If there’s any franchise that should have stalled, sputtered, or backfired by now, it’s The Fast and the Furious. Yet here we are, Furious 7 has once again proven the franchise with another monster hit, not only hauling in a tremendous $1.5 billion worldwide, but managing to bid farewell to its star and champion, Paul Walker. While we know the franchise is nowhere finished — there are at least two more sequels in the works — it’s amazing to think back to how ludicrous it seemed that they even made 2 Fast 2 Furious. Six sequels later, and there’s clearly no stopping it. And now we can take the action home on Blu-ray in an extended edition, available now from Universal Studios Home Entertainment.
With how much fun it continues to be — with each one eclipsing the last — it shows what a difference a change in director can make. After three sequels, Justin Lin has finally taken the backseat with Universal handing the reigns to James Wan, with stunning results. Filled with breathtaking action sequences and more heart than the series has ever shown, Dominic Toretto’s (Vin Diesel) continual mumbling about family shines through like never before. It may seem like a joke, but the characters have fully come into their own and you really do care about their fates, no matter how death defying the runtime may get.
While the timeline may be messier than worth diving into — and let’s face it, who honestly hasn’t seen this yet? — let’s catch up with our favorite band of misfit drivers. Furious 7 opens with Dom driving Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) out into the desert, back to where it all began: “Race Wars.” After Letty has a bout with PTSD, she decides it’s time for a break to try to find out not just who she once was, but who she is now. Meanwhile, Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) has vowed revenge after they put Owen Shaw (Luke Evans) in the hospital. Deckard starts with killing Han (Sung Kang) and putting special agent Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) in the hospital.
Now, Dom, Brian (Walker), Letty, Mia (Jordana Brewster), Roman (Tyrese Gibson), and Tej (Ludacris), are on the hunt for brilliant hacker Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel), who’s being tracked down for her spyware “God’s Eye.” Lucky for them, Mr. Nobody (Kurt Russell) has shown up to help, offering all the assistance they need as they trot the globe from London and the U.S. to the Caucasus Mountains and Abu Dhabi.
Universal cruises Furious 7 onto Blu-ray with a spectacular presentation. I remember the film appearing a tad washed out and even a smidge out of focus theatrically, but fear not, this is a top notch effort. Detail is unwavering aside from a few obviously directorial choices, but the image never faults. Colors are natural, with contrast never running too hot nor aiming for the steelblue effect so common in modern action. And having been filmed digitally, there’s never any crush or aliasing. In fact, detail delineation is actually rather revealing, especially in some of the darkest scenes whether in a cemetery at night or the inside of an airplane hangar.
There is one instance of banding toward the end of the film, which is absolutely no reason to knock the score. This is five seconds shy of perfection. Also running just about perfect is the audio with a home theater rocking 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track that could only be better had it been a Dolby Atmos mix. As it stands, one of the year’s best action films gets one of the best home audio experiences of the year. Whether it’s shattering glass, squealing tires, gunfights, knock-down dragout fights, or simply a quiet scene of dialogue, there’s no denying the audio precision on hand. Even the music reverberates from speaker to speaker putting you in the middle of the action with LFE ready to blow off whatever you have hanging on your walls. Additional audio tracks include Spanish and French DTS 5.1 with English SDH, French, and Spanish subtitles.
Some may find the special features lacking, but considering what we do get, they’re still commendable. Most people don’t listen to audio commentaries, but here, James Wan and Universal offer up the perfect anecdote with a visual cliff notes edition: “Talking Fast” (31:47). Breaking down key scenes throughout the runtime, rather than being forced to sit down and dissect every frame, Wan treats viewers to a true Fast and Furious version that’s a lot of fun to watch. Wan comes off as extremely excited to be part of the franchise and oozes charm and knowledge. Some may be disappointed that he never dives into exactly how they finished the film without Walker, but I think they wanted to keep the memory thriving. Honestly, the magic of Hollywood works fantastic in the end and it would be very jarring if you knew every single shot he wasn’t actually in.
The rest of the special features are rather self explanatory: “Deleted Scenes” include “Letty at Clinic” (2:09), “Ramsey/Dom” (2:15), “Dressed Up” (0:57), and “Letty Call from Nurse” (0:38) offer up a decent look into the Letty/amnesia storyline, but aside from that, it’s all wisely excised, even if extremely trim. “Back to the Starting Line” (12:11) takes a step back with the cast and crew discussing how the series has evolved. A few of the more fun parts include hearing Emmanuel admit to not knowing how to drive and seeing Wan wearing a Hogwarts shirt. It’s also very moving to hear the cast talk about Walker’s love for the series, how he pushed to keep it going, and how much everyone misses him.
“Flying Cars” (5:42) is a great piece showing us how they really dropped cars out of an airplane with the Red Bull Jump Team following suit to film. “Snatch and Grab” (7:31) looks at the Caucasus chase and provides lots of laughs for a Salt Lake City, Utah boy listening to the cast and crew complain about the elevation, or their excitement over having a snow day. “Tower Jumps” (6:53) breaks down how they used real stunts to complete the effect of Brian and Dom driving a car through multiple buildings. “Inside the Fight” shows us four key sequences: “Hobbs vs. Shaw” (3:15), “Girl Fight” (3:20), “Dom vs. Shaw” (2:52), and “Tej Takes Action” (1:36). It’s nice to see how involved Ronda Rousey was in her fight against Rodriguez and fun to hear “The Rock” talk about how refreshing it was to fight Statham.
“The Cars of Furious” (10:42) is a really long piece showing off the cars used in the movie. “Race Wars” (6:34) takes us back to the beginning to remind us where it all began. “See You Again – Official Music Video” (4:05) is the earworm we’ve been stuck with for months by Wiz Khalifa and Charlie Puth. And finally, “Making of Fast & Furious Supercharged Ride” (8:15) is a rather uninspired look at the new Universal Studios Hollywood attraction. It would have been nice to see at least a peak of how what is shown will be used. Having just visited the Orlando park, it never once managed to spark my interest in running to Los Angeles to hitch a ride on what’s sure to be a breakneck thrill ride.
Furious 7 is never going to win any awards and it never, ever, pretends like it’s trying to. Writer Chris Morgan knows what to give the fans and his ability to keep the franchise running as long as he has — he’s written all but the first two — is a statement to his loyalty to the characters. Lots of cars may crash and burn and plenty of knock down drag out fights are endured, but there’s obviously no stopping Universal’s cash cow. Sadly, the franchise seemed to finally find its footing just as it lost its star. Thankfully, it’s fully developed into an ensemble series with plenty of “family” to keep the engine revving for years to come. Featuring a 99 percent perfect picture and blow you out of your seat audio, it’s no doubt that you’ve probably already picked up a copy, but at least no one will be left disappointed with Furious 7 being the best film of the franchise so far.[amazon template=iframe image&asin=B00HLTD92E]