Originally published April 6, 2015

As hard as it is to believe, the Fast and the Furious franchise really has kept the pedal to the medal through seven iterations, covering almost 15 years; that’s a lot of content, a lot of legs for a story that essentially started out a hairline away from a straight-to-video release.

Yet, through all of that, with the possible exception of the fairly gaudy 2 Fast 2 Furious, the movies have aged well, adding more depth to the characters, more layers to the plot, and of course, more cars. Indeed, as much as we’d like to say we watch any F & F entries for the acting talent on display, the movies would be pretty compromised if they didn’t display a new line-up of four-wheeled precious metal, every episode.

Even the car collection has matured along with the plotlines; garish, neon-vinyl reached its peak with 2006’s The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift, to be replaced, for the most part, by matted black and silver wheels in 2009’s Fast and Furious, a trend that has continued, really, through three more movies up to Furious 7. Heck, certain scenes here will likely remind more of Mad Max on the car front than they do the original movie.

As of today, Furious 7 is the last film of the franchise, even if Vin Diesel was recently quoted as hinting at an eighth iteration. In the F & F universe, meanwhile, it’s also the last film of the series in the chronological sense; 2009’s Fast & Furious, 2011’s Fast Five and 2013’s Fast & Furious 6 all occur before the events of Drift.

Furious 7, meanwhile, starts right where TD and F&F6 left off (which is the same place, just from slightly different angles). Han (Sung Kang) is dead, the baddie from F&F6 is laid up in the hospital and his brother, Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham in all his cockney glory), is out for revenge, and little else. He’s described by one of the film’s characters as a former British SAS super soldier that now “lives in the shadows”, but that’s a little hard to believe, considering the evidence we see of the path of destruction he beat while trying to get to his brother’s hospital room.

Switch to our favorite crew of street-racers-cum-super-criminals; after the last film’s events, they’ve now gained their freedom, and are living fairly ordinary lives back in Los Angeles (in a cheeky reference to suburban life, Paul Walker’s Brian O’Connor even drives a Chrysler Town and Country minivan). Seeds of unrest have been planted, however; Brian’s baby-mamma, Mia (Jordana Brewster), senses it, admitting to Dom (Vin Diesel) in a quiet moment that Brian “misses the bullets.” Be careful what you wish for, Brian.

Of course, Agent Hobbs  (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson) returns; he’s actually the first of our crew to face Shaw, who beats him soundly in a heavy-hitting fight that you can feel in your bones. It’s Hobbs, from his hospital bed, who officially-unofficially sends Dom and his crew to sort Shaw out.

Then, as if on cue, series newcomer Kurt Russell shows up to add some government covert ops spice, just when you thought the team was gonna have to go this one alone. “Mr. Nobody”, as his character’s called, needs Dom’s help to nab terrorist Jakande (played with relish by Djimon Hounsou, to the point I would have liked to see more of him), and in exchange, he’ll provide a device that will help them get to Shaw. Because, Mr. Nobody explains, Dom’s team (yes, Chris “Ludacris” Bridges and Tyrese Gibson are back as Tej Parker and Roman Pearce) works out of the limelight, just like Shaw does.

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