There’s a lot to be said for a movie franchise that bears little to almost no resemblance to its origins, other than a couple of familiar faces. Yet, amazingly, with each new adventure, The Fast and the Furious series grows in size and spectacle in relation to its ever-increasing box-office, and there’s just no putting the brakes on this shiny car soap-opera juggernaut.
The Fate of the Furious is the eighth installment, and it’s only during the first five minutes that the film gives a nod to the kind of setting that put the whole thing in motion back in 2001; a street race through a city where bystanders are not so much observers, they’re more like potential collateral damage. This time it’s in Havana, Cuba where Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) and Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) are enjoying their honeymoon in a sun-drenched, all-day party atmosphere that’s shot less like a film and more like a music video.
To go into details about the plot is almost as redundant as pointing out where it doesn’t make sense; the whole thing doesn’t make sense, but its audience won’t care. While spending a few minutes around a Havana street corner, away from his wife, Dom is approached by Charlize Theron who turns out to be a diabolical super-criminal mastermind known only as Cipher. Cipher can hack in to any hackable computer anywhere in the world. She coerces Dom to turn against his friends and family and to work for her. How she entices him is something revealed later – we don’t get to see the video she shows him on her cell – but whatever it is, it’s enough for Dom to betray everything he stands for without a moment hesitation. “This whole Robin Hood, saving-the-world kind of thing you’ve been doing recently,” Cipher slyly states, “It’s not you.”
From there the film jumps all over the place, racing at illegal speeds from Berlin to New York City, and eventually climaxing on an enormous stretch of frozen wasteland in Russia, with each location offering its own spectacular, over-the-top, you-won’t-believe-what-happens-next, car chase. In Berlin, the moment when the assembled team learn that Dom has gone rogue, a wrecking ball with a smiley face disperses the German pursuers. In Manhattan where Cipher hacks in to every car with a computer chip – “It’s zombie time,” she states with a fiendish smile – it literally rains vehicles as driverless new models parked in elevated levels above the city speed away from their spaces and jettison themselves out then down into the busy streets below. And in Russia, the team are chased by a nuclear submarine. Let me repeat that last one – they’re chased by a nuclear submarine!
Fortunately, for those not quite so enamored with stunts, speeding cars, and the sight of a nuclear submarine in your rear-view mirror, and have lost the thread of the plot some time ago, The Fate and the Furious also has an array of familiar faces that keep revealing themselves at regular beats along the way; characters who lob barbs and insults at each other once they meet up, just to keep things interesting and light on its wheels. When the always likable Dwayne Johnson as Luke Hobbs finds himself in prison, his opposing cell mate just happens to be an enemy from a previous adventure, Jason Statham. “When we get outta here,” warns Hobbs, “I will beat your ass like a Cherokee Drum.” There’s also the appearance of Helen Mirren as Statham’s vicious cockney-sparrow mum. It’s not that she does anything vicious, she just sounds as though she’s capable from the tone of her voice. And then there’s Scott Eastwood, Kurt Russell’s young law enforcement agent assistant who looks strikingly like dad during his Rowdy Yates days, but of a slightly smaller stature.
It’s a big movie with big stunts, with speeds in continual top-gear and its volume turned up to nothing less than eleven. And at a 146 car-crash fetish minutes, it’s also too long, but aren’t most action films these days? Just when you think it might be wrapping up, you discover there’s another thirty minutes to go. It’s also the kind of large-scale, fast-paced adventure you’d expect to see kicking-off the summer movie season around late May, not so much the Easter holidays. And yet, no matter what you think of Diesel and his family values, this whole series knows where it’s going, what it’s doing, and has a clear view of who its audience is. It delivers exactly what’s on the poster with a few extra jaw-dropping moments to boot, every time. No matter how absurd the whole thing is – and this is truly absurd, and knows it – its ever increasing success since 2001 has to be something to admire.
MPAA Rating: PG-13 Length: 146 Minutes Overall rating: 7 (out of 10)