Universal Pictures just landed the mother of all sucker punches at this year's South By South West (SXSW) Film Festival, by gifting a packed crowd an exclusive surprise premiere of the seventh installment of the muscular and unapologetically insane Fast and Furious franchise.
James Wan's Furious 7 was unveiled at 12:07am at the historic Paramount Theatre by the franchise's producer Neal Moritz, with Wan and star Tyrese Gibson also in attendance. Moritz, it seemed, was just as surprised as the audience by Furious 7's inclusion:
I woke up yesterday and I was reading all these great articles about SXSW and I was like, ‘what the f–k? Why is ‘Furious 7′ not there?
Moritz and co went on to plead with the audience to try and restrain themselves from dousing the internet with Furious 7 spoilers, and not to prematurely reveal the closing of the chapter of a certain brother-in-arms.
As we know, Furious franchise star Paul Walker's life was tragically extinguished in a car crash in 2013 whilst Furious 7 was still being filmed. The majority of Walker's scenes were already completed before the accident, but thanks to the help of Walker's younger brothers Cody & Caleb, additional scenes were completed, and Furious 7 could be released and honor the life of a great man.
An emotional Moritz went on to share more beautiful words on the loss of Paul Walker:
He was really the best guy I ever met in my world - in my life. When we decided we were going to continue this movie, we were determined to honor his legacy and our love for him forever.
So Is Furious 7... Y'know... Good?
By the sounds of it, Wan & co managed to honor Paul Walker's legacy with aplomb! Audience members and critics alike set Twitter ablaze with positive buzz for his last ride with Toretto and co:
If you're not in the know, Furious 7 sees the crew under attack from Deckard Shaw, played by Jason 'The Stath' Statham, the supremely pissed off older brother of Owen Shaw (Luke Evans) who was dispatched in Furious 6.
Whilst attempting to evade Shaw's attacks, Toretto & co are tasked with the rescue of hacker Megan Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel - who you may recognize as Game of Thrones' Missandei) for Kurt Russell's Frank Petty, and then later head off to Abu Dhabi to take on another set of villainous villains, this time led by Djimon Hounsou's Jakande. What a cast!
It all sounds a bit complicated, but with the talented James Wan at the helm, we all know the action sequences and plot points will be executed with seamless energy and style.
In a year crammed with eagerly awaited blockbusters, Furious 7 has managed to nestle itself high up on my list with the likes of Age of Ultron and Star Wars Episode 7. How, I hear you ask? Firstly, the sheer love and respect the cast have for each other, you can see the energy pulsating between them. And secondly, the ever escalating madness of the franchise's action sequences. I mean, cars literally fly in this film!
The Furious franchise is a beast out of its natural habitat. An eighties action movie styled escapade that is better suited to roam the nostalgic centers of our brains.
I grew up with Paul Walker's Brian O'Conner tearing up the TV screens of my youth, and would like nothing more than to pay my respects to a wonderful actor, family man and character lost too soon.