I saw Furious 7 and loved it

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This isn't a climactic action scene from Furious 7. This is the Furious guys engaging in light office banter.

I love a good, guilty-pleasure action film as much as anybody — particularly at the movie theater. Between advances in special effects and theater tech (3D sound, high-def screens, extra-sullen and apathetic teen snack-procurers), the old idea of going to the movies for narrative immersion is giving way to a sort of soul-snatching, sensory thrall that approaches something like cinematic possession or secular rapture. (The dour pre-show sermonizing about the evils of cell phones in theaters these days only seems to reinforce the religious sense: This is holy time. Don’t mess with our popular ecstasy.) When I saw Run All Night recently, I think I was actually praying that Liam Neeson’s increasingly bloody and battered character would triumph.

For some reason, though, I always passed on the Fast & Furious series. I think it was the muscles and the cool cars. I was unconsciously boycotting the films, envious of two things I didn’t have. Dangling such real-world attainables in an action-movie franchise seemed like an elaborate, vicious taunt.

With the brain-softening aid of a few glasses of Nebbiolo at a casino restaurant Friday night, I got over it and saw Furious 7. Actually, no. I didn’t see Furious 7. I didn’t apply my eyes and ears to the movie and sensorily consume it in some predicate manner. Oh no. It was more like I avidly consented to be ritually ravished by a blizzard of euphoric, dream-smeared adolescent fantasia. I’m surprised I didn’t emerge from the theater with tattoo sleeves that spontaneously appeared from a sort of second, induced-labor puberty.

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That isn’t just standard high praise of Furious 7’s action sequences and special effects. Bullet-time and balletic violence once marked the high bar; now they’re the cover charge to be taken seriously in the genre. Rather, Furious 7’s entire package — the devotedly basic characters with springboard motives and identifying tics; the action sequences that are superreal, clockwork bacchannals of flying fire, steel, glass and bullets; the spongy, seamless comic-book logic that unassailably underwrites it all (you don’t suspend your disbelief; rather, Furious 7 seems to steal it from you like a pickpocket before the first scene: I mean, the villain Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) casually hacking into the computers at the U.S. Diplomatic Security Services with good guy Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) just a few glass office cubes away? I took the blue pill! I’m totally down with it!) — seems to want to elevate the action flick to, well, not high art. This is a lateral move. Like all action movies, Furious 7 eschews reflection, rewards compulsion. But it goes further. The movie is constantly trying to leap out of its own skin. Furious 7 wants less to do with film and more to do with hyperlive, gladiatorial, morally ambiguous spectacles like UFC.

The plot fortifies this notion. It’s a rough corduroy of clashing, crisscrossing desires: The villain wants revenge on the Furious 7 crew for killing his brother. The Furious 7 crew wants to defeat the villain, but to do that, they must rescue a cute hacker from a terrorist to get access to a global surveillance system to defeat the villain! The plot isn’t an afterthought. Rather, it’s a giddily waved starting flag, after which hypertrophic cars slice and pirouette through forests, glass high-rises, L.A. night streets like they were all so much CGI butter.

I left with a vague ache. It might have been the two-plus hours of flash and bang, or it may have been a sort of withdrawal — wishing like a teenager that reality could be just a fraction as furiously unreal as this.

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