REVIEW — “The Fate of the Furious”
The Fate of the Furious is f—king absurd.
The Fast and the Furious series began with a NOS’d up Point Break remake — the 2001 original was about an undercover buster infiltrating a gang of LA street racers ripping off truckloads of DVD players, if you’ll remember — and now, eight movies in, it’s about an elite super team of drivers/fighters/superheroes who, as stated by Mr. Macho Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson), have to “save the whole damn world.”
This high-speed saga embraces every bit of its implausibility and its over-the-top-ness more and more with each passing installment since Fast Five, which carved out a new direction for the franchise — a broader, more crowd-pleasing one — and I couldn’t possibly enjoy it any more than I already do. The Fast and the Furious is now a franchise where tanks, zombie vehicles, jetpacks, cars equipped with grappling hooks, and the Rock-redirecting-a-missile-with-his-bare-hands are all passed off without so much as a blink. And it’s really, really fun.
The Fate of the Furious is f—king absurd, and it never lets up on the gas from the minute Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) and wifey Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) have their idyllic Cuban honeymoon interrupted by scary tech wizard Cipher (Charlize Theron). The hacking genius seemingly seduces Dom to the Dark Side, turning him against his familia — not only the center of Dom’s universe, but the franchise as a whole — leaving Mr. Nobody (an underused Kurt Russell) no option but to enlist Hobbs, Letty, tech guru Tej (Chris ‘Ludacris’ Bridges), mouthy Roman (Tyrese Gibson), other tech guru Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel) and past enemy Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) to take down the gone rogue Toretto.
You can’t say F8 doesn’t feel fresh: pitting Dom against his beloved family was certainly unexpected, and what’s better, the reason behind it — too much of a surprise to spoil here — is not only a hell of a twist, it’s a perfect (and plausible) explanation for Dom’s apparent turn to villainy. It’s the only explanation that audiences would both accept and not see coming. Thankfully, Diesel’s Toretto doesn’t experience any character assassination, lending F8 not only a different angle, but more of a dramatic heft to its central plot than past installments. (That said, the drama is never given the chance to get melodramatic; F8, above all else, is an action movie and it knows it.)
Director F. Gary Gray’s (The Italian Job, Straight Outta Compton) first entry into the franchise, eight movies in, is among the series’ best — making for the best Fast and the Furious movie since Fast Five, still the shining jewel of the saga. The action is as impressive as it is exaggerated, with each action set piece as exciting as it is fun. Johnson and Statham kicking ass in a prison break, Cipher weaponizing the cars of the streets of New York (making for the vehicular version of the stampede from The Lion King), a certain character becoming a one-man-army on a plane — a sequence too funny and charming to be spoiled here — and the go-all-out insaneness of the climax set in icy, separatist Russia make for the biggest Fast movie yet (until its sequel, arriving in April 2019, inevitably outdoes it).
You can’t help but feel that the Fast franchise feels obligated to go even bigger with each passing installment, dwarfing its predecessor, but The Fate of the Furious almost makes you think they’re at risk of getting too big for their britches: without giving too much away, the MacGuffin this time around involves a nuclear football and the crew, in their own words, are tasked with preventing World War 3.
I’m not suggesting the series regress to street racing and jacking Panasonic TV/VCR combos — I’ve been fully on board with the franchise going in its broader direction ever since Fast Five changed up with a heist movie, giving way to the adrenaline-fueled craziness we’ve come to expect with the past three movies — but do we really want to see Dom and the gang revving it up in the far reaches of deep space? Hell, maybe we do. The Fate of the Furious knows what it is, and as a longtime fan, I loved every minute of this earnest sumbitch.
Fast, fun, funny, and entertaining as hell — with its heart firmly in the right place, as always — The Fate of the Furious is a big blockbuster and crowd-pleaser sure to satisfy anyone along for the ride. Starring Vin Diesel, Dwayne Johnson, Charlize Theron, Jason Statham, Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese Gibson, Chris ‘Ludacris’ Bridges, Nathalie Emmanuel, Elsa Pataky, Scott Eastwood, Helen Mirren and Kurt Russell, The Fate of the Furious opens Friday.
The Fate of the Furious: 4/5
★★★★ / ★ ★ ★ ★ ★