Read the conclusion of our film critic's examination of the martial arts in the latest installment in the Furious franchise.
In the first part of my Furious 7 blog, I noted that action-based movie franchises that feature martial arts have a tendency to act like the month of March: Enter like a lion and exit like a lamb. In other words, each sequel usually has fewer and fewer fight scenes, with the Taken and Bourne films being prime examples. However, since the release of Furious 5, this franchise has made fantastic fights and awesome automotive duels a staple. The formula seems to be working — Furious 7 became the fastest film in history to earn $1 billion globally. Photo by Scott Garfield/Courtesy of Universal Pictures For those who came in late, in Furious 7, villain Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) seeks revenge against Dominic Torretto (Vin Diesel) and his family, along with CIA agent Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson), for what they did to his brother in Fast & Furious 6. An explosive early scene in the latest movie pits Hobbs against Shaw — two military-trained he-men overflowing with self-confidence — in an all-out test of strength, technique and mental acuity. Being athletic and in possession of profound pugilistic skills, Johnson and Statham were committed to perfection during the filming. "When it comes to fighting action, Jason brings authenticity to this franchise,” Johnson said. “He’s a pretty tough guy, and he’s legit. He's all about wanting to make every scene incredible, and with the action sequence put together, I was happy. It’s Jason showcasing his well-versed martial arts and me inflicting Hobbs’ very straightforward, hard-core way of fighting." Photo Courtesy of Universal Pictures One of the most challenging fights in Furious 7 is set inside a speeding, out-of-control bus. It features Paul Walker and Tony Jaa — a tricky task for Jaa because running, jumping and flipping are integral parts of his style. On the subject, fight choreographer Jeff Imada shared the following: "My goal was to utilize the tight confines and give audiences a feeling of great action and have Tony show off his signature moves. It was nice to use traditional techniques but to also allow improvising while incorporating their precarious environment.”
Download a free guide titled “Jim Kelly: Martial Artist and Co-Star of the Bruce Lee Movie Enter the Dragon — A Vintage Interview.” Just click here to get started!In Furious 6, Michelle Rodriquez (Letty) takes on MMA standout Gina Carano, and in Furious 7, Rodriquez mixes it up with reigning UFC champ Ronda Rousey. To ensure the two fights looked different, Rousey fought in high heels while wearing alluring attire. Imada managed to keep the choreography fast-paced with constant and relentless movement from both combatants. Photo by Scott Garfield/Courtesy of Universal Pictures Then there's the Dom-vs.-Shaw street fight that accelerates from zero to full throttle in seconds. In it, Dom's visceral emotional power is propelled by the desire to protect his family, and he rages against the stone-cold assassin out for revenge. Diesel, a fan of Shaw Brothers kung fu flicks, stepped up his training and worked out with Jaa during his downtime to ensure the sequence was as ferocious as it was sinuous.
“Billy Jack Flashback: How Tom Laughlin and Hapkido Techniques Master Bong Soo Han Made a Martial Arts Cult Classic” — download this free guide today!Statham remarked, “Furious 7 is full of testosterone, and the best way to show it is to get down and dirty with bare knuckles — that’s the way Shaw and Torretto wanted to do it.” But what really ensures that all the fights work and blend with the over-the-top, high-octane automotive stunts is the way all the action was filmed using a “shaky camera.” Normally, that’s not something that appeals to martial artists, but in Furious 7, each shot was held long enough to prevent the fight sequences from devolving into the kind of visuals seen in music videos. Photo Courtesy of Universal Pictures Note: In my Furious 7 write-up, I didn’t dwell on the fact that co-star Paul Walker died during production. By now, most of the world knows about his death. However, it’s worth mentioning the fatal car crash occurred while the vehicle was doing 93 mph on a stretch of road in Valencia, California, that was signed for 45 mph. Life is not an action film — please drive responsibly. Read Part 1 of this review here. Go here to order Dr. Craig D. Reid’s book The Ultimate Guide to Martial Arts Movies of the 1970s: 500+ Films Loaded With Action, Weapons and Warriors.