The box-office numbers for Furious 7 indicate it's not disappointing the public, but how does the latest film in the franchise stack up when it comes to action and martial arts?

Martial arts-rich TV shows are a lot like a Fourth of July fireworks display done in reverse. The crescendo of explosive action usually comes at the beginning. It’s followed by the constant rhythm of ground and air displays, then ends in a way that often exemplifies Macbeth’s soliloquy: "Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player, that struts and frets his hour upon the stage, and then is heard no more." Sadly, this plight also afflicts film franchises. The Taken and Bourne movies are good examples. In each installment, audiences were treated to fewer and fewer fights. (Photo by Scott Garfield/Courtesy of Universal Pictures) And then there’s Furious 7, the latest entry in a series that started in 2001 with a flute of champagne called The Fast and the Furious. With the release of Fast Five in 2011, the franchise increased in potency even more. Thanks in part to nonstop martial arts action, it’s now a veritable 100-proof bottle of Scotch with a Corona chaser. (Photo by Scott Garfield/Courtesy of Universal Pictures) The fight-fermentation process took off with the addition of Dwayne Johnson as CIA agent Luke Hobbs in Fast Five. His job was to track down and capture Dominic Torretto (Vin Diesel). Since that flick, which boasted more over-the-top car chases and featured the wicked WWE/MMA/LA-street-brawl Dom-vs.-Hobbs matchup, hand-to-hand combat and wacky automotive duels have become a staple.


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Fast & Furious 6 (2013) upped the martial arts ante as it pitted Han (Sung Kang) and Roman (Tyrese Gibson) against Jah (Indonesian martial artist Joe Taslim), a killer for the ruthless Shaw. Unfortunately, the fight didn't look particularly good, mostly because Kang and Gibson's combat skills lacked timing and sharpness. (Photo Courtesy of Universal Pictures) The standout bout in Fast & Furious 6 was Letty’s (Michelle Rodriquez) fight-or-die encounter with the military-trained Riley, played with laser-focused intensity by mixed-martial arts-fighter-turned-actress Gina Carano. With the addition of a ferocious free-for-all inside a cargo plane, the film intensified fan expectations for what would come next. In its first 10 days, Furious 7 earned $252.5 million (domestic), which surpassed Furious 6's 15-week American run of $238.6 million. Furious 7 already has raked in $1.1 billion at the international box office. It's fair to say the sequel hasn’t disappointed fans.

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For Furious 7, director James Wan looked to veteran fight choreographer Jeff Imada and stunt coordinator Joel Kramer to design and execute multiple action scenes, which included a whopping six fight sequences with the Furious 6 ensemble. It also featured three seasoned fighters, each a legitimate martial artist: Tony Jaa, Ronda Rousey and Jason Statham. Wan, an avowed action-film buff, had specific parameters for how he wanted to illustrate the action. His goal was to create inspiring ways to capture the fast-moving action at every angle and keep the stunts and fights within the realm of the Fast milieu. (Photo by Alex J. Berliner/Courtesy of Universal Pictures) "I wanted to shoot fight action where we let the actors do their thing without cutting it up too much and just let my camera hold on them,” Wan said. “I'm a big fan of pyrotechnics in my camerawork, so I also wanted to bring some of that aesthetic that I’ve applied in suspense thrillers into big action sequences and fuse the styles.” How good are the fights in Furious 7? Did the filmmakers take advantage of the martial arts talent they had in Jaa, Rousey and Statham? Tune in next week. Update! Part 2 of this review has been posted. Click here to read it. 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.
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