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Metro Canada In Focus: Franchise holds fast to franchise

Screen Shot 2015-03-31 at 4.52.34 PMFurious 7 has already generated its share of column inches from entertainment journalists. The cast has spent the last few weeks doing the junket rounds, talking to everyone with a microphone or a notepad, generating sound bites and stories that have fed newspapers, websites and television shows.

Star Michelle Rodriguez, who plays Letty Ortiz, spoke of getting “pretty crazy” after co-star Paul Walker’s death. “I was pushing myself to feel,” she said by way of explanation of some of her tabloid level behaviour in the last year.

Ludacris, who has played technical expert Tej Parker in four F&F films, told the Today show, “We’re about to make history as the most successful franchise of all time.”

Vin Diesel has talked about naming his daughter after his friend and co-star Walker—“ “There’s no other person that I was thinking about as I was cutting this umbilical cord.”—and made grand pronouncements about the quality of his film.

“Universal is going to have the biggest movie in history with this movie,” Diesel said, likely sounding as though he’s dragging every word through sandpaper. “It will probably win best picture at the Oscars, unless the Oscars don’t want to be relevant ever.”

He’s likely only half wrong. In 2011 he made a similar award season prediction about Fast 5 and while that didn’t pan out, the movie made a fortune, grossing north of six hundred million dollars worldwide.

He’s right to say that the new film will surely put the pedal to the metal and sell a lot of popcorn. Despite so-so reviews the Fast and Furious franchise has an EZ Pass to the box office fast lane, grossing two billion plus dollars since racing into theatres in 2001. “Just because they are for the working class doesn’t mean they’re not great,” Diesel said.

F&F fans enjoy the formula, which can be broken down to essentially this: Swagger interrupted by a snappy one liner, a wild car chase, a fight scene, repeat.

The movies aren’t Kierkegaard, and that’s one of the reasons they haven’t run out of gas yet. Over seven entries they’ve remained loud and proud, lowbrow and unashamed. They’re a wild celebration of muscle cars, muscle shirts and muscle heads. Like an engorged Hot Wheels set, the films are playthings for the directors—there have been 4 over the run of the series—who tow the company line time after time offering up a car crushing stew where sophisticated line readings and nuanced storytelling take a backseat to frenetic editing and in-your-face explosive action. They exist in a world where people only drink Budweiser and bastardizations like Bud Lime don’t exist. That purity of vision is the beauty of the series.

Sure, they change things up from time to time by adding new characters but casting The Rock or Jason Statham isn’t much of a stretch. Both have migrated from the kind of turbo charged action movies that could be considered companion pieces to the F&F films and both have the kind of poly-appeal that makes men want to be them and women want to see them.

Despite the loss of Paul Walker, you can bet Furious 7 won’t be the last movie in the series. As long as the formula works and the money continues to come in fast and furious Diesel and company won’t put these films in the rear view mirror.

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