“Furious 7,” the latest in the long-running “The Fast and the Furious” franchise, has been under a lot of scrutiny, or at least as much warrants a car and muscle-driven movie. Justin Lin, who reinvigorated the franchise with the three most recent installments, has been replaced by James Wan, who’s never worked with a budget this big before. The death of co-star Paul Walker also gave pause, with many wondering how deftly and carefully the film would deal with his departure.
It sounds like most of that worry was for naught, because critics out of SXSW are calling “Furious 7” a big, ridiculous blast. The movie was unveiled there last night (or, technically, this morning) as a last-minute addition, a secret 12:07 a.m. screening that according to the film’s producers wasn’t even conceived of until Saturday afternoon.
Wan has no trouble with the new action sequences, and the promise of a big fight between Dwayne Johnson and villain Jason Statham ought to have action movie fans cheering. At the same time, though, some critics, like Matt Singer of ScreenCrush, are warning viewers that there is a profound sense of sadness in knowing that Walker won’t be back again. Still, it’s a fitting, even moving, send-off for the actor and his character.
“Furious 7” hits theaters on April 3.
John DeFore, The Hollywood Reporter
The knowledge of his death in a November 2013 car accident colors our experience of this unintentional swan song in many ways, of course, but viewers trying to spot the scenes in which stand-ins and CGI played Walker’s part for him will find it hard enough that they may do the right thing: Stop trying, and instead go along with a reworked screenplay that ushers him off the stage with as much grace as any other development in this muscle-car-melodrama saga. Read more.
Adam B. Vary, BuzzFeed
The “Fast & Furious” movies are both earnest celebrations of loyalty and family, and rousingly absurd action spectaculars in which elaborate driving stunts operate well outside the laws of physics, logic, and good sense. How could the film pay homage to Walker in that familial spirit and not seem ghoulishly exploitative, while also maintaining the deeply unserious fun and not seem obnoxiously crass? At the risk of spoilers, the answer is: about as well as could be expected. Read more.
Perri Nemiroff, Collider
If you’re concerned about director James Wan making the move from horror to his first big budget action-driven studio film, rest assured, he makes the transition exceptionally well. He manages to strike the perfect balance between making “Furious 7” feel like another “Fast and Furious” film while also giving it some personal flair. There are loads of picturesque hero shots and tons more with some very familiar camera moves, but Wan also tosses in a number of striking techniques we’ve never seen before in these films. There are countless visual achievements well worth discussing, but as someone who’s a big fan of this one shot in “The Conjuring.” Read more.
Matt Singer, ScreenCrush
It’s impossible to watch these moments and not think about Paul Walker, who tragically died in a car crash in November 2013 before production had wrapped. Even though “Furious 7″ delivers the franchise’s requisite thrills, Walker’s real-life fate is never too far from the surface. It’s on the audience’s mind when his character, Brian O’Conner, dangles off the edge of a cliff from a mangled bus, or when the camera begins to cut carefully around the actor’s face in scenes that were clearly completed after his death. Even though Walker is still present, his absence is already felt. It is strange to watch a movie that is this much fun and this sad all at the same time. Read more.
Scott Weinberg, Nerdist
It’s not exactly rocket science we’re dealing with in the “Fast and the Furious” franchise, and it’s the giddy abandon with which Part 7 drops all pretense of logic and simply focuses on the mayhem. And make no mistake: “Furious 7” is one of the most mayhem-heavy movies you’ll ever see. In between its visually staggering yet physically impossible races, chases, rumbles, and explosions, this movie barely slows down long enough to deliver a single plot point or a character beat before diving head-first into yet another cliff dive, free fall, jaw smash, or car crash. Read more.
My favorite part of FURIOUS 7 is that The Rock is introduced dabbing off sweat from his face. Sweating is key to the Hobbs character.
— Matt Singer (@mattsinger) March 16, 2015
Tonight’s first public show of FURIOUS 7 packed a real emotional wallop, w/ lots of tears in audience. Plus cars dropped from a plane. #sxsw
— Mark Olsen (@IndieFocus) March 16, 2015
Furious 7 feels like five action films in one. Exhilarating and exhausting at the same time. Wish I could watch again right now.
— Mike Sampson (@mjsamps) March 16, 2015