Ready for a race? Need speed? Furious 7 will put you behind the wheel and send you hurtling down the road, off the road, off the earth. The story line isn’t the impetus — it exists to keep the action coming at you like a fastball. The characters and hair-raising action are what drive the films of the “Fast and the Furious” franchise.

The first scene starts quietly. Then momentum picks up and never slows down. One breathtaking car chase with a unique launch spirals us into incredible images — it rivals the famous Steve McQueen (the actor) chase in the classic film “Bullitt.” The special effects are groundbreaking. Even when a scene is beyond realistic, in this movie it is believable. Head cinematographers Stephen F. Windon (who also worked on three of the previous films) and Marc Spicer do an incredible job with the varied landscapes, hairpin mountain roads, panoramas and international locations, including Los Angeles, Tokyo and Abu Dhabi.

Young director James Wan (executive producer on the “Saw” films) took on the job of directing this project, never realizing what difficulties he would have to resolve in making his debut in the franchise. He has done an excellent job pulling together his crew and persevering to finish the film against great odds. In effect, this film and its crew of hundreds, with a budget much higher than any previous “Furious” movies, transformed Wan’s directing job into something equivalent to CEO of a Fortune 500 company. Wan managed to inspire this huge group to function as a team and absorb the unexpected. They created a work with the exuberant feel of a high school film project and the polish of a finely tuned high concept thriller. The producers had an appropriate sense of timing in waiting to release the film a year and four months after the death of star Paul Walker in a tragic off-set car crash while filming was still being completed.

Watching this movie is an emotional exercise on two levels, trying to reconcile feelings about Paul’s death while being drawn into the story. In fact, almost all of his dramatic scenes and most of his action scenes had been shot prior to the accident. His two younger brothers, Caleb and Cory, who look hauntingly like Paul, became body doubles for any additional scenes. The filmmakers changed the originally planned ending — the result is a work that is dedicated to Paul in an inspiring poetic send-off.

There is talk of a “Furious 8.” However, “Furious 7” is very much a final chapter. This is a series whose characters are family. Paul as “Brian O’Conner” is at the heart of the team, the glue that keeps them together. The hole left by his death is profound. If I were asked to direct it (yeah, in my dreams), I would take these characters down a drastically different “road” now — we don’t need to see “The Fast and the Expendables” in 20 years.

Rated PG-13. 137 minutes.

Kathryn Whitney Boole was drawn into the entertainment industry as a kid and never left. It has been the backdrop for many awesome adventures with crazy creative people. She now works as a Talent Manager with Studio Talent Group in Santa Monica. Reach her at kwboole@gmail.com.

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