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Furious 7 (Blu-ray Review)

4 Sep, 2015 By: John Latchem

Street 9/15/15
Box office $351.03 million
$29.98 DVD, $34.98 Blu-ray
Rated ‘PG-13’ for prolonged frenetic sequences of violence, action and mayhem, suggestive content and brief strong language
Stars Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Dwayne Johnson, Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese Gibson, Chris “Ludacris” Bridges, Jordana Brewster, Djimon Hounsou, Kurt Russell, Jason Statham.

Remember when this franchise was supposed to be about street racing?

Well, the sight of The Rock walking down the streets of Los Angeles with a giant machine gun shooting a helicopter out of the sky is certainly a leading indicator of what it’s turned into after seven movies.

The first five were cut from the relatively same DNA — a formula that involved adrenaline junkies with fast cars planning big crimes for huge payoffs, with various law enforcement officers trying to outmaneuver them. The third one, Tokyo Drift, tried new characters in a new setting with a coming of age angle, but still involved elements of the criminal underworld.

In these last two movies, though, headliners Dom Toretto (Vin Diesel) and Brian O’Conner (the late Paul Walker, to whom the film is dedicated) are essentially leading a team of mercenaries on international missions on behalf of the U.S. government, with the help of Agent Luke Hobbs (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson).

At least the crazy car stunts that play fast and loose with the laws of physics have always been a constant.

In the latest adventure, the team is being hunted by the brother of the bad guy they took out in the sixth movie. He just happens to be a paramilitary badass played by Jason Statham. So Dom vows to hunt him down first, but gets sidetracked by another secret agent (Kurt Russell) who wants Dom’s team to rescue a hacker from terrorists before they can deploy a new surveillance system.

The payoff? Dom can use the tracking software to find Statham. So there you go, just in case there was any worry that the plot wouldn’t make any sense.

If all of this proves anything, it’s that this is a franchise that is very sure of itself, as its $1.5 billion attests (though a lot of that can also be credited to interest resulting from the media attention surrounding Walker’s death).

I like how the past few “Fast & Furious” sequels have incorporated elements from the earlier movies that were more or less independent of each other. Tokyo Drift, often considered the franchise’s easily discarded black sheep, now definitively takes place between the sixth and seventh films, with key scenes retconned to figure into Statham’s plot. Drift star Lucas Black even turns up in a cameo in Furious 7, possibly setting up expanded roles in future sequels to fill the void left by Walker’s absence.

Furious 7 coasts on the audience’s familiarity with the ever-growing ensemble, and lets the action scenes do most of the heavy lifting, resulting in an entertaining if not thought-provoking cinematic experience.

The Blu-ray offers an extended cut that adds more than two minutes back into the film, and I think this is the more effective version compared with the theatrical cut. The impact is felt from the beginning, with a longer opening scene that provides more insight into Statham’s character while letting the audience bask in the aftermath of his carnage in a way that the hyper-kinetic editing of the theatrical cut doesn’t allow (and even negates the craftsmanship behind how the scene was set up).

The extended cut also offers a longer fight scene between Michelle Rodriguez and UFC champ Ronda Rousey, and there’s no way that’s a bad thing. Most of the other changes are minor scene extensions, deeper action and alternate takes with no narrative impact.

It’s a well-known fact that the film’s production was delayed to rework the story around the death of Walker, but there’s really only one scene that in which the manipulation to include the actor is rather obvious. However, the home video versions doesn’t include any featurettes about how the filmmakers redeveloped his character using visual effects and body doubles, or really any lengthy tribute to the actor at all (though the “See You Again” music video seems crafted to pay homage to him using clips from all the films of the franchise).

Most of the extras are featurettes detailing the film’s stunts and other behind-the-scenes glimpses. Exclusive to the Blu-ray are six minutes of deleted scenes, notable mostly for a subplot that involved a cameo by former cast member Gal Gadot (next seen as Wonder Woman in next year’s Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice).

The Blu-ray also offers a half-hour “Talking Fast” featurette that presents an abridged version of the movie with commentary and interviews from the filmmakers and cast. All the discs have a brief preview of the Fast & Furious Supercharged attraction at Universal Studios theme park in Hollywood.

About the Author: John Latchem

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