You will believe a digital actor can digitally act.
After the crew of Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) put Dracula…sorry, Owen Shaw (Luke Evans) into the hospital at the end of Fast & Furious 6, his brother Deckard (Jason Statham) vows revenge! Enduring a couple of sneak attacks with varied results, Dom goes on the offensive but is intercepted by Mr. Nobody (Kurt Russell), an American shadow operative who offers to help locate Deckard so that Dom can put a whooppin’ on him. One catch: the operative needs Dom and his team to recover a mobile audio/video hacking/tracking system called God’s Eye (tech stolen from Bruce Wayne, no doubt). What makes no sense is why they’re stealing a McGuffin to find the bad guy – to KILL the aforementioned bad guy – because that SAME bad guy keeps showing up everywhere they go!
From the opening scene, you know how ridiculous it’s all going to be…and fans of this series won’t care because of all the fun to be had. It’s a modern Mad Max with every James Bond Q-branch auto gadget spread out over an entire movie. Jason Statham wallows in being the bad guy and looks great doing it. The story even manages to surprise along the way, taking a few old tropes and tossing them out the driver’s side window. In fact, you might even say Vin Diesel has managed to find a way to combine the too-serious space bounty hunter franchise Pitch Black action with Car Wars – and theater popcorn sales will never be the same.
It’s leave your brains at home time, slow-motion attitude-walking street-fighting action – with the street winning most of the time. Fans may not be pleased that Jordana Brewster’s character sits out on the action, but anyone following the storyline already knows who won’t be in it; Dwayne Johnson also appears but not for very long. The real story is digital Paul Walker; in spite of the fact he passed away suddenly before filming, the production took no shortcuts and (MINOR SPOILER) he’s in the entire film beginning to end (END SPOILER). Using a combination of old footage, body doubles, and the same facial computer mapping technology used to make stunt people the digital duplicates of the actors they represent, you wouldn’t have known the actual actor wasn’t in the film otherwise.
With a centerpiece of a skyscrapper-to-skyscraper vehicle jump between floors, it’s probably the coolest money shot since Tommy Lee Jones stole a car in Black Moon Rising. The plot feels more like something out of Diesel’s own XXX series now than the heist films that started the franchise, and while the complex special effects shots and stunt work keep you on the edge of your seat, you can’t shake that feeling that it’s all one Wile E. Coyote gag from a Looney Tunes cartoon. Fortunately, the cast works so well together that you can forgive the rest if you are so inclined; this is about box office greenbacks and entertainment, not award-winning screenplays and drama. If this is the end – and it SHOULD be the end – this is a good one…so, of course, another sequel has already been announced. Where in the heck could it go from here? Space? Mars? The Star Wars galaxy? Guess we’ll find out in the next eighteen months!
(a three skull recommendation out of four)