Unlucky number Seven

To be fair, Furious Seven essentially upholds, if that’s the word, the ongoing tradition of what has remarkably become one of Universal Studios’ most profitable screen franchises in its entire history.

Inexplicable, too. For since the beginning of the series – The Fast and the Furious (1999) – the films have gotten bigger (if not better), become blockbuster hits, and rarely earned critical favor. Then again, Twilight and Transformers have done likewise – and The Hunger Games is fast approaching that same level of critic-proof nirvana.

The simplistic formula has not been tampered with: Furious Seven has good guys, bad guys, fast cars, exotic locations, bikini babes, stunts galore, and scarcely a thought in its head. Hey, it worked before! (Six times, actually.)

The gang’s all here: Vin Diesel (also a producer), Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese Gibson, Chris “Ludacris” Bridges, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Jordana Brewster, Elsa Pataky and the late Paul Walker, to whom the film is dedicated. Lucas Black, who toplined Tokyo Drift (2006), perhaps the best of the entire franchise (relatively speaking), reprises his role briefly here.

The villains this time are Jason Statham (a Brit in a snit) and Djimon Hounsou, forced to bellow his every line of dialogue over the din of roaring engines (both automotive and aerodynamic). Kurt Russell smirks his way through the role of a government agent, until he’s literally dropped off at the side of the road.

The action hops around the globe: Los Angeles, London, Tokyo, Abu Dahbi. The cars, which are ogled even more lovingly than the aforementioned bikini babes, are very sleek and they go crash, boom, bam. The director this time out is James Wan and the screenwriter is Chris Morgan, who penned four of the previous Furious outings. For the most part, differentiating between each installment is well nigh impossible. One’s just like the other.

Furious Seven must, of course, deal with the death of co-star Walker, who perished in a fiery car crash midway through its production, with many of his scenes yet to be filmed. The use of CGI, body doubles (including Walker’s real-life brothers) and judicious editing gives the illusion that the actor was there the entire time, but sharp-eyed viewers can detect the trickery, including a climactic fight scene shot in semi-darkness and cut so frantically that it scarcely matters whose body it actually is.

Among the film’s more impressive stunts is Walker’s escape from an enormous bus dangling off a precipice in the Caucasus Mountains. That the character survives is tempered by the inescapable knowledge that the actor didn’t survive the senseless crash which took his life.

Had Walker’s character been excised completely from the film, it would not have made much difference. Then again, had any character been excised it wouldn’t much have mattered, either.

Although it was widely publicized that Furious Seven would be the end of the line, there have been more recent rumblings – and the box-office take will further fuel speculation – that there could be more to come. More cars.

More crashes. More senseless mayhem. More of the same. It’s enough to make any discerning moviegoer furious. !