek and jaw-dropping than those provided by Justin Lin, who directed installments three through six.

But for every over-the-top crash from which our heroes walk away unscathed, there’s a gloriously choreographed fight, so physical and breathtaking it looks like dancing. Sure, the notion that Walker could take Tony Jaa, or that Rodriguez could get one up on Ronda Rousey, is rather harder to believe than [spoilers!]. But this is our family, and we’re rooting for them — and rooting for the fact that all of this sublime, highly profitable action mayhem is delivered by an effortlessly diverse cast, including women who drive, hack and fight just as fiercely as the men. (The filmmakers make this look so goddamn easy.)

We’re rooting for these characters for 137 minutes, a still-not-long-enough runtime for a film that crosses the globe and includes a coda addressing Paul Walker’s untimely, mid-filming death. If you look closely, you’ll spot the mournful air: Roman insisting that he cannot go to any more funerals; the dark ring to Dom’s intonation of “family.” But the memorial, awkwardly pinned to the end as it may be, is both mournful and joyous, an appreciation and a wake. I’m ready for another ride. 

(Regal Valley River, Cinemark 17)

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