Ambushed by unexpected nostalgia(tm): watched the first two movies as they came out (don’t remember if I saw Tokyo Drift or not, which seems about right), and the story seems to have picked up without a nod to the intervening decade. The characters and plot stakes inherited from 2001 feel intimate for a 2010s serial box office juggernaut: a fuel truck heist here, a drug-running sting there, and nary a devastated sci-fi cityscape in sight. (In fact, F&F’s LA looks more like what I expect LA to look like than any other recent movie I’ve watched, by virtue of the fact that it seems to contain the right proportion of non-white people. I am looking at you, Spike Jonze.)
The car action is sleek, of course, structured around agility, reflex, and wit; this wouldn’t require specific remark if I hadn’t watched this right before Captain America: The Winter Soldier, which adopted a demolition derby approach — the way to stop a getaway car is to ram it with another car from the back, then ram it from the front, then ram it from either side. And then shoot it. The latter approach felt intentional, I suspect to serve as a sort of thematic anchor: the character-based action falling on a cyborg continuum between human (agility, reflex, and wit) and machine (raw strength, goal-oriented, goes through obstacles rather than around them).
HUMAN—> Widow -> Batroc -> Falcon -> Crossbones -> Cap -> Winter Soldier —> MACHINE
(As a note to this: Falcon is a more technologically augmented character than Crossbones, but Sam is more human — and his wings behave naturalistically rather than like a fancy jetpack. The Winter Soldier ripping off his wing gave me a full-body wince, even though it didn’t physically damage Sam himself; it felt like watching someone tear the wing off a bird.)