I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again. The moment The Fast & The Furious franchise steered into the skid, fully embracing how ridiculous it is, that’s when the movies started getting good.
Think Fast Five and on. Around that time, the narrative of the franchise shifted. It went from being about the issues of a small community to full-on global vigilantism. Sure, it’s kind of cheesy that the group basically is now like if The Justice League or The Avengers didn’t have superpowers and instead saved the world by driving cars really fast and really furious. BUT WHO CARES. It’s so goddamn entertaining. (Also, it’s curious to note that the shift was around the same time The Rock joined the series because, let’s be honest, that dude has the freaking Midas touch for movies. I’m sure we’ll discuss this again when Baywatch comes out.)
More importantly, The Fast & The Furious is the only franchise (currently) that’s inclusive in front of and behind the camera. If you think that doesn’t matter, you’re clearly not paying attention to box office numbers. Representation matters, and the millions of people who flock to these movies prove that. THIS is why this franchise is still relevant beyond its 2001 debut.
So we pick up not too long after Furious 7. Dom (Vin Diesel) and Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) are on their honeymoon in Cuba when Dom is approached by hacker Cipher (Charlize Theron), who blackmails Dom into helping her “hold the world accountable,” thereby turning him against his own team: Letty, Hobbs (The Rock), Roman (Tyrese Gibson), Tej (Ludacris), and Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel). After Dom goes rogue, the team works to stop Cipher and bring Dom home with the help of Furious 7‘s antagonist Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) and secret agents Mr. Nobody (Kurt Russell) and Little Nobody (Scott Eastwood). Of course, they’re not expecting the “family” blackmail surprise that’s keeping Dom in line with Cipher…
Obviously, Brian (Paul Walker) and Mia (Jordana Brewster) aren’t involved this time around, though I’m curious to see how that whole thing will play out down the road. It’s not like they’re not going to keep making these movies, you know? And this is a group that reaaaaally hinges on the whole idea of family. Not to mention, it’s not like they can’t ever see Brian and Mia for a harmless, non-driving, non-shooting barbecue or something, even if they’re going with the “leave them out of this lifestyle” point. Do we think they’ll bring one of Paul Walker’s brothers back? Or perhaps there’s someone else. I got the feeling from this movie that they might be trying to shoehorn Scott Eastwood (Ugh) into Paul Walker’s “bland white guy” role.
I have mild complaints about Fate of the Furious, one being that dumbass title, which sounds way too self-important for a “This is our 8th movie” pun. The biggest issue is that Charlize Theron’s Cipher (God, this movie’s naming conventions) mostly sits behind computers and barks orders at Dom, which, frankly, is a waste of her talents. And poor Nathalie Emmanuel’s Ramsey doesn’t have a thing to do besides be a hacker and a hot woman for Roman and Tej to fight over (Am I the only one who was hoping she’d drop an “I’m a lesbian” on them when they asked her who she’d choose in the end?). Of course, the plot has hilariously flawed jumps to get from Point A to Point B, but fine yeah whatever…it’s still entertaining.
Beyond those issues, this movie is pretty freaking great. It does feel weird without Walker, but the group works without him, too. AND they keep upping the action ante with each movie. Fate of the Furious is putting its money to serious work here. From the prison break sequence with The Rock and Jason Statham showcasing their badass stunt work to the zombie-like automated cars crashing and falling over New York City streets (It was horrifying, actually), there are so many crazy big moments in this movie. And let’s not forget that Helen Mirren, who asked Vin Diesel to be in this franchise, has a cameo!
One last thing…I’m giving Statham the MVP award for this movie. There’s one sequence in particular during the climax (that has major spoilers, so I’m being purposefully vague) that is easily my favorite movie scene so far this year. You’ll know exactly which one when you see it.
Fate of the Furious: B+
Listen to my Fate of the Furious review on “Pat & JT in the Morning” here (at 37:50).