After the shocking news, it was uncertain how this movie was to be proceeded with. With the help of Paul Walker’s brothers Cody and Caleb standing in for the remaining scenes and some amazing CGI work, they did manage to provide a conciliatory conclusion for Paul Walker and for all his fans. Except for the final scene, I barely noticed the scenes not actually shot with Paul Walker. I also liked the sincere conversations between Brian and Mia dealing with him having a reason to strive to return home safely once and for all.
When I watched this in cinema, I was very emotional and almost tearing up, with the help of See You Again but also the more subtle tone in the lyrics of the (really good) credits song Ride Out: It’s the only way we know to go; Squad up, never roll alone. We gon’ ride out forever, we ride out together.
So in preparation for the 8th installment in the franchise, I rewatched this and I have a slightly weaker impression than in the cinema 2 years ago. Obviously, they up the ante in terms of action so much that I had been wondering how they heck they wanted to step up their level of insanity in the next one before I saw the trailer. For me, the first action sequence was the best one because it felt more rounded than the other ones. I really liked the idea with the cars parachuting out of a plane, especially as the movie starts off joking “Cars don’t fly”. The subsequent chase on the narrow mountain street was very exciting, including some funny lines coming mostly from Tyrese (who excels at being the big-mouthed scaredy-cat and giving a voice to the audience’s thoughts when seeing these crazy ideas) and culminating in the Paul-Walker-jumping-from-the-falling-bus moment.
Meanwhile, after they have freed the hacker they were supposed to rescue from the truck, Dom drives her (played by Nathalie Emmanuel, who most people know as Missandei from Game of Thrones) downhill and obviously/ridiculously survives this. As much as I’m into totally unrealistic over-the-top action, it is moments like this that make me lose the feeling of immersion. Malicious gossip has it that whenever the screenwriters write themselves into a literal dead end, they just drive down (as can be seen with the Abu Dhabi skyscraper scene).
A short note on the overall story: Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) is pissed about our team crippling his brother Owen in FF6 and goes after the whole team after killing Han in Tokyo (Drift).
In terms of action, the finale has some very intriguing action sequences, most memorably the inventive fight scene between Paul Walker and Tony Jaa, whose involvement paid off with this scene alone (and who arguably has not much else to do in this movie). But the drift-switch-thing as well as the final battle between Statham and Diesel were also fun. In general, The Stath was a little bit underused in the movie, even though he impressed in the first scenes of the movies, facing The Rock and leaving behind absolute destruction. Overall, he was a pretty threatening villain because he appeared everywhere our team was, which became slightly ludicrous after a while and was just short of becoming a bad running gag.
Occasionally, the movie showcases its self-referentiality, e.g. when The Rock uses his former wrestling finishing move on Statham or the moment with The Rock’s broken arm or when Dom and Brian just fly from skyscraper to skyscraper – two(!) times.
Which leads us to the points of criticism: The Abu Dhabi sequence felt overly long. It was a nice variation from the usual setting and the action in the skyscraper was really fun (let’s not forget Michelle Rodriguez taking on another MMA fighter in a cool fight, this time it’s Ronda Rousey). However, the subsequent showdown in the storage hall in the middle of nowhere felt weirdly pointless and didn’t offer any interesting ideas. Moreover, the cheesiness of dialogue (particularly coming from Dom, or sometimes also Letty) really stood out in a negative way. Not only does the movie promote beer in a ridiculously aggressive way, it also doesn’t cease to remind us that Letty still doesn’t remember anything. I can understand that they didn’t want to just undo the story thread they created for the previous movie but there has to be a better way than having to listen to Diesel’s obnoxious dialogue.
Generally, the dialogue is able to maintain the franchise quality of mixing sometimes hilarious jokes and bantering with sincerity and a feeling of solidarity within The Family. There’s not much new to say about the characters, except for the cool introduction of Kurt Russell and the maybe cool addition of Nathalie Emmanuel to the cast (depending on whether she gets more to do in the following movies, but Tej and Roman quarreling about her was fun to watch). The director, James Wan, did a great job with his addition to the franchise, most notably introducing a dynamic turning camera during action scenes. He also seems to have an ever bigger interest in female ass than his predecessors, as they were featured very prominently throughout the movie. The soundtracks never fail to provide cool songs and I firmly believe this will never change, being a signature aspect of the franchise.
All things considered, I deem this movie essential viewing for any Paul Walker fan and I would also place it towards the top of the franchise. It’s still one of my favorite movies but in terms of being entertaining, it would be weaker than its predecessor were it not for the emotional layer this movie inevitably had to incorporate.
Because I couldn’t say it any better, I end this review with this Dominic Toretto quote:
I used to say I live my life a quarter mile at a time and I think that’s why we were brothers – because you did too. No matter where you are, whether it’s a quarter mile away or half way across the world, you’ll always be with me. And you’ll always be my brother.
© by Universal Pictures, title image taken from IMDb, the other one taken from the official website