(director: James Wan; screenwriter: based on characters presented by Gary Scott Thompson/Chris Morgan; cinematographer: Stephen F. Windon; editor: Christian Wagner; music by Brian Tyler; cast: Vin Diesel (Dominic Toretto), Paul Walker (Brian O’Conner), Dwayne Johnson (Hobbs), Michelle Rodriguez (Letty), Tyrese Gibson (Roman), Chris “Ludacris” Bridges (Tej), Jordana Brewster (Mia), Djimon Hounsou (Jakande), Nathalie Emmanuel (Ramsey), Kurt Russell (Mr. Nobody), Jason Statham (Deckard Shaw); Runtime: 137; MPAA Rating: PG-!3; producers: Neal H. Moritz/Michael Fottrell/Vin Diesel; Universal; 2015)

“Freshens up the usual over-the-top thrills.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Malaysian-born director James Wan (“Insidious“/”The Conjuring”/”Saw”) is the franchise’s new director. Next to Bond it’s the longest running Hollywood mainstream franchise. Wan serves up the requisite thrills, offers a few surprise dramatic moments and freshens up the usual over-the-top thrills. If you liked the other versions you should also like this one. It also should appeal to those who get a charge out of cars going airborne. The best stunt involves an overturned bus sliding toward certain doom. What soon follows is an exciting car chase that begins inside one of Abu Dhabi’s skyscraping Etihad towers and ends in a neighboring one, without ever touching the ground.

It was released after the film’s co-star Paul Walker’s untimely death in a car wreck midway through shooting in November 2013. To its credit, the film paid tribute to him in its finale in a classy way. Otherwise it’s the same old, same old. The film’s vulgar over $200 million budget for such an over-inflated spectacle and under-inflated narrative seems as ludicrous as the film.

The seventh installment takes place in LA, Abu Dhabi, Tokyo, and the Caucasus Mountains, yet it seems like all the other films except for location. The characters seemed programmed to act robotic. My only surprise is that the pic didn’t revolt me more. The plot has Vin Diesel and his team working for the mysterious operative (Kurt Russell) to steal an all-seeing surveillance system called God’s Eye from a terrorist group. In exchange, they will get the assistance of a private army to take down the film’s villain (Jason Statham). In any case, the plot seems as if it is only an excuse for the crew to drive their cars out of a plane and go parachuting.

REVIEWED ON 11/23/2015 GRADE: C+   https://dennisschwartzreviews.com/