Paul Walker died during the filming of Fast And Furious 7. Along with Vin Diesel, he was the face of the franchise, having acted in six of the seven films. Walker was an unusual action star, not a bulldozer like Dwayne Johnson or grumpily lethal like Liam Neeson. Even in a series as turbocharged as this, his screen persona was likeable and modest.

 Quite visibly a tribute to Walker, Fast And Furious 7 alternates outlandish action set-pieces with surprisingly emotional scenes that will likely confuse viewers who haven’t watched the previous films and don’t feel a kinship to Walker’s character Brian O’Conner.

Just in case this sounds a little depressing, let me try and describe the protracted silliness that begins some 40 minutes into the film. For reasons that are entirely unimportant, the old gang—Brian (Walker), Dominic (Diesel), Letty (Michelle Rodriguez), Roman (Tyrese Gibson) and Tej (the rapper Ludacris)—has been entrusted with the task of retrieving cutting-edge surveillance technology from a terrorist. What they do next is so impossibly stupid that it might end up being hailed as a witty deconstruction of the action genre 20 years down the line. They drive their cars off a plane, parachute down and land on a mountain road. The sequence that follows—in which they are joined by Jason Statham, new to the franchise, as bad guy Deckard Shaw—lasts about 20 minutes and serves as a vigorous riposte to outdated concepts like gravity and common sense.

Does it really matter that Shaw wants revenge for his brother Owen, the villain of the last movie, and therefore kills Fast And Furious alumnus Han, puts DSS, or diplomatic security special, agent Hobbs (Johnson) in hospital, and hunts the gang from Los Angeles to Abu Dhabi? Any fan of the series will tell you it doesn’t. What’s important is Diesel being able to growl, “I’m a Corona man," when Kurt Russell’s government agent offers him a Belgian beer. It’s important that we get to see what a fist fight between Johnson and Statham looks like. It’s important that our imagination is stretched to a point where it can accept the sight of an ambulance taking out a drone (a collision of Barack Obama’s domestic and foreign policy, if you’re reading into things).

At its most basic, a Fast And Furious movie is as weird and contagious as—and more large-hearted than—a Top Gear episode. It’s about driving fast and wrecking beautiful cars, but it’s also about comfort and familiarity. It’s nice to know that Diesel can drive off a cliff, or jump from one skyscraper to another, without sustaining any lasting physical damage. And it’s nice to see that after giving Walker a moving send-off, the last scene teases the audience with the idea of a sequel. Walker made his name with this franchise, and it’s likely that he would have wanted his fast-driving family to go on living their lives the way they have been doing.

Fast And Furious 7 released in theatres on Thursday.

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