Fast & Furious 7
The franchise's latest insane instalment adds Jason Statham to the mix
In Fast & Furious 6 a character was afflicted with amnesia in a bid to reboot the romance. If that suggested that the filmmakers were running out of ideas then the continued, not inconsiderable, presence of Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson and the casting of charismatic rising star Luke Evans gave it heft. Furthermore, it unveiled the series' next 'big bad' as none-other-than Jason Statham, brilliantly described here as a 'legitimate English bad-ass'.
The vengeful older brother of Evans' now comatose Owen Shaw, Deckard (Statham) is a Special Forces assassin, the 'monster' they tried to destroy. Introduced promisingly as he gratuitously lays waste to a hospital and still visibly chewing on that wasp, Stath gets to tangle with the aforementioned human tank in an enjoyably impactful early bout of fisticuffs, although is largely squandered for the remainder.
Further complications occur when our team of street-racers are drawn into the battle for a souped-up digital network tracking device by Kurt Russell. Johnson's exuberantly macho federal agent Hobbs is sidelined (though he does get to flex his way out of a plaster cast) in horror director James Wan's contribution to the saga, and back at the fore is his less fun criminal counterpart, Dom (the humourless Vin Diesel).
The Fast & Furious films jumped the shark long ago, opting for a fantasy world where hard bodies and tough nuts are all it takes to survive major smash-ups. Given the mid-shoot death of series stalwart Paul Walker in a high-speed car crash this is particularly uncomfortable; yet it's as appropriate as it is macabre that the franchise that made and sustained his stardom is responsible for his final, chillingly prescient film, and the finale plays earnest tribute to him. Digital face replacement is used to complete Walker's remaining scenes; sadly, the effect is creepy.
That women assume the roles of racers, brawlers, hackers and bodyguards is again unpleasantly undermined by shaking booties and up-skirt shots, but Furious 7 (as it's known in the US) has a puppyish desperation to please. The set-pieces are insane, the dialogue speaks directly to fans ('This time it ain't just about being fast.' / 'Just when you didn't think it could get any better.'). Most cannily of all, Tyrese Gibson balks at the constant improbability to remind us that, even given the grim context, this film isn't taking itself too seriously, and it certainly doesn't expect us to.
General release from Fri 3 Apr.