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Featured Blu-ray / DVD Review: Furious 7

September 13th, 2015

Furious 7 - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray Combo Pack
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Furious 7

Furious 7 is the latest in the Fast and the Furious franchise. The films started out okay, but critical reception fell quickly. It wasn't until Fast Five when the filmmakers realized they were making, in essence, live-action cartoons that they truly found their voices. This focus helped the box office, so much so that Furious 7 became just the third film to earn more than $1 billion internationally and just the fourth film to earn $1.5 billion worldwide. Is the quality up to the same level as its box office? The odds of that are nearly zero. However, is it at least as entertaining as its box office numbers would indicate?

The Movie

The film begins with the fallout from the end of the previous film. I reviewed the previous film and I have no idea what happened. That's not a good sign. The gang was going after an international arms dealer called Owen Shaw. The final confrontation left Owen Shaw in a coma. In the beginning of this movie, we meet Deckard, who is monologuing over his brother. We quickly learn that he had to fight an army to get to his brother and he's dedicating his life to take out the people who put his brother in the hospital.

We then switch to Dominic and Letty. Letty still hasn't regained her memory, but Dominic thinks that if she experiences something familiar, Race Wars... Who thought this was an good name? When we get to Race Wars, a music video breaks out where the camera lingers more on women's bodies than on the cars. Letty wins her race, but when she's surround by the cheering crowd, she has a flashback to the crash that nearly killed her. I guess it is a step in the right direction.

Meanwhile, Brian is trying to adapt to life as a father and husband. ... In a scene that lasts about ten seconds before going back to the Dominic and Letty plot. We are only about ten minutes into the movie and already I'm not liking the pacing and editing. I'm concerned that this due to Paul Walker's untimely death and the film had to be cut around what material they had. I can't ignore the problem, but saying, "The movie doesn't work because the filmmakers needed to workaround the death of one of the stars." seems ghoulish.

Fortunately, we get to some action shortly afterward, as Deckard breaks into DSS to try and find the names of the people who put his brother in the hospital. He is interrupted by Hobbs and the two of them have a massive fight that ends with an explosion. Hobbs and his partner, Elena, are thrown out of the building. Deckard is virtually untouched, because he was behind a table. Like I said, it is a live-action cartoon.

With the information he needs, Deckard goes after the gang. He first sends a bomb to Brian and Mia's place, which goes off during one of the "tender" moments of the movie. (Mia is pregnant, again, but doesn't want to tell Brian, because she knows he's struggling with domestic life.) He kills Han, calls Dom, and then detonates the bomb. After this attack, Dom heads to the hospital to visit with Hobbs and gets the information Hobbs has on Deckard.

Dom goes to Tokyo to bring back Han's body. At the funeral, he notices a car circling and assumes its Deckard and gives chase. He was right. The pair play a game of chicken that results in both cars being totaled. Dom gets out his sledgehammer to finish the fight, but Deckard brought a gun. Fortunately, Mr. Nobody and his team shows up with bigger guns and chases Deckard away.

Mr. Nobody is a leader of a special forces group that has an offer to make to Dom. He wants Dom to rescue Ramsey, a Hacker, from a Jakande, a mercenary / terrorist. Ramsey created something called the God's Eye, which is the ultimate surveillance program. If Dom and his team can get Ramsey and the God's Eye, then he will let them use it to track down and take out Deckard. Given Deckard's ability to remain in the shadows, they really don't have a choice.

At this point, I think we run into spoilers. It's hard to tell, because the plot is only here to give the team a reason to travel to different locations for set pieces, so I really don't think any of the plot details are important enough to be a spoiler. This is both the film's strength and its weakness. The film knows it is a live-action cartoon and doesn't bother with too many deeply emotional scenes. Except for a shaky start, the movie is mostly action scene after action scene. This can get tiring, even if the action scenes are well done, but fortunately, the movie switches gears enough. There's a great hand-to-hand fight scene, a car chase scene, a heist scene, big explosions, gun battles, etc. Plenty of variety and a good flow between the action scenes.

On the other hand, since I didn't care about the plot, any time the action stopped, I really lost interest. It doesn't help that this movie had the same acting problems as the last one, as the two leads are not the best actors and can't handle the dramatic scenes. Most of the rest of the cast are not asked to do much dramatic work, only Michelle Rodriguez and she's one of the better actors in the main cast of the movie. Worse still, when the action in the movie doesn't work, it has nothing to fall back on. Fortunately, there are only a few times this happens, but unfortunately, this includes the final confrontation between Dom and Deckard.

Also, there's not enough Hobbs in the movie. Cut out all of the booty shots and give us more Hobbs.

The real question is... is Furious 7 better than the previous two movies I've reviewed? I don't think it is. It's hard to pinpoint the exact reason for this, but there are two main issues. Firstly, as a live-action cartoon, the film has to up the stakes each installment and they are getting to the point of self-parody. Secondly, no matter how much they try to vary things, car chases become repetitive. I honestly don't know what they can do for Furious 8 that will fix these problems.

The Extras

There are not a lot of extras on the DVD, just four featurettes. They include a standard making of / promotional featurette, another on the stunts, a third on the locations, and finally one on the upcoming ride based on the movie. That's not enough for a first-run release. On the positive side, there are also plenty of Blu-ray exclusives, starting with a 30-minute long featurette with the director, James Wan, talking about the film and the various ways he wanted to combine the previous films' history into one movie. Up next are six minutes of deleted scenes. There are more featurettes on the stunts, the fights, and of course, the cars. The extras end with the music video for "See You Again". Overall, that's a good selection of extras.

There's not much to talk about when it comes to the technical presentation, as it is damn near flawless. The video has high level of details, bright colors, sharp contrast, deep blacks. The audio is even better with an amazing 7.1 surround sound track. There's plenty of activity in the surround sound speakers, including dynamic effects. It's everything you could want.

The Blu-ray costs $20, which is $5 or 33% more than the DVD. This is industry standard for this type of release.

The Verdict

Furious 7 isn't quite as good as Fast Five was, but it is still a hell of an entertaining action film. There are not enough extras on the DVD, but the Blu-ray Combo Pack has enough that it is easily worth picking up.

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Filed under: Video Review, Furious 7, Fast and the Furious, Jordana Brewster, Vin Diesel, Djimon Hounsou, Dwayne Johnson, Sung Kang, Michelle Rodriguez, Kurt Russell, Jason Statham, Paul Walker, James Wan, Luke Evans, Elsa Pataky, Nathalie Emmanuel