Blu-Ray Review by Dominic Messier, Founder, Editor and Amateur Adrenaline Junkie
There is very little argument that the Fast and Furious film franchise has been one of the most successful and popular series of the 21st Century thus far. With a new release every couple of years or so, its roster of directors have managed to turn in racing and chase scenes the likes of which we hadn’t seen since Bullitt in the old days.
Granted, said filmmakers have had a tendency to turn these films into pseudo music videos with the prerequisite, mostly useless cutaways to scantily clad nymphs dancing away to phat beats, but that has mostly been forgivable given the stunt work that followed.
Now, with this latest (and probably not last) installment now out on pristine HD format for your home enjoyment, the cast takes it up another notch while offering a bittersweet goodbye to Paul Walker, who died during production in late 2013.
The plot for Furious 7 makes excellent use of continuity by picking up from Fast and Furious 6 as well as bringing The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift into the fold, so to explain Han’s (Sung Kang) reappearance and disappearance from the franchise.
In this latest, a deadly former British Special Ops hitman (Jason Statham) named Deckard Shaw seeks out the crew led by Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) to get revenge for their taking down his brother Owen (Luke Evans), the baddie from the previous film.
The older Shaw sibling tracks down the racers’ identities through the DSS Office run by Hobbes (Dwayne Johnson), after taking the muscled agent out for the count in his own headquarters.
If being chased by a deadly operative wasn’t enough (every action film needs a MacGuffin), the gang is approached by a cynical U.S. Government operative (Kurt Russell) and tasked with retrieving a piece of software called God’s Eye and its programmer (Nathalie Emmanuel), a program enabling the user with the ability to track down anyone on Earth using real-time cameras and smartphones.
This mission, paired with the ever present threat of being killed by a vengeful brother with lethal skills , makes for another non-stop adventure filled with thrills, adrenaline-fueled chases and a handful of plot holes big enough to drive a truck through.
I’ll be the first to admit that logic and plausibility were never exactly the strong suit of these race car films. Then again, one must concede a fair bit of suspension of disbelief when imagining that any of these drivers would ever get by pulling off all of these stunts without at least suffering severe injury or life arrest.
But, as Vin Diesel’s Dom is all-too quick to point out repeatedly throughout this film, what makes the film and its predecessors work is the chemistry of the group, a tight knit “family” that never leaves a man behind, fights for the right to raise a family in safety and is willing to compromise with the government if it means clearing their names and moving on with life.
The movie tastefully uses some CGI effects and editing to work around Walker’s untimely passing, all without disrespecting the actor’s memory. The resulting illusion is seamless and offers a proper sendoff for the late actor without the need to kill off or write-off the role off-camera.
Jason Statham doesn’t quite get to act out as much as he’d want, being relegated to a series of close-up shots of his mugging face seething with rage, or with repeated sequences of hand-to-hand combat, most of them with either Johnson or Diesel. Still, the Transporter star provides enough of a plausible threat to make the danger seem relevant without being gratuitous.
Fight fans will want to keep an eye out for an enjoyable brawl between Michelle Rodriguez and MMA star Ronda Rousey, who plays bodyguard to a billionaire Arab prince.
Were I to recommend one out of the Blu-Ray’s many bonus features, I’d have to recommend “Talking Fast”, a half-hour look *too short for my taste) at the film’s action scenes and some insights into the difficult production aspect of filming the movie’s insane stunts, hosted by director James Wan.
As a standalone feature, the movie could work as an extension of Jason Statham’s brand of brawler action films. As a continuation of the Furious series, it’s a worthy, action-packed addition which benefits from Wan’s attention to detail and willingness to stick to Justin Lin’s film technique. As a swan song for Paul Walker, the movie is a “thank you” to legions of fans who’ve stuck by the franchise for over a decade, and who’ll keep watching for years to come.
Perhaps the next one might be called “Supersonic and Livid“… I’m guessing not, but you can only be so fast and so furious after a certain point…
3.5 out of 5
Dominic Messier is a media veteran who’s written and discussed movies for almost 20 years, from entertainment radio shows to newspaper columns to websites. Follow him on Twitter via @dommessier or join the Pop Culture Landscape with Dominic Messier page on Facebook.