CONTAINS SPOILERS AND SOMETHING WRONG WITH THE GEARBOX
Straight-up confession: I like the Fast And Furious movies. Granted it took a couple of episodes to find its formula of idiotically fast cars smashing into things and cartoonish blokes lamping one another with spanners while hot bikini chicks whoop from the sidelines, but once the franchise mutated from colourful but empty car chase exploitation to a fusion of Ocean's Eleven, Mission: Impossible and Top Gear, it just got bigger, better, noisier, sillier and crazier. And this latest episode is more of the same: much, much more. Perhaps to the extent that they nudge the plausibility barrier a couple of times, even given the parameters of the Looney Tunes world they inhabit (Vin Diesel walks away unscratched from not one, not two, but three brutal crashes that would have left The Terminator in pieces), but for the sheer amount of screeching tyre mayhem and full-on asskicking it's probably the best dose of adrenalin and testosterone you've seen since the last one, and you won't see better until the next one.
Fast & Furious 7 kicks off with the mystery villain from FF6's post-credits sting with top British assassin Shaw (Jason Statham) looking to exact revenge for his brother. First off was Han (Sung Kang), whose Tokyo death scene actually occurred halfway through the third film despite him being in the next three. Then a bomb nearly takes out the core threesome - Vin Diesel, Paul Walker and Jordana Brewster - but it's only when shadowy government man Kurt Russell turns up and promises them access to a revolutionary new hacking system called God's Eye that they get a chance at taking the fight to Shaw....In order to obtain God's Eye they first have to rescue the genius computer hacker who designed it - from an armoured bus travelling through impregnable and inaccessible mountain roads in the Caucasus Mountains. Then they have to retrieve the hard drive from a Saudi billionaire in a skyscraper penthouse, and it's only at that point that they can use the system to track down Shaw. But it doesn't work out, and Shaw manages to get the device for himself....
That's when the movie makes its big misstep, as Diesel decides to lure Shaw to a final showdown on the streets of Los Angeles, one of the most populous cities on Earth. Surely it would have been more sensible, and no less cinematically exciting, to head out of town into the deserts where the roads go on for miles without a civilian population of collateral casualties in waiting? I know exploding buildings and hair's breadth car stunts look great on screen, and the film's final half hour of cars and helicopters and missiles and grenades and huge guns and facepunching mayhem is brilliantly realised, but it just makes no sense to put thousands of average "real people" at such a pointless risk, especially when you remember how desperate the team were to avoid civilian carnage during the previous film's tank chase.
For most of the time it's a fun, noisy, blisteringly destructive blast and the car action is suitably demented. It's nice to see that Paul Walker, who tragically died halfway through production, is paid appropriate and sincere tribute at the end, in a sign off which lets the series continue naturally without the character (and as this instalment has taken a billion dollars already there's no sane reason why they wouldn't do another two at the very least). Frankly, bring it on: Fast & Furious 7 was one of my most eagerly awaited cinema trips of the year and it truly was worth the wait. I want to see it again.