Family Is Forever in “Furious 7”

Everything you could ask for in Paul Walker’s final film appearance.

Say what you will about this franchise, but there are three truths all must be aware of: the cars, the girls, and the family. Those are the only guarantees in the fictional world of The Fast and the Furious, where every movie has taken those three mighty pillars to build Universal Pictures’ most Ludacris – excuse me – lucrative franchise with over $2 billion earned worldwide.

Furious 7 certainly has the cars and the girls, but I think we all know family is the most important – and poignant – pillar in this installment (more on that later). After all, this is Paul Walker’s final film appearance after a fatal single car crash in 2013 (unrelated to the filming of this movie).

After his death, there were rumors that the film would be outright canceled. Obviously, it was just delayed as the filmmakers had some reworking to do, including figuring out a way to finish the rest of Walker’s scenes. They ended up using his two brothers, Caleb and Cody, along with physically similar actors and CGI.

I have to say, aside from a few scenes where his face looked a little off, it was a seamless move. It certainly looked better than Young Jeff Bridges in Tron: Legacy. Not only did Paul Walker look like Paul Walker the whole time, but the entire movie was a gorgeous visual spectacle.

One of the most annoying trends in filmmaking is the notion that a shaky camera somehow brings something to the table. An infamous example is the Bourne movies starring Matt Damon. Those had some excellent fight scenes, but they were marred because the camera decided to get all twitchy. That’s not the case in Furious 7. The fight scenes are clean and crisp – you get every Ronda Rousey grapple and every Tony Jaa kick.

Of course, The Fast and the Furious is about cars, and this movie has enough expensive cars to make Ferris Bueller’s head blow up. So choice, perhaps. The locations are also varied, as the gang travels everywhere from Azerbaijan and Abu Dhabi to, of course, home in LA. Speaking of Abu Dhabi… we need to talk about ridiculousness.

If you’ve seen the trailer, you know there’s a scene where a car literally flies out of one of Abu Dhabi’s Etihad Towers and crashes into the adjacent tower. It then drives through THAT tower, flies out, and crashes into the final tower.

Even when taken into context with the rest of the crazy things the gang survives through, that scene was so unrealistic I had to lean back and pinch myself. Nobody goes into these films for realism, but it would be nice if they weren’t so brazen about it. And leave it to these guys to decide that, of all people, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson ends up in the hospital at the beginning of the movie. Whatever. I loved the action sequences even though I had to roll my eyes a few times.

At the end of the day, all you really need to know – and this is something you probably suspected – is that Furious 7 takes nothing off the table and simply amplifies what happened in the previous movies. My friend was joking that Furious 10 would have to take place in space at this rate.

But let’s end this like the movie ends: with family. Emotion has never been a focal point of these flicks, but Furious 7 fully embraces real world emotions and creates something surprisingly nuanced. The last couple of scenes (not including one with Jason Statham) are poignant and show how the cast of this franchise has perhaps the best chemistry out of any other film franchise.

That’s why an emotional Vin Diesel had to briefly take a moment of silence to compose himself when he was talking about Paul Walker at an early screening of the film. That’s why he named his newborn daughter Paulina. That kind of bond translates onto the screen and extends to all the other individuals, like Ludacris, Tyrese Gibson, and Michelle Rodriguez. They are a real family.

At the beginning of Furious 7, Jason Statham says the future can be seen by looking at the past. While one family member is retired forever, I have full faith the rest will continue to live – and drive – fast and furiously in his honor.

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