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One Last Ride

A key principle to the Fast & Furious series has been “family”. The sheer length of the series has made this equally true for the cast and crew themselves. In the middle of filming Furious 7, that cast & crew suffered the tragedy of the untimely passing of Paul Walker. With the cast in shock and filming delayed, the production of the film was in serious jeopardy. However, with heavy hearts the cast and crew decided to finish the film in honor of Paul. This resulted in a movie that delivers upon the expectation of the franchise but succeeds in being more. It succeeds in being a heart felt tribute and good bye to Paul Walker.

Let’s just get this out the way, Furious 7 is ridiculous. It’s a movie that is actively trying to redefine “over the top”. It has a pension for style above everything else. It isn’t the least bit concerned about how plausible anything really is.  It just cares about how cool everyone looks doing it, and you know what? That is perfectly alright. The Fast & Furious franchise embraces what it is, and Furious 7 is another solid installment in what is becoming one of the most lucrative movie franchises ever.

The film picks up almost directly after last film in the series, Fast & Furious 6. The Toretto “Family” are readjusting to life not on the run. This brief tenure with peace is interrupted when the older brother of their recent antagonist comes a knocking. He murders a member of the Toretto family and makes his intentions well-known to finish the job sooner than later. This starts an elaborate game of cat and mouse between the family and their new foe.  I could break down this plot some more, but honestly there really isn’t a point. The plot isn’t the strong point, the film knows it and so do you.

This is a car jumping from one building to the other, do you really need to know why?
This is car jumping from one building to the other, do you really need to know why?

At some point, the producers of the franchise realized expensive cars and stunts aren’t the only draw. They have been actively seeking blockbuster talent to bolster the franchise. They figured, it worked so well with adding Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson aka “Franchise Viagra” in Fast Five.  They seriously push the envelope this time. They added Jason Statham, who is the penultimate brooding bully action star of today. Kurt Russell plays a charismatic and gun tooting federal agent. Ronda Rousey joins the cast to give Michelle Rodriguez her second consecutive brawl with a UFC fighter. I’m taking bets on which UFC fighter they’ll get in the next movie for her to go toe to toe with. My money is on former ring girl turned professional fighter Paige Vanzant but I digress. They even made some room for Tony Jaa to kick and deposit elbows into faces at will. I told you this film was ridiculous.  At this point in the franchise, the characters are impervious to damage.  There is no wall, fall, crash these characters can’t just will their way through.  You can’t convince me that they aren’t super heroes at this point.  Universal has made a comic book movie right under our noises, and its entertaining ride.

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The core of the movie really works because of the cast. Their tenure together has built this natural chemistry that is impossible ignore. They always seem believable as a “family”, never forcing a conversation or a confrontation. The cast is what ultimately always keeps this film high flying film grounded. We are used to over the top movies. We exist in a world where enough people thought Sharks and Tornados were a good enough concept to warrant a sequel. It’s actually pretty impressive for a film to embrace over the top but not drown in a sea of ridiculous-ness.

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Finally, and unfortunately… this film had a different component. Paul Walker was tragically killed in a car accident mid way during the filming of this film. His passing was so devastating to the cast that serious talks began with the studio to cancel the project and all other future installments. While the cast and crew eventually decided to continue with the film, it was met with many challenges. Paul Walker had only shot about half of his scenes. In particular he did not shoot any action scenes. The first idea was to kill his character on-screen. This was ultimately, and I think for the better, decided against. The cast and crew couldn’t bring themselves to kill his character on-screen. Instead they choose to preserve the character, and let this film be “His Last Ride”. Paul Walker has two brothers, they came onto the project to help finish the film. What resulted was a project that was finished in dedication to Paul. It culminated in a heart-felt tribute at the end of the film. I waited some time to post this review because I did not want to publish it without having a link to that tribute. I still can’t post the scene as it appears in the movie, but fortunately Universal released a music video with much of the footage and ALL of the spirit. That will have to do for now. RIP Paul Walker.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RgKAFK5djSk]

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