Like the cast, the Fast & Furious franchise has had its ups and downs over the years, but it has survived and since Fast Five it has thrived and really found its feet. The trailers are a great example. For 5, 6 and this latest instalment they give away almost all the best bits yet you still want to go see the film.
There’s a sort of warped magic in that.
This latest offering has a tenderness running throughout (if you look hard enough) because one of its leads, Paul Walker, died during filming, in a car crash no less (although he wasn’t the driver).
Continuing the story where the gang rough up a chap from London (Luke Evans) in the last one, this tale more or less starts with his angry brother Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) vowing revenge. And so we have a new nemesis for Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) to deal with. He tries to do it alone, as is his way, but soon needs help, which comes in the form of an enigmatic and shady U.S. Government operative (Kurt Russell, great to see him back).
Beyond the setup you pretty much know what you’re getting; girls in fast cars, strong and silent guys in and out of fast cars (mostly Vin Diesel), girls in bikinis, guns, explosions, fist fights, more girls. You get the idea. These films are everything the Expendables franchise wishes it was but can’t quite manage to be.
Key to their appeal isn’t just the eye candy, if it was it would have sunk long ago. It’s the notion of family. Led by Toretto this theme echoes throughout. Whatever the crew do, they look out for each other, they’re a tight unit and they really care. It’s tragically brought into focus by the fact that, in the real world, you get the sense they were too, making the loss of Paul Walker all the more hard to take. In that respect the filmmakers do a commendable job in the film’s final minutes, giving him a touching, well handled and thoroughly heartfelt send-off.
But before you think this film may no longer be that fast or that furious given the things I’ve mentioned, there’s no need to worry. Each instalment dials it up another notch and it’s no different here. Agent Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) is back and, whilst he doesn’t have that many scenes, he has some cracking, almost Arnie level lines and moments. Statham brings a great sense of menace and new threat for Toretto to deal with, to the point where one of their fight scenes on a rooftop car park wouldn’t feel out of place in a superhero movie.
There’s also a nice addition in the form of ace hacker Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel aka Missandei of Game of Thrones) to slightly balance out the testosterone levels, but not by much as she spends most of her time being rescued or chased.
So, as far as popcorn movies go, you can’t go too far wrong. It almost feels like the perfect time to end the franchise, not that they will given the money it makes, but it seems right to do so.
And on that note, one final thought. RIP Paul Walker, you will be missed.