LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - What began as a humble hit back in the summer of 2001 has since has become something of an epic, theatrical series and a multi-billion-dollar franchise, growing in action, cast, exotic locales and legions of fans.
And such is the truth in this seventh edition of the "Fast and Furious" saga and the best installment yet. Led by new director to the series, James Wan (Saw, The Conjuring), "Furious 7" immediately sets the tone for a much bigger film, the ultimate blockbuster, but with a much greater emotional significance.
Time has passed on the winding paths of our protagonists. Dominic (Vin Diesel) helps his long love Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) heal from her traumatic past, reintroducing her to her literal fast and furious roots while Brian (Paul Walker) is now a father to a young son with his wife Mia (Jordana Brewster).
+ Furious 7
+ 137 minutes
+ Directed by James Wan
+ Written by Chris Morgan
+ Starring: Paul Walker, Vin Diesel, Michelle Rodriguez, Dwayne Johnson, Tyrese Gibson, Ludacris Bridges, Jordana Brewster, Jason Statham, Kurt Russell
Following their mission in London, the family's past returns to haunt them as they gain a new enemy, Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham), seeking revenge for his brother's demise.
Shaw pursues his vengeance by hunting down the family, leading to an epic fight scene against agent Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) and a near assassination attempt, setting the old Toretto home in a fiery blaze.
Desperate to seek revenge, Dominic comes to the radar of a shadow government agency led by Kurt Russell having a blast, who makes Dominic and his team an offer to retrieve a hacker named Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel) and a surveillance device, "God's Eye," in exchange for finding Shaw.
The film is absolute full throttle, taking viewers for a thrilling ride while never allowing the chance to relent or second guess with epic action scenes ranging from cars dropping from airplanes, buses dangling from cliffs, cars flying through skyscrapers in Abu Dhabi, and vehicular warfare on the streets of Los Angeles.
The cast brings all that we have come to love about the characters of the Fast family.
Diesel again plays the loyal alpha, Michelle Rodriguez repeats as a two-fisted fireball but with a new vulnerability coming from a new character arc, and Tyrese Gibson effortlessly provides the jokes that serve as a fine balance amid the action.
Yet the true star of "Furious 7" is ultimately Walker, who died last year in a horrific car accident before filming was complete. With previously recorded footage, however, and with the help of Walker's brothers Caleb and Cody serving as stand-ins, the beloved Brian O'Conner stars and shines in his final ride in the "Fast and Furious" saga.
The ending of "Furious 7" is as poetic as it is powerful, one of the most emotionally gripping ends to a film, and a fitting testament to Walker's life. It is a moment where the fourth wall is irrelevant, where the characters are hardly acting, and instead we as an audience see the Fast family, after many journeys and adventures, bid a touching farewell to their dear friend.
"Furious 7" is of course a blockbuster, the best of the series, that offers incredible action and adrenaline that again makes so many of us wish we could jump into the screen. It's a testament to what keeps audiences growing and returning to the theaters.
Yet seeing Walker in his final performance as so many know him as Brian, smiling and driving into the sunset, is probably the fondest moment of all.
"Furious 7" is now playing in theaters.