The old saying goes, you can pick your friends but you can’t pick your family. Unless your name is Dominic Toretto. Because in FURIOUS 7, Toretto (Vin Diesel) doesn’t have friends, he only has family. Anyone who is close enough to be a friend is really a part of his extended family. But family is also what threatens to bring down Toretto and his entire crew. In this seventh and final installment of the wildly successful franchise, the brother of Owen Shaw (the villain from the last movie) is out for avenge his brother. Deckard Shaw is played with appropriate menace by the fantastic Jason Statham, although he doesn’t have much to do here other than grunt, glare, smirk and kick ass. He finds out it was Toretto’s team that put his brother in the hospital and with apologies to Jimmy Malone, he wants to send them to the morgue. He attacks Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) in his DSS office. He goes to Japan and kills Han. Then he blows up Toretto’s house trying to kill him, Brian, Mia and their son. He misses. Bad mistake. Now Toretto is out to kill Shaw and that’s where the plot gets a little syrupy. Kurt Russell shows up as some shadowy government covert operative who can give Shaw to Dom, but only if Toretto captures some new surveillance gizmo and rescues its creator. The plot doesn’t mean much in these movies. They are all just excuses for the outrageous set pieces. Parachuting cars onto a mountain road, chasing down a bus and it’s heavily armed escorts with those cars, running from drones in Downtown L.A. Those are just a few of the visual treats in FURIOUS 7. But all is not fun and games. There is a pall over the whole thing because of Paul Walker’s death. Every line about family, and coming home and sacrifice carries extra weight because you know they actor died in a car accident while the movie was being filmed. I spent the whole movie waiting to see if they were going to kill off Brian (no, I’m not going to reveal anything about that). The ending is an homage to Walker and his role in the films. It felt like they handled it right and I left feeling satisfied. There are plenty of car chase movies that have been made in recent years. All are trying to match F&F. But all fall short. This is the gold standard and because of Walker’s untimely death we’ll have to live with the seven we have and savor those until someone does it better. — Alan Yudman

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