“Furious Seven,” the seventh installment of the “Fast & Furious” franchise, is a phenomenal action-packed, emotional journey that you absolutely cannot miss. The “Fast & Furious” films are built on the foundation of family and loyalty. These films have been able to strike a balance between action, drama and comedy that remains untouched by any other franchise.

This film in particular was made especially emotional by the death of one of the main actors, Paul Walker, on November 30, 2013. Walker’s death devastated both fellow actors and fans alike. Walker passed away while the film was still in production and, as a result, his two brothers acted as stand-ins for him for the remainder of filming.

For those who are die-hard “Fast & Furious” fans (I am unashamed to admit that I fall into that category), the scenes not filmed by Walker which used Computer Generated Imagery (CGI) technology along with Walker’s brothers as stand-ins looked and felt different. Despite this, the crew does a remarkable job of completing the film without one of its leads.

A quick franchise synopsis for those of you who have missed the previous films: an LAPD officer named Brian O’Conner, played by Paul Walker (“Hours”), is tasked with taking down a team of incredibly skilled drivers who target oil trucks to steal and sell the oil on the black market. The LAPD officer goes undercover to infiltrate the group led by Dominic “Dom” Toretto, played by Vin Diesel (“Fast & Furious 6”). The LAPD officer falls in love with Dom’s sister and ends up becoming a member of the crew. For a while he struggles with whether he is on the right side of the law but he ends up living by Dom’s philosophy of family.

The previous film ended with an unidentified man played by Jason Statham (“Transporter”) calling Dom and threatening him after his killing of a beloved member of Dom’s family. This film begins with that unidentified man identifying himself as the brother of Owen Shaw played by Luke Evans (“The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug”), the “bad guy” of the previous film. A few minutes into the current movie, you see Dom get the call from Deckard Shaw that ended the previous film. This gathers Dom and his team together for “one last ride.”

Long story short, the journey takes Dom and his crew to Abu Dhabi and then comes full circle back to Los Angeles, where the film ends.

The action-packed sequences top anything that the franchise has done before. Two scenes in particular stand out. First, when attempting to get the God’s Eye software back, Dom and his team drop out of a plane to ambush a convoy. This wasn’t just any regular parachute mission; Dom and his team parachuted out of the plan in their cars. This scene was spectacular and exciting because it looked possible.

The second scene that stands out is when Dom drives a car through three skyscrapers simply driving from one to the next. While this scene is not as believable, it is visually stunning regardless. Focusing in as the car landed in each building and zooming out to see the car fly between buildings allowed viewers to see the whole picture.

In addition to the action, there is incredible comic relief. Some of the best lines come from O’Conner’s friend and member of the crew, Roman, played by Tyrese Gibson (“Transformers”). Roman is known for being self-absorbed, a little thick-headed and afraid of everything. He provides much needed laughs throughout the film.

The character of Hobbs, played by Dwayne Johnson (“G.I. Joe: Retaliation”), also provided comedic relief in the form of one-liners. Johnson delivers the funny lines wholly deadpan, without smiling or blinking an eye, which makes them even funnier. For example, when telling Dom about Deckard Shaw, he says he will hurt him so badly that Shaw would “wish his mamma kept her legs closed.”

Statham’s performance was also noteworthy. Statham plays a phenomenal “bad guy” with a constant frown on his face that says “don’t mess with me.” He is so matter-of-fact and so unconscionably evil that viewers love to hate him. Statham is also very skilled at the fight scenes and though his fights with Dom and Hobbs happen fast, each punch is precise and calculated.

Finally, one of the best performances of the film is that of Diesel. Diesel’s deep husky voice is his trademark and it suits this character perfectly. Diesel’s character cares about his family to a fault. He even states at one point in the film, “I don’t got friends, I got family.” Dom protects his family at all costs. Diesel is perfect for this role because, although he has biceps the size of his head and fists that could punch through a wall, he has a soft heart.


Photo Courtesy of Original Film

Diesel and Walker were the heart of the franchise. The actors were friends on and off the screen and Diesel refers to Walker as “his brother.” Though hints for an eighth film have been dropped, Universal has not officially made an announcement. If the rumors are true, it is unclear how another “Fast & Furious” movie will be made without Walker; but this film did him proud.

At various points throughout the film it was almost as if each actor had the chance to say goodbye to Walker and his character in their own way. These scenes particularly hit home with audience members who are familiar with the franchise and the death of Walker.

The film ended with a touching tribute to Walker, which showed his scenes from all of the films while Diesel read a touching voice-over to the song “See You Again” by Wiz Khalifa, featuring Charlie Pruth. The scene begins with O’Conner pulling up in a car next to Dom and saying “Hey, you thought you could leave without saying goodbye?” It then cuts to clips of Walker in the previous six films while Diesel reads a voice over. Diesel’s character states, “I used to live my life a quarter mile at a time, and I think that’s why we were brothers; because you did too. No matter where you are, whether it’s a quarter mile away, or halfway across the world; you’ll always be with me, and you’ll always be my brother.” The scene ends in the present with O’Conner’s and Dom’s cars heading down separate roads.

Whether you have seen all six movies before it or this is your first taste of this incredible franchise, you cannot miss this film — it truly has something for everyone. If you can, do yourself a favor and start from the beginning of the series. I promise you, it will be worth it.

Annie McNutt, Staff Writer