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Furious 7 Offers High-Flying Fun

In the long and winding road of Fast and Furious movies, the latest entry ranks as one of the most entertaining—and outlandish. I found the last film preposterous, but this one sets its larger-than-life tone early on and never veers from it. (Cars parachuting onto a treacherous mountain road? You bet!) Furious 7 is like all 12 chapters of an old Saturday matinee serial mashed-up together with dashing heroes and heroines, a seemingly indestructible villain, and a series of challenges that inspire one enormous action sequence after another. This is no longer about rubber hitting the road: it’s about using cars as props in a series of highly imaginative (read: impossible) stunts that pump your adrenaline and make for high-flying escapist fun.

At the core of all this is the bond of friendship and loyalty that has developed among the principal characters, with Vin Diesel as the father figure who periodically utters maxims about the importance of family. Much of the dialogue is written (by Chris Morgan) to be delivered as punchlines, in the Schwarzenegger “I’ll be back” mode, with appropriate pauses for effect and music cues on the soundtrack. Oddly, these cliché-driven moments actually work in context, almost encouraging the audience to laugh with the movie as it gives its fans exactly what they came for.

The presence of a lethal loose-cannon bad guy played by Jason Statham has former adversary Dwayne Johnson (who’s temporarily laid up in the hospital) and government agency bigwig Kurt Russell encouraging the Furious gang to do what they have to do to bring down this deadly foe. That’s all it takes for our team of good guys to spring into action, in a series of exotic locations around the globe before winding up in their hometown of Los Angeles.

Paul Walker furious 7-1

Photo by Scott Garfield – Courtesy of Universal Studios

Every member of the team gets his or her moment in the limelight, and as the story wraps up, the movie offers a graceful goodbye to the late Paul Walker. Fans couldn’t ask for a better tribute.

For his series debut, Maylaysian-born horror film director James Wan keeps a steady hand on the storyline and the action in this slick and impressive piece of entertainment. Surrounded by series veterans, aided and abetted by enormous visual-effects and stunt teams, he has delivered the goods. I don’t think any Fast and Furious enthusiast will feel let down—unless he or she misses the kinder, gentler days when the movies were actually about road racing.

Incidentally, despite all advertising to the contrary, the title of the film as seen onscreen is Furious 7. I can’t explain or defend this decision, I only report it for fellow obsessives out there.

Leonard Maltin is one of the world’s most respected film critics and historians. He is best known for his widely-used reference work Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide and its companion volume Leonard Maltin’s Classic Movie Guide, now in its third edition, as well as his thirty-year run on television’s Entertainment Tonight. He teaches at the USC School of Cinematic Arts and appears regularly on Reelz Channel and Turner Classic Movies. His books include The 151 Best Movies You’ve Never Seen, Of Mice and Magic: A History of American Animated Cartoons, The Great Movie Comedians, The Disney Films, The Art of the Cinematographer, Movie Comedy Teams, The Great American Broadcast, and Leonard Maltin’s Movie Encyclopedia. He served two terms as President of the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, is a voting member of the National Film Registry, and was appointed by the Librarian of Congress to sit on the Board of Directors of the National Film Preservation Foundation. He hosted and co-produced the popular Walt Disney Treasures DVD series and has appeared on innumerable television programs and documentaries. He has been the recipient of awards from the American Society of Cinematographers, the Telluride Film Festival, Anthology Film Archives, and San Diego’s Comic-Con International. Perhaps the pinnacle of his career was his appearance in a now-classic episode of South Park. (Or was it Carmela consulting his Movie Guide on an episode of The Sopranos?) He holds court at leonardmaltin.com. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook; you can also listen to him on his weekly podcast: Maltin on Movies. — [Artwork by Drew Friedman]

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