Furious 7 is currently the the fifth highest grossing film of all time worldwide, the third highest grossing film of the year, and the thirtieth highest grossing film of all time domestically. Part of this seems to be because of the momentum of the franchise, which went from being a joke to becoming a box office powerhouse starting with the fourth “reunion” film, and part of this seems to have come from an innate curiosity about how the film would function after Paul Walker’s death. Films like The Crow and The Dark Knight gained a certain traction because of a ghoulish fascination, but those films also had the benefit of the deceased playing undead/evil characters. Whereas the success and appeal of James Wan’s Furious 7 has to do with how these films have become the stories of superhero drivers and their immaculate precision behind the wheel, so it’s not got the same morbid elements.
Furious 7 starts with Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) vowing revenge for the wounding of his brother Owen (Luke Evans) in the last film. As was teased at the end of Fast and Furious 6 (and was apparent in Tokyo Drift), Han (Sung Kang) is dead and it was Deckard that killed him. With Deckard set on revenge, he next knocks out Hobbs (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson), who’s growing bored not chasing after the world’s worst criminals, and then plants a bomb at Brian (Paul Walker) and Mia’s (Jordana Brewster) house. Dominic Torretto (Vin Diesel) has been spending the last couple months trying to jog the memory of Letty (Michelle Rodriguez), but with Deckard now in pursuit, he forgoes that to reassemble the team, which means Brian, Letty, Taj (Chris “Ludacris” Bridges) and Roman (Tyrese) work under the guidance of Mr. Nobody (Kurt Russell), who substitutes for Hobbs as the government figure who gives them permission to do what they do (and gives them the tools to do it). To get Deckard they need the God’s Eye, which can hack any device in order to track people. The device was created by Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel), who’s being held by Jakande (Djimon Hounsou), and so they must rescue her, then retrieve the God’s Eye from its storage location in Abu Dhabi, all the while Mia is pregnant and wants Brian to get out of this life, and Deckard is always one step ahead or behind them.
Building on the reunion factor that made Fast & Furious a success (and Fast Five the best film in the franchise), the film is fully aware of its mythology and delights in bringing back minor characters from previous entries, including here Lucas Black and Noel Gugliemi, while also referencing the series fallen comrades (though it completely ignores that Don Omar and Tego Calderon were once family members), making it surprisingly dense. The film expects you to know people who haven’t appeared in the series since its first entry, but that’s sort of the fun of it. And at this point, it’s fair to say that the main characters are indestructible superheroes, with Diesel and company taking hits and making leaps that would fell most mortals. That’s part of the fun of the franchise – that it’s moved so far from reality that characters can and will do the most insane stunts without mussing their hair – but it also gives the film a certain weightless quality.
7 is obviously hampered by the passing of Walker, though it’s hard to tell how much he shot as there was word the film was half finished, but it’s obvious that a number of sequences feature body doubles and digital face replacements. Watching the supplements it’s clear a huge number of the stunts were done practically, but perhaps to create continuity, the film has a heavy digital air to it, and the big Paul Walker bus stunt was mostly done practically – a guy really did run on a bus that was falling off a cliff – but you’d never guess that because everything is enhanced by pixels. Fight sequences with Walker usually filled with quick shots that keep him slightly obscured, so even at home you’re squinting to see if it was really him or not. Perhaps people not aware of the actor’s passing won’t spend half the film wondering how it was done, but even on repeated viewings, it’s hard not to be aware that Walker was mostly replaced by doubles.
When the film began production, it looked like it might be hobbled because Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson could only cameo, and it’s a little disappointing that The Rock only appears at the beginning and end of the film, but it hurts more now that the center of the franchise is Dom and Letty. Vin Diesel seems super pleased to be the heart of this huge franchise, but unfortunately his and Rodriguez’s characters aren’t as much fun as Han and Gisele (Gal Gadot). Diesel has one mode, and he does it well, but his growly teddy bear is great behind the wheel but a little monotonous. To give the film more flavor Tyrese and Ludacris get more room to play and joke (good news: they’re great at it), while the addition of Kurt Russell does help the proceedings.
This was a Frankenstein monster of a film, and that it works (and that it is entertaining as it is) is a miracle unto itself. As the film concludes it pours it on thick about Paul Walker’s passing as he exits the franchise (in the film he does so to spend more time with his wife and kids), but though it is maudlin and syrupy, it’s undeniably affecting. Even if Walker was never much of a movie star, he had found the role, and it’s tragic that he’s gone.
Universal presents the film on Blu-ray in the film’s theatrical cut and an extended cut that runs two and a half minutes longer (the differences are negligible). The film is presented in widescreen (2.35:1) and in DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio, and comes with a DVD and digital copy. As to be expected, it looks amazing. The extras section kicks off with four deleted scenes: “Letty at Clinic” (2 min.) shows Rodriguez checking in on the hospital where she recuperated after her crash (and features a great cameo), “Ramsey/Dom” (2 min.) shows Vin getting Nathalie Emmanuel to stay with the team, “Dressed Up” (1 min.) shows the crew getting into their fancy duds at greater length, while “Letty Call from Nurse” (1 min.) wraps up the earlier cut scene. None of these scenes are missed, though they’re good to see and aren’t boring (which is often the problem with cut stuff).
The first featurette is “Talking Fast” (32 min.) which looks like it was originally intended to be PIP option. It features James Wan walking through the feature and the big action sections of the film, and he’s excited about every aspect of the movie, though he only pays reference to Paul Walker’s passing in the final minutes of the piece. It also offers comments from Michelle Rodriguez, Jordana Brewster, Tyrese Gibson, and Chris “Ludacris” Bridges. The actors mostly offer empty platitudes about their work.
“Back to the Starting Line” (12 min.) is a more general making of, which offers the main cast and crew talking about how the franchise has evolved to this chapter, and focuses on the new people joining the franchise, specifically Nathalie Emmanuel, Djimon Hounsou, Tony Jaa, Jason Statham, Kurt Russell and James Wan. It too saves the Walker talk until the end of the piece.
“Flying Cars” (6 min.) talks to the stunt coordinators, James Wan and the cast about how they upped the stunts for this seventh film, specifically dropping cars out of an airplane, and the rest of that chase sequence. You might not be able to tell from the film, but they actually did drop cars out of an airplane, while they also built a lot of big cranes to drop the cars into their locations. “Snatch and Grab” (8 min.) continues to talk about the Azerbaijan car chase sequence, which – again – highlights how much of the film was done practically, while “Tower Jumps” (7 min.) covers the Abu Dhabi car jumps which were not done practically, though feature a number of practical elements.
“Inside the Fight” is broken into four sections: “Hobbs Vs. Shaw” (3 min.) showcases the Johnson/Statham fight and gets comments from The Rock, Statham and fight coordinator Jeff Imada. “Girl Fight” (3 min.) focuses on Rodriguez’s fight with Ronda Rhousey, which mentions that Rhousey was heavily involved in the fight choreography. “Dom Vs. Shaw” (3 min.) shows some great behind-the-scenes footage on the training and practice attempts of this sequence. Finally “Tej Takes Action” (2 min.) talks about Ludacris’s big fight sequence, and Luda actually does practice martial arts, so the moves were partly his own.
“The Cars of Furious” (11 min.) talks about how the cars of the film are meant to match the personalities of their drivers (Dom’s cars are more furious while Brian’s are faster). “Race War” (7 min.) talks about the franchise’s return to the Race War location, with both Diesel and Rodriguez reflecting on how they are coming back to this location fourteen years later, while also Iggy Azalea’s cameo is given a spotlight, as is the return Noel Gugliemi to the franchise. The “See You Again” music video is also included, as is a making of for the Fast and Furious Universal ride (8 min.).
What’s missing is a more “how the sausage is made” look at the film, but unfortunately – and as to be expected with a film and a franchise this successful – those stories will probably be kept to insider gossip. There was a lot of work that went into making this film work after Walker died, and that story is surely fascinating as the film had to be reworked, rewritten, and rethought after his death. As someone who loves films, I would be fascinated to hear about how they did it, but that’s the sort of thing you don’t get from supplemental material, at least not on a film this recent. Alas.
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