Film review: Fast & Furious 7 (12A, 137 mins)

Fast & Furious 7
Fast & Furious 7
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You’ll believe a car can fly as Diesel chugs

Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Jason Statham, Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese Gibson, Chris ‘Ludacris’ Bridges, Dwayne Johnson, Jordana Brewster, Nathalie Emmanuel, Kurt Russell, Tony Jaa, Luke Evans. Director: James Wan.

Released: April 3 (UK & Ireland)

It’s not the gleaming high-octane motors, scantily clad women or outlandish gravity-defying stunts that will have audiences burning rubber to their multiplexes to see this seventh instalment of The Fast And The Furious franchise.

Instead, it’s the final screen appearance of handsome leading man Paul Walker, who died halfway through production, which will invariably guarantee supercharged box office returns for James Wan’s sleek sequel.

Fast & Furious 7 is dedicated to Walker’s memory and his unfinished scenes have been respectfully completed using previously unseen footage from earlier films, or by digitally grafting his facial features onto the bodies of his brothers, Caleb and Cody, who act as stand-ins.

The digital trickery is impressive and while the joins aren’t completely seamless, we suspend our disbelief, which is already hovering in the troposphere after the stunt team mocks the laws of physics to drive one car out of the penthouse of an Abu Dhabi skyscraper and across the void to a neighbouring tower block.

Screenwriter Chris Morgan’s desire to top the outrageous set pieces of previous films repeatedly sacrifices realism, going for broke when he hopes to persuade us that Vin Diesel, Walker and their co-stars could skydive their vehicles into position on a winding mountain road by driving cars out of an airplane and opening parachutes attached to their plummeting vehicles at the last second.

It’s something of an understatement when one of the characters whoops: “I can’t believe we pulled that off!”

The action begins directly after events of Fast & Furious 6 with corrupt British soldier Owen Shaw (Luke Evans) on life support in a London hospital.

Owen’s older brother Ian (Jason Statham) seeks revenge against Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel), Brian O’Conner (Walker) and their crew.

Ian hacks into the computer of federal agent Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) to ascertain the whereabouts of the team and doles out a near fatal thrashing to Hobbs in the process.

“I’m gonna put a hurt on him so bad, he’s gonna wish his momma had kept her legs closed,” barks the hospitalised federal agent.

Meanwhile, Dominic’s crew prepare for war.

“It looks like the sins of London followed us home,” growls the bad boy, who reunites with fast-talking Roman Pearce (Tyrese Gibson) and technical wizard Tej (Chris ‘Ludacris’ Bridges) to neutralise the threat posed by Owen with help from a hacker called Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel).

Fast & Furious 7 stitches together all the previous films including a cameo for Lucas Black as Sean Boswell from the lacklustre Tokyo Drift.

Diesel, Walker and co continue to display superhuman strength and resilience, surviving spectacular crashes with barely a graze, while Statham plies his usual brand of muscular destruction.

A heartfelt, if protracted, coda between Diesel and Walker provides the former with an opportunity to publicly say farewell to his cinematic brother in arms.

Action/Thriller/Romance

Star rating: 6/10