“Hey, buddy, cars don’t fly,” Paul Walker’s character tells his toddler son at the beginning of “Furious 7.”
It is to laugh. And you’re meant to, believe me.
There’s no other response possible to the sight of a fleet of high-priced muscle cars sailing out the back of a humongous cargo jet into the wild blue yonder preparatory to parachuting to a crazy hairpin mountain road car chase through the Caucasus.
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And craziest of all: Our heroes Vin Diesel and Walker in a multimillion-dollar red super car smash through not one, but two, gazillion-story high-rises in sunny Abu Dhabi while Walker reminds his buddy, “cars don’t fly.”
But wait. There’s more. Ever so much more.
As much more as a budget reported at somewhere in the neighborhood of $250 million can buy.
Car crashes. Fight scenes. Fight scenes that break out after high-speed games of chicken in which neither Diesel’s character Dom Toretto nor Jason Statham’s chrome-domed villain (lots of bald guys in this picture) chickens out. Kee-rash!
Extricating themselves from the mangled wreckage, apparently none the worse for wear, they then set about trying to beat each other’s (alleged) brains out.
Oh, and there’s also awesome glass breakage. The office of Dwayne “No Longer the Rock” Johnson’s character has glass walls everywhere director James Wan (“Saw,” Insidious”) turns his camera. You just know that not a pane will go unshattered when Johnson and Statham start throwing each other around the premises. Ker-smash.
What we have here is a gazillion-dollar live-action Roadrunner cartoon, with everything pumped up to cartoonish extremes, from the bulging biceps of Diesel and Johnson to the overload of villains with different agendas using everything from high-tech technology (helicopters and drones) to caveman technology (metal clubs) to try to do our heroes harm.
The plot, having to do with the “Furious” crew’s round-the-world search for a highly advanced facial-recognition tracking device that allows its user to find anyone anywhere in the world and kill them, is nothing more than an excuse for Wan and his collaborators to play Let’s Try To Top the Last “Furious” Movie in Every Possible Way. This is even acknowledged on screen when characters remind each other (and the audience) of the series’ greatest hits. You know, like the chase with a tank on the bridge in “Fast & Furious 6.”
Not to be taken seriously, any of it. Except …
As everyone knows, Walker was killed in a terrible car crash in 2013 midway through the production of “F7,” though the crash was not connected with the production. This caused filming to be shut down for months while the filmmakers tried to figure out how to finish the picture and how to write Walker’s character out of the movie.
Instead, stunt doubles, including two of Walker’s brothers, were used along with digital face replacement technology to allow the picture to be completed. The replacement work is largely seamless, and it’s difficult to determine where the doubles were used.
There’s a sad irony here in the fact that, if anyone needed reminding, real life and the movies are two very, very different things. Unlike in the “Furious” movies, people seldom emerge from real-life wrecks unscathed.
Walker’s exit is handled tastefully. He and Diesel were close friends off screen, and in the picture they part company with gentle smiles embodying true friendship.
At the end, after all the expensive fakery that is the series’ trademark, there is genuine and affecting sincerity in the manner in which they bid farewell.