- - Thursday, April 2, 2015

About halfway through “Furious 7,” the latest installment in the gas-guzzling “Fast and Furious” car action franchise, Roman (Tyrese Gibson), the series’ jovial joker, recaps the franchise’s greatest hits: the time he and the F&F crew faced off against a tank; the time they were chased through a winding downtown thoroughfare while pulling a giant safe; the time they pursued a massive aircraft down an interminable runway.

The stunt-filled sequences he recalls were memorable because they were ridiculous — yet the mission the team is about to undertake, he said, is by far the silliest yet.

It’s a good laugh line. It’s also a kind of promise — one the movie easily makes good on.

A few minutes later, Roman and the rest of the team, led by Vin Diesel’s Dominic Toretto and the late Paul Walker’s Brian O’Conner, proceed to drop a pack of armored rally cars out of a cargo plane, parachuting down to a snaky mountain pass.

After a bit of precision driving, they overtake a heavily armed convoy, complete with a tour bus that features hidden machine guns that fire armor-piercing bullets. A fistfight breaks out on the bus after it is ripped in half, and a long car chase proceeds down a rocky mountainside.

The sequence is, as promised, ridiculous in every way: The plan makes no sense, the laws of physics are generally ignored and the villains behave in ways that make no sense whatsoever.

The most incredible thing of all is how delightful it is.

“Furious 7” strives for and consistently achieves an air of hysterical awesomeness.

At its best, during its multiple extended action set pieces, it induces a kind of unfiltered blockbuster bliss — an enjoyably overloaded state of buzzy cinematic pleasure in which it becomes all too easy to accept and appreciate the movie’s high-octane nonsense.

The movie’s over-the-top, physics-defying silliness works because it is presented with total commitment. It believes in itself, and the viewer starts to believe in it too.

The movie has more than self-confidence, though. It also works tremendously hard to please. “Furious 7” is not exactly a smart movie, but it is never a lazy one.

Indeed, the work ethic is visible in the franchise’s growth and development. Over the years, the “Fast and Furious” franchise, which started out with a couple of modestly budgeted urban street racing films, has molded itself into a kind of auto enthusiast’s superhero series.

The cars and the drivers in these movies have spectacular powers: They fly through the air, turn on a dime and generally manage to survive all sorts of roll-cage mayhem.

The franchise has transformed itself by increasingly upping the action ante, with more ridiculous and ever-more-enjoyable sequences of vehicular spectacle.

It also has built a great team. In addition to Mr. Diesel, Mr. Walker and Mr. Gibson, actors Michelle Rodriguez, Jordana Brewster, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and rapper Ludacris all return to play familiar parts.

Mr. Walker’s death in a real-life car crash halfway through the production delayed the film, and the final product required lots of workarounds, including considerable use of digitally enabled doubling by his brothers. The final product is nearly seamless and a fine send-off to an actor whose charm and appeal have grown with the series.

To the series’ already large cast, this entry adds Jason Statham and Djimon Hounsou as villains, and Kurt Russell as a shadowy government figure who sets the action into motion. All are tough-guy foils for the tough-guy protagonists, but what sticks out about the movie is not how hard and grim it is, but how sweet.

The film’s script repeatedly emphasizes the idea that the franchise’s core team is a family — a family that, yes, is built around the performance of muscle-car acrobatics, but a family all the same. On screen, they all seem genuinely glad to be together, and that sense helps build a kind of fraternal bond among one another and also with the audience.

Stupid as they might be, these adventures are an awful lot of fun for them — and for the rest of us too.

TITLE: “Furious 7”

CREDITS: Directed by James Wan; screenplay by Chris Morgan

RATING: PG-13 for intense vehicle mayhem

RUNNING TIME: 137 minutes

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