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DISCLAIMER: the review is based on the British release which has been cut slightly due to violence
One day, the unrelenting stupidity of The Fast and the Furious franchise will no longer be endearing. One day, the extremely melodramatic soap opera plots will get tiresome. One day, the ridiculously overblown stunts and action set-pieces will run out of laws of physics and common sense to break – but it is not this day.
The Fate of the Furious (AKA Fast & Furious 8, objectively the best title of any movie in all of history), directed by F. Gary Gray and written by Chris Morgan, finds the main characters facing a threat unlike anything they’ve tackled before – Vin Diesel’s ego.
Coerced by cyber-terrorist and criminal mastermind Cipher (Charlize Theron), Dominic Toretto (Diesel) betrays his family, resulting in super-cop Luke Hobbs (The “Dwayne Johnson” Rock”) in prison, in a cell right next to Furious 7 baddie Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) no less. The enigmatic and mysterious Mr. Nobody (Kurt Russel) rallies what’s left of the team in the hopes of stopping whatever evil plan Cipher has been brewing – but are any of them a match for Toretto? He is, after all, the best among them by far, an unstoppable force of nature whose skills are unparalleled and near infinite.
Star and producer Vin Diesel has indulged in plenty of ego-stroking over the course of the franchise, but the eighth entry in the series takes that to a whole other level by pitting him against the entire rest of the cast. Watching him basically wipe the floor with his team on his own adds an extra level of entertainment to the already ludicrously fun action set pieces – although knowing how that played out behind-the-scenes is decisively less fun.
Fun is the engine that still keeps this series going. Like previous entries in the franchise, The Fate of the Furious proudly embraces its own silliness, frequently pokes fun at itself and above all else, aims to entertain. It’s a series that has mastered the art of being so stupid and corny it doubles back around and ends up being awesome.
Jason Statham is a welcome addition to the cast and the rivalry between his character and Johnson’s Hobbs gives the movie some of its most entertaining moments and lines. The prison breakout sequence is a particular highlight, as both characters power through a never ending barrage of security guards and prisoners like they’re made of cardboard. The fact that Deckard killed one of the crew just a movie ago is kind of glanced over to accommodate his good guy turn, which is fitting considering the drastic transformation in Hobbs’s character after Fast Five.
Charlize Theron is a cool antagonist. Her magic hacking skills and her influence over Toretto make her one of the biggest threats the crew has ever faced, but it’s her mind games with Dom that actually make her stand out the most. The reason why she has leverage over him actually makes perfect sense, or at least the closest to sense this franchise can get.
There’s still a surprising amount of thought and effort put into the continuity of the series. One of the main plot points of Furious 7 revolved around God’s Eye, a device that can track and locate anyone. Rather than suffer the fate of most McGuffins, i.e. disappear entirely, God’s Eye is actually once again part of the plot. In fact, The Fate of the Furious goes as far as to tie together events and characters that go as far back as Fast & Furious 6, and has references to bits from the very first movie as well. This is a franchise that actually rewards fan loyalty and treats those who are genuinely invested in the ongoing story with respect.
If The Fate of the Furious has any faults, they lie mainly with how large the main cast is getting at this point. Some of the supporting characters end up feeling left out, with very little to do. The crew now has two hackers (Chirs ‘Ludacris’ Bridges and Nathalie Emmanuel) and two butt monkeys (Tyrese Gibson and new addition to the cast Scott Eastwood), as well as Hobbs, Deckard, Letty and Mr. Noboby (Kurt Russel) and that’s not even counting Dom, Cipher and a few other characters. In fact, the movie’s most glaring misstep is its treatment of a returning character that ends up being little more than a plot device exploited for cheap drama.
Also, one or two moments are almost shot-for-shot recreations of scenes we’ve seen in previous movies, such as the beginning of the Cuba race which is basically the same as the Race Wars segment in Furious 7 – perhaps an early sign that this franchise is at least starting to run out of new ideas.
It’s a movie that knows when to be serious and when to be silly, and that’s a tough balancing act when your opening scene is Dominic Toretto driving a car so fast it literally bursts into flames (not that that stops him, or even slows him down) and your final act involves a stolen Russian submarine chasing our heroes.
The Fate of the Furious is a big dumb movie that is well aware of how big and dumb it is and takes every available opportunity to flaunt and celebrate its own ridiculously entertaining stupidity. The Fast and the Furious don’t appear to be slowing down anytime soon.