Much like Kurt Russell’s hairy and enthusiastic John “Jack” McClane in the first four films, Walker’s Dominic Toretto is a wisecracking, guns-blazing, James Dean-alike character. But the actor is no longer the lead in a series, and it’s not easy to watch him misfit among such likable lads as Diesel, Johnson and especially Jordana Brewster, who plays his cousin Mia. Fast and Furious 7 may have made the most of its cast, but it also made the most of its genre. Even though the series has now gone from car chases to a fight against terrorism, the movie feels like a conclusion to a very different storyline.
A long-cultivated mid-series lull defined the last three films; the same story and characters suddenly become stale without any new challenges, stakes or, for that matter, outsized characters. That can’t be good for a franchise whose brand has always been the personalized, man-to-man action. Furious 7 is the film that breaks that streak, and in the process, it gives the franchise a graceful send-off.
The opening credits scroll over a series of commercials for various fast cars and action figures. Then the credits roll, while “Going All the Way” plays in the background. A car chase begins and plays out pretty much like every other car chase in the franchise. That’s appropriate, because, in a way, Furious 7 is just that. The premise: Diesel’s Toretto, along with his allies Walker and Johnson, have escaped assassination. To pursue their assailants, the cast takes to the skies in several classic cars, including a yellow 1969 Chevrolet Chevelle SS “Malibu” and an orange Dodge Challenger R/T with painted flames on the hood. It’s your classic 1980s over-the-top car chase, only with an added layer of panache to the proceedings, thanks to Diesel’s iconic “It’s all Good” tattoo, and Johnson’s sassy dance moves.
Fast and Furious is one of those rare franchises that has retained an audience over the years despite its lack of creativity—each film has more car chases, explosions, fistfights and topless babes than its predecessors. The seventh installment adds another layer to that formula, only without diminishing the others.