The passing of Paul Walker on Nov. 30 cast a grim shadow over his film work, especially the “Fast & Furious” movies for which he was most famous.
Long before he died as a passenger in a fiery auto accident, the sixth movie in the series was set for release on DVD and Blu-ray this week. That release still happened, although the studio, Universal, has said an unspecified portion of the proceeds will go to Reach Out WorldWide, the charity Walker helped start.
Those revenues should be sizable considering the success of the film series. “Fast & Furious 6” took in close to $800 million worldwide in theaters, bringing the total for the franchise to more than $2.3 billion. The sixth film – which has a host of returning characters in pursuit of an international criminal (Luke Evans) – was so certain of success that its final scenes teased the seventh film.
That was in production when Walker died, and work has been postponed while all involved deal with his loss and consider how to address it in the movie. The Blu-ray of “6” includes a “first look” scene from the seventh film following up on the death of a character at the end of “6”; it does provide a possible setup for O’Conner’s passing in the next movie, but it’s still chilling to see Walker talking about funerals.
The films were more than Walker, of course. Vin Diesel also became a huge star thanks to the franchise, and the cast overall was a diverse mix of performers. There were also the incredible stunts – including ones involving cars and a cargo plane, and a tank chase in what is clearly a nothing’s-too-crazy approach to action. And the glorious excess of the stunts made the more ridiculous aspects of the plot forgivable.
But watching it again in the wake of Walker’s death is not easy. The car chases now have a grim resonance; as I said when the movie was in theaters, the action sequences are so enormous and explosive that it’s astounding when characters walk away from them with so little damage.
And Walker’s character, Brian O’Conner, had given the series one of its main emotional arcs as he evolved from an undercover cop to a family man, both as a father and as a part of a crook-chasing team. The least successful movie in the series is the third, which is also the one that Walker skipped (and Diesel had only a cameo). He is so key to the series that Walker’s passing demands a strong farewell for O’Conner.
But if you can put aside all that, “Fast & Furious 6” is exciting and fun, pure escapism of the loud and lively kind. The Blu-ray release includes an “extended edition,” although it is by no means clear what that means; the running time is almost exactly the same as for the theatrical version. (Universal similarly proclaimed an “extended edition” of “Fast Five” that ran only a minute longer than the original version.)
Extras include deleted scenes, a making-of segment, a brief look at Diesel on the set and commentary by director Justin Lin. Besides the seventh-movie teaser, the Blu-ray adds other making-of featurettes.