Furious Seven aka The Fast and the Furious 7 (2015)

(In theaters, May 2015) I’ve been a fan of the Fast and Furious film series since the first 2001 installment (even though my faith was sorely tested by the second film), but I never expected its seventh installment to be so purely enjoyable, even as it features a poignant emotional send-off to a fallen star.  Series lead Paul Walker died during the production of the film, and part of Furious Seven’s impossible mandate was to find a way to deliver hugely entertaining action sequences while acknowledging Walker’s final departure.  The first part of the mission is obviously achieved: Furious Seven contains bigger action sequences, a decent number of laughs, some innovative camera work (including cameras that move in-synch with people crashing through glass tables), decent villains, likable heroes and a decent amount of innovative stunts even in a series that seems to have done everything possible on four wheels.  The action moves fluidly across continents, juggles several recurring characters and a few new ones, harkens back to its perennial theme of family and is just about everything one could wish for in a summer blockbuster.  But no one expected the film to be able to deliver such an effective good-bye to Paul Walker, who is last seen here literally taking a fork in the road to stay safely with his new family, accompanied by a montage and a sad song meant to make even the least emotional members of the audience get a huge lump in their throat.  It works far better than even the most cynical pundits will allow: Walker was in many ways the heart of the series, and Furious Seven couldn’t have given him a better or more appropriate send-off.  Incredibly enough, it doesn’t feel manipulative or crass: it feels like the end of the road, even knowing that the series will have another sequel in two or three years.  Well done.

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