From the moment that several candy-colored hot rods parachute from a plane and land wheels down on an Azerbaijan highway, it's clear that "Furious 7" is unconcerned with reality. The delicate politics of the region, not to mention plain old physics, are completely ignored.
The latest installment in the "Fast and Furious" franchise is all about fun, fantasy and teenage kicks, and nothing will stop it. Not even the uncanny car-crash death of its star, Paul Walker (whose brothers Caleb and Cody served as occasional stand-ins here).
By now, the "Fast and Furious" narrative has devolved into soap opera: Han is dead, Letty has amnesia and ex-con Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) is being hunted by black-ops renegade Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham), whose brother was killed in the previous film. It's a slim excuse, and a perfectly good one, for trotting around the globe, blowing up drones in Los Angeles and sending Lebanese sports cars crashing through Abu Dhabi skyscrapers.
Fresh acting blood keeps energizing these movies, and "Furious 7" gets a steroid-laced injection. Statham, as the unstoppable Deckard, hasn't been this brutal -- or this fun -- since his "Transporter" days. Kurt Russell, a blast from the B-movie past, plays Mr. Nobody, a cocky covert type with a sharp suit and a smart mouth. Dwayne Johnson again sparkles as the rough-and-ready Agent Hobbs. They help distract from the weaker actors, particularly Tyrese Gibson and Chris Bridges (aka rapper Ludacris), who haven't improved much over the years. (The charismatic Diesel remains more a persona than a thespian; may he never change.)
"Furious 7" might have treated women with more respect. The backsides of beach bunnies are highly visible, but speaking roles for females are rare. Michelle Rodriguez is sidelined as Letty, though she does get to wallop Mixed Martial Arts fighter Ronda Rousey ("The Expendables 3"). Nathalie Emmanuel joins the cast as Ramsey, a hacker in a byte-size bikini. Jordana Brewster returns as Brian's hearth-minding wife, Mia.
Though directed with wild abandon and gleeful destruction by James Wan, "Furious 7" ends on an emotional note. In a highly symbolic and very nicely handled epilogue, our heroes gather on a beach to bid farewell to Walker as Brian O'Conner. The character now has a wife, a child and responsibilities -- which in this movie's youthful world is its own kind of death.