The death of Paul Walker during the filming of “Furious 7” in November 2013 inevitably overshadows the movie, which was retooled to provide the illusion that he was alive for the entire shoot. Since the movie is otherwise a turbo-charged crash-and-burn clobberfest, this note of real-world morbidity makes for an unsettlingly strange combo.
If a thriller is only as good as its bad guy, “Furious 7” does a fairly good job with Jason Statham’s lean and hungry Deckard Shaw, whose brother’s injuries, inflicted by the Fast and Furious crew, he aims to avenge by knocking off the crew en masse. His first encounter, with Dwayne Johnson, is a real thudathon. A later street fight between Shaw and Vin Diesel’s Dom recalls “When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth.”
Dom and his team are hired by a shady (but apparent good guy) operative (Kurt Russell) to capture from terrorists an all-seeing surveillance system called God’s Eye. In exchange, they will get the assistance of a private army to bag Shaw. All of this is an excuse for scenes like the one in which the crew drive their cars out of a plane and parachute in midair. Best sequence: Diesel and Walker crash a super-expensive (alas, brakeless) sports car through the picture windows of not one but two Abu Dhabi skyscrapers. Presumably these scenes were done with CGI, but who knows?
The only grace note in this otherwise determinedly graceless movie is the classy way Walker’s exit is handled. To say more is to say too much. Grade: C+ (Rated PG-13 for prolonged frenetic sequences of violence, action and mayhem, suggestive content and brief strong language.)