Director: James Wan
Cast: Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Michelle Rodriguez, Dwayne Johnson, Jason Statham, Ludacris, Tyrese Gibson, Nathalie Emmanuel, Djimon Hounsou, Jordana Brewster, Kurt Russell, Tony Jaa
Plot: Deckard Shaw, the older brother of Owen Shaw, seeks revenge against Dom Toretto and his crew after the events of the previous film. To get to him first, Dom and his team agree to carry out a mission for the CIA where they attempt to rescue a hacker whose latest invention may help them find Shaw wherever he may be.
Review: The Fast & Furious series has never been about high level acting or award winning scripts. It's always been about fast cars, daredevil stunts and great action. The last few instalments have focused on the theme of family, which is even more emphasized here, not just on screen but also off it, due to the untimely passing of Paul Walker.
As mentioned, it's about family. Deckard Shaw wants revenge for what happened to his brother in Furious 6, so he starts hunting Dom and his crew, killing Han to kick things off. With Agent Hobbs injured after a confrontation with Shaw, Dom is offered an assist from a shady CIA agent who offers his help to find Shaw, in exchange for rescuing a hacker who has invented a program that can find anyone in the world. In between, Dom tries to reconnect with the amnesiac Letty and Brian tries to cope with fatherhood, which is interrupted by Shaw's presence.
James Wan definitely had a herculean task before him, to not only keep the momentum of the franchise going, but to make a film without Walker after his death. Using some camera tricks and Paul's brothers as stand-ins for certain scenes, Wan and company pull it off very well. His absence ends up being barely noticeable, though you can sense it quite strongly in the film's closing.
Lest we forget, the film is about stunts, action and cars, and in this area Wan succeeds for the most part. These films tend to outdo themselves every time and it's no exception here. We have cars jumping out of planes, cars jumping from one skyscraper to the next, fist fights and explosions, though the best one in my book is a highway sequence involving Dom's crew and a heavily armored bus. Some of these sequences defy logic immensely, but you'll be having so much fun it won't matter.
The team of Walker, Vin Diesel, Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese Gibson, Jordana Brewster and Ludacris have been together for a pretty long time, so their great camaraderie translates well on screen. They genuinely look like a real family, and it pays dividends for the film. They spend a bit more time on Dom and Letty this time around as the two try to get back their relationship, but it feels real enough to make the audience believe it. Dwayne Johnson on the other hand spends much less time here as Hobbs, paving the way for the newer cast members such as Kurt Russell as the CIA man (great choice), Nathalie Emmanuel as the hacker and Djimon Hounsou as the man the team is assigned to stop. Even the great Tony Jaa has a role here as Hounsou's right hand man. Oh, and Jason Statham of course, who is probably the best guy to pit against Diesel in an action film, being known as The Transporter prior to this. It's a dream pairing.
However, Wan, like many directors before him, hasn't mastered the art of filming action sequences smoothly. Some sequences end up looking too dark or shaky, especially the fist fights. The film's climax, which takes place at night, suffers from this as well, which is a minor shame, considering all the stuff that came before it. But Wan and company make up for it by firing on all cylinders and as a result, it's never boring despite running 137 minutes.
Overall, this is a more than solid entry to the Fast & Furious franchise, which has a bittersweet sendoff for the late Paul Walker. I have to hand it to Wan and the cast for giving us that ending. He'll be sorely missed. (4/5)