F9 ★★★★★

This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

This review may contain spoilers.

"Hit the petal to the floor and pray"

F9 is the greatest movie in the series for several reasons. One of them is the scene where Hellen Mirren whips a Lamborghini into a police car. Another is the much spoken about "empty seat at the table": Paul Walker. Back in the day, Walker's Brian was the protagonist of the series, the beating heart, and entry-point to this strange world. More recently, his screen-time has been dramatically reduced to only scenes from the previous films and new CGI doubles. His face isn't even present in F9, yet he still exists as the central force for me. Paul Walker haunts these films- he is the empty seat at the table at Dom's house. The invisible passenger in the back-seat. The spectre always hinted at, but never fully explored. I think his absence, and the collective grief of both the crew, and the characters has reinforced these films's M.O. a lot. The most ultra-maximalist, no-nonsense Garden-Of-Earthly-Delights-style extravaganza about family, collectiveness, forgiveness and a second chance.

(I love how kind and gentle these films are, never discarding the villains, but always rehabilitating them and forgiving them. It's heartwarming to me when they are given second chances, and allowed to break bread with the protagonists.)

Many of these films have had their own agendas. The first two seem dedicated to duo-style camaraderie. Tokyo Drift explores the euphoric peace found within the explosive adrenaline bursts of racing. Fast and Furious 4 exists. Fast Five pondered an unprecedented coming-together that would continue to become the series's focal point. This fully blossoms with F9, but there's more. Lin has returned to the series with an added focus on completely one-upping the franchise with visceral, Keaton-ian, completely bonkers spectacle.

Um... they go to space. And not in a station or rocket- in a fucking muscle car. The days of ogling at bank-vaults being dragged through Rio are kind of over.

F9 is so sugary and liberal with its sincere melodrama and ridiculous action, it makes me wonder why I bother with any other series at all. Everything is right here- the kindness and gentle love for human-beings, balanced with the childlike will to explode things and watch Vin Diesel head-butt a dude. A perfect film.

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