Life, Death and Furious 7

The latest installment of the Fast and Furious franchise has more than a little heart to it.

By Robert Moeller Published on April 10, 2015

The untimely passing of actor Paul Walker in a car accident in November of 2013 undeniably struck a cultural nerve.

Perhaps it was his good looks. Americans can be vain.

Maybe it was the fact that he was only 40 years old when he passed. Americans are obsessed with staying and feeling young.

Was it the loss of one of the main characters in the beloved, billion-dollar Fast and Furious movie franchise that caused so many people — myself included — to pause and say a little prayer for the Walker family when news broke about his demise? Because Americans do tend to place pop-culture icons far too high on their list of priorities.

I suppose some combination of these (and other) explanations are valid in clarifying the emotional response millions of people had to Paul Walker’s death. But what I can tell you with a great deal of certainty is that the anticipation among people my age (35 and under) for the release of Furious 7 — and how the filmmakers would handle his character (Brian O’Connor) given that Walker died before the movie had finished shooting — has been palpable for over a year.

This past weekend, fans finally got their answer as Furious 7 opened to the tune of $500 million worldwide in its first week alone (and an impressive 82% over at Rotten Tomatoes).

The movie is exactly what you might imagine it is: Cars falling from the sky via parachutes. Drag-racing in the dessert. The character who is really good at gadgets and one-liners. Fight scenes that go on far too long. Vin Diesel mumbling and grunting lines about family, honor and payback. Characters with amnesia who unfortunately didn’t forget their bad habits of over-acting. The Rock doing top-secret paperwork for the government in a tank top.

In other words: everything you could ever want and hope for in a block-buster action flick. I absolutely loved Furious 7. And there’s no punch-line coming. This was a fun, entertaining movie.

The film is rated PG-13 for language and violence. Also, in typical Hollywood fashion, they had to sneak in a few bikini-clad dames along the way just so we wouldn’t forget that the entertainment industry is slave to what marketing teams assume every 14-year-old boy wants to see.

But there is real heart to Furious 7. There are positive messages throughout about loyalty, friendship and the importance of family. My previous crack about a character with amnesia has a touching twist to it in the end. There are evil people trying to do evil things, and there are good guys who are willing to risk everything to see that evil defeated.

Most notably, and without giving anything away, the handling of Paul Walker’s off-screen death was pitch-perfect up on the silver screen. You could hear a pin drop in the movie theater as the final moments of the film unfolded (followed by more than a few gentle sobs as folks teared-up as the credits rolled).

Instead of running from the uncomfortable reality of the mortality that faces us all that Walker’s passing brought to the forefront of a lot of people’s minds, instead of denying or downplaying the Christian faith that Paul Walker reportedly had, the director of Furious 7 provided an ending that celebrated a man’s life who entertained millions over the course of his 20-year career and paid tribute to his religious convictions.

It was powerful. And it was worth the wait.

 

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