Furious 7
★★ ½
Opening Friday

There’s a cringeworthy moment in Furious 7 when it appears that Paul Walker’s final scene in the star-making action series will be of him trying to revive a car crash victim. (Walker, who played Brian O’Connor in The Fast and the Furious and its many sequels, died in a single-car accident in November 2013.)

Thankfully, the filmmakers spare us that insensitivity with the ensuing, rather poignant tribute to the late actor. Instead, the sight of Brian and family frolicking on a beach segues into a God’s eye view of two cars traveling side-by-side down a highway, going separate ways when they reach a fork in the road.

Beyond any intended metaphor, the shot encapsulates a film that makes the mechanization of the action genre literal. Yes, there are human actors populating the movie, some of them charmingly droll (Dwayne Johnson, Tyrese Gibson and, blessedly, Kurt Russell) and some of them automatons—Vin Diesel and villain du jour Jason Statham.

But the actors are mostly just along for the ride, supplanted by an endless line of muscle cars and hot rods. Autos parachute from airplanes, leap between Abu Dhabi skyscrapers and hurl themselves off the edges of cliffs. It’s a film where everybody should die, but nobody does … except the machines.

For the wisp of a plot, Deckard Shaw (Statham), a rogue British special forces assassin, aims to exact revenge on Dominic Toretto (Diesel), Brian and the rest of the fast and furious crew for offing Deckard’s little brother Owen in the last movie. Tony Jaa and Ronda Rousey stop by to flex their martial arts skills, but their emoting is as robotic as the (digitized) unmanned drone that director James Wan trots out in the last act. Or just Djimon Hounsou, who shows up with even less purpose.

Furious 7 is like a feature-length rap video—lingering misogyny included—interspersed with a cacophony of roaring engines and unlimited gear shifts. Yet being so of-the-moment and escapist, it also entertains. At this point we’re in on the inanity, so a wink and a nod absolves almost any outlandishness. As long as they find bigger and louder ways to crash objects into each other, we’ll gladly fork over the cover charge.