Since 2001, the Fast & Furious franchise has been a reliable mixture of fast cars, strong brotherhood, and insane action. That said, since the fifth installment – the appropriately titled Fast Five – the movie has taken a hard pivot from the worlds of racing and street-level crime to James Bond-esq international intrigue and Avengers-like super heroics.
Furious 7 closed a chapter, with the real-life passing of prominent co-star Paul Walker (and his character Brian being given a proper send-off) and now, the shift to massive blockbuster entertainment is complete with the ridiculous and insane The Fate of the Furious.
Starting in Cuba, the story picks up with Dom (Vin Diesel) and Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) finally living out their long awaited honeymoon. One thrilling street racing set piece later – where Dom has to race to save the neck of his cousin, because family – Dom finds himself confronted by dreadlocked hacker Cipher (Charlize Theron). Cipher has something important on Dom. What exactly? We, the audience, aren’t sure, but it’s enough for Cipher to make Dom turn against his wife, and his entire makeshift family.
That’s right, harkening back to the original The Fast & The Furious, Dom is the big bad in this one, and they’re pulling out all the stops.
Our team of racing/hacking/stealing/good doing heroes is back together, including Roman (Tyrese Gibson), hacker Tej (Ludacris), super agent Hobbs (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson), and Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel).
They’re of course backed by the enigmatic Mr. Nobody (Kurt Russell), returning from Furious 7…albeit now supported by a weird, dull young agent played by Scott Eastwood, Hollywood’s latest attempt to make fetch happen.
The twist? To take down Dom, they now need to work with Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham), the big bad of the last film – someone outside of the family, leading to all sorts of tension and mistrust.
For fans of the franchise, this is the silly melodrama we’ve come to love, the twists and turns of a soap opera, but kept afloat by incredible action.
Thankfully, the action holds true to the Fast & Furious legacy, with no less than 4 major set-pieces, including the aforementioned Cuba race, an incredible “zombie cars” sequence, an unforgettable action sequence with Jason Statham on a plane, and a stunning finale involving ice and a goddamned nuclear submarine. While we’ve got a proper G.I. Joe in the cast, this is seriously the closest Hollywood has come to a full-on M.A.S.K. film, and it’s an absolute blast.
The bar has been raised high for the on-screen chaos, but what keeps the movie from reaching the heights of prior installments is the lack of growth for the whole cast of characters.
In this day and age of cinematic universes, there seems to be a focus on giving all of the characters a moment to shine and a reason to be involved – the story here, while providing some beautiful action, executed wonderfully by director F. Gary Gray, seems to leave me wanting for new plot lines for anyone not named Dom, Hobbs or Shaw. Scott Eastwood’s addition is an absolute zero, shy of giving Roman someone to dunk on (extra points if you can remember the character’s name), but the biggest missed opportunity is Charlize Theron’s Cipher.
The Fast & Furious franchise has had villains which, while not necessarily memorable, have been if anything, threatening. The idea of Furiosa appearing in a Fast movie seems like an obvious layup, but instead, she’s mostly left to yelling at people to hack things faster. Sure, on paper, her achievements are greater than any other villain within the franchise, but there definitely seems to be something missed here.
Any way you slice it, even with these issues, The Fate of the Furious is a great time, especially for long-time fans. There are countless callbacks to the history of the franchise, and the stunts rarely let up. Check your brain at the door, strap in, see this movie big and loud, and get ready for a blast.
If you dig the franchise already – you’re going to love every minute of it. For the newbies…maybe watch 5-7 first.
The Fate of the Furious is in theaters now.