" My kind of trouble doesn’t take vacations. "
— Chuck Norris, Lone Wolf McQuade

MRQE Top Critic

Beauty and the Beast

Diamond edition adds to a top-notch film —Andrea Birgers (DVD review...)

Beauty and the Beast fall for each other

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The latest installment of the Fast and Furious series turns the words “beyond belief” into feeble understatement.

Oblivious to the laws of either script logic or Newtonian physics, Furious 7 makes no bones about trying to win audience favor by packaging action set pieces that go so far over-the-top, they beg to be watched with open-mouthed wonder.

Ludacris plays smart in a series... like this
Ludacris plays smart in a series... like this

The most spectacular of these high points takes place in starkly modern Abu Dhabi. There, Vin Diesel’s Dom and Paul Walker’s Brian drive a sleek Lykan HyperSport — lipstick red, of course — through an upper-story window of the city’s Etihad Towers. The car flies across a terrifying chasm and slams through the window of another tower.

Clearly, we’re meant to marvel at the sheer excess and spectacular audacity of such bits. We do — or at least I did, even when I first saw it one of the movie’s trailers.

But, hey, it’s not all pedal to the metal. It should be noted that Furious 7 concludes with a touching tribute to Walker, delivered in the bros-forever style that has characterized the series from the start.

If you didn’t know that Walker’s death in 2013 occurred during the shooting of Furious 7, you might conclude that director James Wan (The Conjuring) was downplaying Walker’s contribution to add a bit of freshness. No big deal.

For the record: I’ve read that the filmmakers used Walkers’ brothers — Caleb and Cody — as stand-ins to finish shooting. It’s not easy to tell where one Walker left off and another began, but I couldn’t help trying. Every time Brian appeared on screen, I wondered a little about how he had gotten there.

Each installment includes new characters, inserted the way car dealers try to pile on options.

Added to this year’s model: Kurt Russell, no stranger to action movies having escaped from both New York and Los Angeles in John Carpenter movies, plays a character called Mr. Nobody, head of a private army.

Djimon Hounsou shows up as a scowling bad guy with terrorist inclinations.

British actor Jason Statham also joins the fray; he portrays Deckard Shaw, a man seeking vengeance for damages done to his younger brother in the previous movie. Deckard wants the Fast and Furious crew to pay dearly.

Although his facial expression never seems to vary, it’s safe to assume that Deckard enjoys blowing things up. What, after all, would a movie titled Furious 7 be without a few flaming fireballs and a bit of flying debris?

Nathalie Emmanuel, familiar from HBO’s Game of Thrones, signs on, as well. She plays a gifted computer hacker who knows all about a program that enables people to track and follow anyone in the world, providing he or she is carrying some sort of electronic device.

Lots of folks want to get their hands on this program, but the story — if it can be called that — doesn’t build anything like traditional suspense: Rather, it has the feel of something written in the back seat of a speeding car on a bumpy road. It jars, bounces and sometimes even splatters.

Oh well, when things become too ragged, you can count on Diesel to deliver the kind of line that seems designed to remind the audience that mayhem isn’t the only point.

“The most important thing in life will always be family,” says Diesel’s Dom, evoking a recurring theme.

The regular crew members return, and — in varying degrees — receive their moment in the spotlight.

Of these regulars, I’d rank Ludacris’s Tej as my favorite. Playing smart in a series such as this is no small achievement. Way to go Ludacris.

You probably should also know that the amnesia-afflicted Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) gets into a knock-down, drag-out battle with a character played by Ronda Rousey, a champion ultimate fighter in her non-movie life.

Oh, I almost forgot. Dwayne Johnson appears again, although we don’t see much of FBI agent Hobbs until he rises from a hospital bed at the end of the movie so that he can tote a major weapon into the streets of LA and spray bullets at a menacing aircraft.

I don’t want to sound like a spoilsport, but frenetic editing sometimes gives the action a near-haphazard feeling, so much so that during the movie’s prolonged finale, it’s not always possible to tell who’s fighting whom.

Still, it’s difficult to watch a movie such as Furious 7 and not be amazed by the heights (sometimes literally) to which the car chaos has been taken, and there’s enough globe hopping — from the United Arab Emirates to Azerbaijan — to create yet another level of diversion.

We all know the drill. A Fast and Furious movie exists to deliver out-sized action, cool cars and an occasional display of female body parts, curvy as a polished fender. One imagines that there are at least three general kinds of scene headings in the script for Furious 7: interiors, exteriors and posteriors.

And don’t think that just because Walker’s gone, the series is done. Trying to stop one of these franchises is like trying to halt a speeding semi-truck. Either get out of the way or go along for the ride. Resistance, I’m afraid, is pointless.