Photo courtesy of Universal Pictures
It’s that time again to rev up those engines, put the stick into overdrive, and suspend all your disbelief. That’s correct, it’s about time for a record breaking eighth installment in one of the most ridiculous franchises in action cinema history. As if making seven movies wasn’t enough, “The Fate Of The Furious” comes on the heels of the tragic passing of Paul Walker three years ago (his character “Brian” is referenced off screen, but never seen) - and a new tricked out story that, surprisingly, keeps things on edge and helps burst fuel into this never ending saga of family, cars, and brotherhood.
What amazes me the most about these films is their ability to find new and interesting stunts to do with some of the most gorgeous cars on the planet. Dating back to circa 2001,when “The Fast and The Furious” was nothing but a star vehicle for Vin Diesel and Paul Walker, where, back then all that mattered was street racing, babes, and cool cars. And watching the evolution from then to now, is extremely satisfying. Because, the overall message of family is one that shines through, and after eight films - it’s one thing that’s never forgotten, and so the franchise has my respect.
But the bond of family is one that’s tested here, and longtime writer Chris Morgan finally puts our squad in uncharted territory by asking the question “What would you do if one of your own turned on you?” Franchise stud Dom Toretto (Diesel) returns behind the wheel, where he is living a peaceful life away from crime with Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) in Cuba. Although, that still doesn’t stop him from turning down a friendly street race - if there is anything this franchise does best, it’s having a stellar opening sequence that has to outdo the previous one. I won’t spoil the fun, but the term “believability” gets stretched to new lengths.
Of course, this quiet life can only last so long. And keeping in tune with the recent onslaught of big named baddies, Charlize Theron makes her ‘Furious’ debut as Cipher, a hacker extraordinaire that has eyes on a massive prize. We don’t know much about her at first, other then she has some type of pull on Dom, and she forces his hand. “Your team is going to face their biggest threat yet. You” she tells him.
That’s probably the most realistic statement this franchise has ever seen.
The entire band of misfits are back in full swing; Roman (Tyrese Gibson), Tej (Ludacris), Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel), and of course Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) and even Deckard (Jason Statham) are along for the ride. It doesn’t take long, but after the gang steals one of the world's deadliest weapons, (an EMP that can start World War 3), the person they trust most turns their back on them. And with the help of franchise newbie Mr. Nobody (Kurt Russell) and his sidekick (Scott Eastwood) the crew is going to figure out why. Even if that means racing through the streets of New York City or chasing down a submarine (yes, you heard that correctly) on the icy plains of the arctic Barents sea.
It’s an easy sell for audiences, because after eight films you either buy the crap or you sit in it. The reason I have so much respect for these films, is because they don’t try to exploit themselves. Which is more than I can say for most franchises that start to stall and don’t know when to quit (looking at you “Transformers”). The best part of “The Fate Of The Furious,” however, is not necessarily the cars, but the brawn. Specifically from Statham and Johnson who bicker like an old married couple. There is a scene, about midway, where the two insight a prison riot and attempt to escape. The result is a no holds bar, white knuckle beatdown that delivers on all the glory that it should offer.
Director F. Gary Gray (hot off the success of “Straight Outta Compton”) infuses his own flare into the film. Although, with as fast as the movie moves, it’s always hard to tell their is a different director behind the scenes. And while Morgan is a solid writer when it come to stylized escapades (I’ll never forget the ending of “Fast Five”) - his biggest flaw is not being able to write smarter dialogue. Sometimes it works, often times it’s hard to listen too.
Alas, we don’t come to see these movies for the writing do we? And with those merits in place nothing should stop the masses from purchasing a ticket. Rest assured, the ending of this film ensures longevity for the next 20 years of the franchise, and I can only imagine how the next installment is going to build off this one. The sky is never the limit for this series. B