As the eighth episode in the "Fast and the Furious" franchise, "Fate of the Furious" doesn't need to dwell on origins or backstory. Like its predecessors, this latest film relies on the thrill of the chase - car chases that is - to carry the day. As with all of the "Furious" films before it, street racing features heavily in the story, and "physical plausibility" is apparently not in the film-makers' vocabulary. But "Fate" is not without its charms. In fact, the sheer implausibility of it all is what makes it so much fun.
As the film begins, we see Dominic "Dom" Toretto (Vin Diesel) exploring the local culture in Havana, Cuba with his wife and fellow racer Letty Ortiz (Michelle Rodriguez). Much has transpired since the first film, where Dom was the "villain," leader of a crew of illegal street racers with a penchant for tractor trailer heists. In later films, Dom has begun cooperating with authorities, using his mad driving skills (and those of his crew) to thwart the evil plans of more dangerous ne'erdo-wells around the globe. But in one sense, this episode comes full circle (spoiler alert!): Dom is the bad guy again.
After an encounter with cyber-terrorist Cipher (Charlize Theron), Dom betrays his crew and their Federal agent allies by stealing an EMP weapon, capable of disabling the electronics and infrastructure of any city on earth. The reason for Dom's shifting allegiance is not revealed until much later (which makes the film that much more interesting), but suffice it to say, you can empathize with the guy when you see what's at stake.
Most of the crew from previous episodes are back, including Ludacris and Tyrese Gibson as fellow drivers and Kurt Russell as the head of a secret government organization. He's "Mr. Nobody" and his base is called "Nowhere" - subtlety is not one of the film's hallmarks. This time around Mr. Nobody has a helper (Scott Eastwood) who mostly just serves as the straight man and the butt of the Furious crew's ribbing. With Johnson, Diesel and Statham on board, there's a whole lot of testosterone on display. But despite the much touted antagonism between Diesel and Johnson (both on and off the screen), it's Statham who steals the show here with his understated menace and easy charm. Who else brings a baby to a gunfight and gets away with it? Also not to be missed is a juicy cameo by Deckard's mum (Helen Mirren), who is apparently a big fan of the franchise.
The only main character not to return here is Brian O'Connor (Paul Walker), who tragically (and ironically) died in a high speed car accident in late 2013 before filming had completed for "Furious 7." In the series, O'Connor married Dom's sister Mia and had settled down to start a family. There is a small but touching tribute to him near the end of this film.
As with previous outings, the cars are fast, the driving death-defying and the action intense. One of my favorite scenes has the cyber terrorists hacking into all the cars in New York City that have self-driving capabilities and rounding them all up for a massive driverless attack on a visiting diplomat's motorcade. The combination of CG and practical effects creates a massive amount of destruction that will leave any lover of fine automobiles cringing. The plot gets a little convoluted at times but the twists and turns do end up being quite satisfying. It all wraps up in a tidy little bow, though with an obvious opportunity for additional episodes in the coming years. According to Vin Diesel on his Instagram account, Episodes 9 and 10 are slated to drop in 2019 and 2021 respectively. Even more furiouser (furiousest?).
I saw the film in IMAX and the large format screen and immersive surround sound definitely heightened the excitement. You don't go into a "Fast and Furious" movie expecting Shakespeare. But as a genre film, "Fate of the Furious" delivers enough heart-pounding action, humor and story-telling to make it worthy of the price of admission.
Previous Episodes in the Fast and Furious Series:
|Movie title||The Fate of the Furious (Fast and Furious 8)|
|Summary||The latest episode in Universal's longest running film franchise is more of the same, and that ain't bad at all.|