The seventh installment of the "Fast and Furious" franchise, aptly titled "Furious 7," is probably one of the most ridiculous non-stop action rides you'll see this year.
It's also probably one of the few action films which will also reduce you to tears by it's end.
We attended one of seven fan screenings for the film held Monday night and reception for the film was overwhelmingly positive.
The film, which was originally set to debut summer 2014, was put on hold after the death of lead costar Paul Walker in November 2013.
For a while, it wasn't certain whether the cast and crew would move forward with the next installment. Fans are definitely happy they did.
Applause opened and closed the film.
Walker’s first appearance on screen was met with wild enthusiasm. While, yes, we were at a fan screening, this is something I expect will occur in most screenings of the film opening weekend. The "Fast and Furious" films have built up a big social presence across Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Unlike other films, the "Furious 7" team and cast update their accounts regularly and don't quit once the movie stops airing.
Starring a huge returning cast of Vin Diesel, Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese, Ludacris, and the late Walker for one last ride, the film starts off tying the previous films in the saga together by merging the end of “Fast and Furious 3” (aka “Tokyo Drift”) with the end of “six.” That may sound confusing to outsiders of the franchise, but the film does it immensely well.
Don’t worry. There's no need to go back and bingewatch the older films. "Furious 7" does a nice job of catching you up to speed if you haven't been keeping up with the story.
“Furious 7” kicks off with Jason Statham joining the cast as villain Deckard Shaw.
He's trying to hunt down all of Dominic Toretto's (Diesel) crew to avenge his brother, the villain from "Fast and Furious 6," who was left for dead in the last film. Before Shaw can do that, Dom plans to take him out first with help from Brian (Walker), Ronan (Tyrese), Tej (Ludascris), and Letty (Michelle Rodriguez).
From the start, the two-hour and 20 minute movie kicks it in to overdrive and never really stops.
Highlights include big fight sequences between Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) and Shaw as well as showdowns between the latter and Dom that have been teased in marketing.
Rodriguez also has a memorable brawl going toe to toe with MMA fighter Ronda Rousey.
A part near the end of the film may remind fans of Johnson's next summer action flick, "San Andreas," about earthquakes shattering Los Angeles.
Of course the cars are the big scene stealers here.
If you've seen the trailers, you already know what's in store.
Muscle cars parachute out of airplanes and a $3 million hypercar gets sent flying through buildings.
That doesn't make them any less fun. They look even better on the big screen.
After binge-watching the six previous films ahead of "Furious 7," I'd dare to say "Fast Five" and "Six" are better plotwise than the latest installment.
Without getting into it too much, the main point of the film is for Diesel to get revenge and take down Shaw before he can harm his extended family. The mission gets sidetracked pretty fast when Diesel and his team get wrangled into a wacky chase around the world by the FBI (headed by another addition, Kurt Russell) for a valuable tech prototype before they can continue hunting Shaw. (Think CBS' "The Amazing Race.")
From there, the plot becomes slightly bloated with drones and hackers thrown in the mix, too.
But let's be realistic.
You don't go to a "Fast and the Furious" film for a serious plot. You head in to see the fast cars, Dom and Brian racing, and what ridiculous punchlines the Rock is going to deliver.
These films know their audience and what they're doing.
Each film tries to top the last with even more ridiculous stunts. In 2001's first film, Dom and Brian tried to outrace a train. In "2 Fast 2 Furious," Brian jumped a car onto a yacht. The last film introduced a military tank to the mix and a wild scene with Vin Diesel diving out of his vehicle and across a highway. "Furious 7" more than upped the ante.
Those who have been fans from its start in 2001 will be rewarded.
Not only do actors from previous films — going back to the first release in 2001 — make short cameos, but diehard fans will notice specific references and nods to earlier installments. (One to be on the lookout for is *spoiler* that infamous wrench we learned Dom used to cripple a man in the first film. That sent him to the slammer for two years. *spoiler*)
More than anything, "Furious 7" is a tribute to Walker.
Walker's brothers Caleb and Cody filled in tohelp complete parts of the movie that went unfilmed by Paul. In some brief moments, you may wonder if it's Paul or his siblings on screen, but you'd be hard pressed to think you're looking at anyone but Paul anywhere but in a few select scenes where the screen attention is taken off his face. For those worried that Walker may not be lacking in the film, he's in the film nearly as much as Diesel. If anything, the Rock is in the film less than Walker.
The final 15-20 minutes of "Seven" definitely pull at your heart strings more than any of the other films in the ongoing series.
There's a scene in 2011's "Fast Five" where Dom gives a toast after everyone learns his sister Mia (Jordana Brewster) is pregnant. He says, "Money will come and go. We know that. But the most important thing in life will always be the people in this room. Right here. Right now. Salud mi familia."
Take away the flashy cars, the explosions, the scantily clad women, and the quirky asides and one-liners from Ludacris and Tyrese, and the "Fast and the Furious" series has always been about family.
That's one reason this franchise was able to rise back up in popularity after the fourth film when Diesel and the original cast returned. It modeled itself around the one thing his character Dom valued more than anything.
Behind the silliness and the action of the franchise, at the end of the day, the film's are about Dom's extended family, an incredibly diverse one full of different races and cultures. Everyone can relate to that. Everyone has family.
I won't take away the ending of "Furious 7" from you. That's something that should be experienced on the big screen, but it is a fitting tribute to the late Walker.
Bring a tissue or two, because you're most likely going to cry. There's just no way around that.
By the time you leave, you'll want to know the name of the Wiz Khalifa track responsible for your tears. Don't click the link to the song for now if you want to be surprised come April.
Estimates are saying the film will make $100 million opening weekend. "Fast and Furious 6" made $97 million in three days. Over Memorial Day weekend 2013, it made $120 million. Since then, Vin Diesel has become one of the most followed celebrities on Facebook with over 90 million fans. There's also a big audience who wants to bid adieu to Walker's character on screen. That was evident from the screening we attended. We wouldn't be surprised if it made plenty more than that.
"Furious 7" is in theaters April 3.
NOW WATCH: The new 'Furious 7' trailer is packed full of cars, explosions, and ridiculous stunts
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