I found myself thinking, “Man, this stinks” several times during Furious 7. Not at the film itself (which is just about as much fun I’ve had at the movies this year) but at the fact that Paul Walker isn’t around to keep this crazy ride going any longer. (Yes, there’s talk of continuing on to an eighth and maybe even ninth movie, but… come on.)

A franchise that, for all intents and purposes, should have been left for dead after 2006’s third installment (Tokyo Drift) just keeps getting more and more entertaining with Furious 7. The stunts more and more extreme, and the breakneck action gives the film a furious (pun intended) white-knuckle pace

Overlapping with the closing events of 2013’s Fast & Furious 6, the seventh go-round finds the whole gang facing off against the latest baddie, in the form of Jason Statham as Deckard Shaw. Shaw is a Special Forces assassin who’s picking up the fight where his hospitalized brother Owen (Luke Evans) left off in number six.

Dom (Vin Diesel), Brain (Walker), Roman (Tyrese Gibson), Letty (Michelle Rodriguez), and Tej (Ludacris) take the action from Azerbaijan to Abu Dhabi to Los Angeles. Sure, there’s a subplot about a device that can trace anyone in the world by using surveillance cameras and cell phones. And yes, there are more clunky lines of dialogue than there are skid marks left behind on the roads… but not a bit of that matters. We’re here for the high-octane, nitrous-fueled fun, and there’s more than enough to go around.

We’re also here, unfortunately, to say goodbye to Paul Walker. Killed in November 2013, only halfway through filming, the producers and director James Wan (The Conjuring) used a combination of digital trickery and stand-ins (in the form of Walker’s two brothers) to finish the project. By and large it’s a seamless transition, and even the moments that don’t work perfectly still work well enough to not be distracting. And, more importantly, it honors Walker’s legacy with grace.

And dammit if I didn’t even get a little weepy. And when’s the last time anyone said that about a Fast and Furious movie?

4/5 stars