‘Furious 7’ Reviews: Is Paul Walker’s Last Ride Alongside Vin Diesel the Best Yet?

Critical response has been surprising in advance of the James Wan-directed sequel also starring Jason Statham

“Furious 7,” the latest in a long line of Universal blockbusters starring Vin Diesel and Paul Walker, is getting a warm welcome from critics ahead of its release this weekend.

The sequel co-stars Jason Statham as a new villain, while Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson returns to help a familiar crew execute impossible action sequences directed by franchise newbie James Wan — a filmmaker best known for horror films including “Saw,” “Insidious” and “The Conjuring.”

The highly anticipated PG-13 release, which also happens to be Walker’s final film following his death in 2013, has garnered an impressive 85 percent approval rating from critics counted so far on Rotten Tomatoes. Out of the 33 reviews available, at the moment, 28 have declared the film “fresh.”

TheWrap‘s Alonso Duralde was one of them. He praised the film’s strategy of ignoring “both logic and gravity” to deliver crowd-pleasing set pieces, while also giving Walker’s character, Brian O’Conner, a proper farewell.

“If incoming director James Wan falls the tiniest bit short of what Justin Lin brought to the third, fifth and sixth entries, ‘Furious 7’ nonetheless ranks a very successful fourth place overall, with at least one gargantuan set piece that ranks among the series’ finest,” Duralde wrote in his review. “The death-defying nature of the stunts is, of course, underscored by the real-life passing of Walker, and the film gives both the actor and his character a beautifully graceful farewell. (Bring a handkerchief.)”

The emotional moment is special enough that a number of critics, like Digital Spy‘s Simon Reynolds, are admitting it struck a nerve.

“No spoilers here, but the closing moments are handled absolutely beautifully,” Reynolds wrote. “Heartfelt and genuinely moving, it works both within the context of the ‘Fast’ series’ family-centric ethos and, perhaps more powerfully, offers a moment of closure for fans. The final shot could not be more perfect. Tears will be shed.”

Diesel has previously predicted the movie “will win Best Picture” at next year’s Oscars, but has also admitted “stigma towards action films” might jeopardize its chances. According to New York Daily News critic Jacob Hall, though, there are a lot of other factors to consider when calculating the odds.

“‘Furious 7’ is the biggest, silliest movie in the ‘Fast and Furious’ franchise, officially transforming the series into “The Avengers” with muscle cars. But what’s wrong with big and silly?” Hall wrote. “The film is a live-action cartoon starring caricatures rather than characters. But, hey, these are charismatic personalities played by actors in on the joke. They maintain straight faces as they sell their macho dialogue and drive sports cars off the Burj Khalifa.”

Metro critic Matt Prigge called the movie expected to gross over $100 million this weekend “a live-action Looney Tunes.” Although his review is favorable, he doesn’t expect it to win Best Picture, either — even if the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences invents an action category.

“It certainly aims to be no less than the ultimate action movie, which, for some filmgoers, translates into the ultimate movie, period — the culmination of all that the Lumiere Brothers and Eadweard Muybridge dreamed of when they helped put pictures in motion. It doesn’t quite get there,” Prigge wrote. “What’s lacking is what lacks in all sensation-heavy, sense-handicapped modern blockbusters, which is story (and sense).”

TimeOut critic Tom Huddleston complained that in Wan’s action sequences it’s “often impossible to tell what’s going on,” but seemed to enjoy the viewing experience overall.

“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,” Huddleston wrote.

While the majority of critics are embracing the movie’s over-the-top antics, there are still a few turned off by it.

The New York Post‘s Sara Stewart wrote, “As it is, the action in the seventh installment of the franchise is pretty by-the-book: car racing, vengeance, logic-defying stunts and stuff blowing up. Too much stuff blowing up, really. We came for the cars and their reckless, gorgeous drivers; we can get explosions anywhere.”

BBC critic Nicholas Barber bashed the movie for “swerving recklessly between two very different moods.”

“Just when you’re settling into a proudly silly action movie, somebody will make a grave speech about the importance of family. Then, just when you think that it’s actually a sober film set in the real world, someone will drive a car out of a plane and land safely on a mountain road several thousand feet below,” Barber wrote. “And then, just when you’ve accepted that it’s a Road Runner cartoon with added tattoos, a sombre scene will remind you that one of its stars, Paul Walker, died while the film was in production. The tonal lurches are so extreme that some viewers are bound to get whiplash.”