Combustible Celluloid
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With: Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Jason Statham, Michelle Rodriguez, Jordana Brewster, Tyrese Gibson, Ludacris, Dwayne Johnson, Lucas Black, Kurt Russell, Nathalie Emmanuel, Elsa Pataky, Gal Gadot, John Brotherton, Luke Evans
Written by: Chris Morgan, based on characters created by Gary Scott Thompson
Directed by: James Wan
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for prolonged frenetic sequences of violence, action and mayhem, suggestive content and brief strong language
Running Time: 137
Date: 04/03/2015

Furious 7 (2015)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Cars Don't Fly

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

For the seventh movie in the Fast & Furious series, horror master James Wan (Saw, Insidious, The Conjuring) takes over the helm 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 is visiting his brother Owen, the defeated villain from Fast & Furious 6, in the hospital, and vows revenge. As he leaves, Wan cleverly shows the incredible trail of destruction Shaw apparently left upon his arrival. Another explosion and some opening titles later, the race is on.

Shaw vows revenge against our team and begins his attack. 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 of 2013. For his remaining scenes, his younger brothers Caleb and Cody stood in for him, and digital magic did the rest.

The loss of Walker provides an elegiac tone for the movie that happily replaces the machismo and ego-butting contests of the rest of the films; characters realize that family is more important than action. But we do get plenty of action, and some of it 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, and then receive another challenge. Unfortunately, at 137 minutes, the energy flags at some point during the movie's final hour.

It would have been easy to cut this story down, but the filmmakers were clearly 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. But a great 90-minute whiz-bang popcorn action movie is at least hidden somewhere within.

Universal's Blu-ray release is, as expected, virtually flawless in picture and explosive sound. It also includes a DVD and an Ultraviolet digital copy. It gives viewers an option to watch the theatrical cut of 137 minutes, or the extended edition which is roughly 2-1/2 minutes longer (as if this thing needed to be any longer). Bonuses include tons of little featurettes (one takes a look at the amusement park ride), a few deleted scenes, a music video,

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