Released in the wake of star Paul Walker’s untimely death in a car wreck, ‘Fast & Furious 7’ was always going to lay it on thick with the nostalgic montages and slap on the back, hug-it-out, ‘I’m gonna miss you, dog’ macho bonding. But for all that, the filmmakers can’t quite get around the fact that, over recent episodes, Walker’s boy-next-door ex-cop Brian had become something of a second-string player, neither as memorably menacing as Vin Diesel’s Peperami-necked anti-hero Dom or as quick with the kiss-off one-liners as Dwayne Johnson’s latecomer lawman Hobbs.
And now he’s got another smart-mouth beefcake to contend with: Jason Statham, chomping down great chunks of scenery as ‘legitimate British badass’ Deckard Shaw, on the trail of our heroes after they hospitalised his brother in the previous movie. The chase takes them to Tokyo, the Dominican Republic, Abu Dhabi, Azerbaijan (really?) and finally back to their home turf on the mean streets of LA, for a final showdown packed with helicopters, drone strikes, wrench fights and more glistening auto-porn than Jeremy Clarkson’s hard drive.
If none of this is quite as blood-pumping as it ought to be, that is largely down to director James Wan’s decision to shoot every automotive action sequence in such juddery, relentless close-up that it’s often impossible to tell what’s going on. The effect can be like having your face shoved into a fan belt, and not necessarily in a good way. But the face-to-face punch-ups are a lot more fun – the Statham-Johnson smackdown resembles nothing more than two shaved pitbulls in a tumble dryer – and the sheer sense of ludicrous, punch-the-air joie de vivre is impossibly infectious.