Year: 2017
Director(s): F. Gary Gray
Writer(s): Chris Morgan, Gary Scott Thompson
Region of Origin: US

Rating: PG-13
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
Digital, Color, 136 mins

Synopsis: When a mysterious woman seduces Dom into the world of terrorism and a betrayal of those closest to him, the crew face trials that will test them as never before. (Source)

The Fast family has been through everything at this point, and at eight films in, The Fate of the Furious still manages to be a hit despite some minor missteps. Director F. Gary Gray is having fun with the material, but he’s juggling a lot, adding fuel to the franchise by expanding its reach and tying up a myriad of loose ends. Still, for a series that revels in extravagance, the film’s embarrassment of riches sometimes weighs it down. This latest chapter does a great job of pointing the mythology at something grand, but it comes at the expense of pace and a darker tone. On the plus side, the franchise’s dense world takes on Marvel-esque depth, pulling from the entire series’ legacy to reward fans with tons of surprises. Despite some flaws, this chapter is still miles away from its predecessors, featuring spots of brilliance scattered throughout and a cast overflowing with charm. If, like me, you can’t get enough of the fam, this one still hits the mark.

Things pick up with Dom (Vin Diesel) and Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) on honeymoon in Cuba. After winning a street race, Dom is confronted by a mysterious woman known only as Cipher (Charlize Theron), who happens to be the world’s most dangerous cyber terrorist. Soon, Dom is blackmailed and forced to do Cipher’s bidding, ruthlessly betraying his crew and setting off a global conspiracy that could cripple the world’s governmental infrastructure. Aided by Furious 7’s shadowy Frank Petty (Kurt Russell), Letty, Roman (Tyrese Gibson), Tej (Ludacris) and Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel) band together with Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) and Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham), their one-time adversary, to take down Cipher and save their friend.

For all intents and purposes, this chapter is a soft reboot that also manages to be a culmination of what’s come before. That being said, the film is surprisingly plot heavy, taking its characters across the world amidst a massive threat anchored by personal stakes. Though things sometimes grind to a halt while seeding numerous plot points, the pace allows the cast’s natural charm to break through, providing the character beats we know and love. The story also benefits from the fact that previous installments have laid the foundation down really strong, giving its characters an enormous sandbox to play in. At its core, however, this is still a grand, B-movie with a blockbuster budget, accepting its absurdity full stop, and turning its modest crew of street racers into international superheroes. It’s true that the film’s biggest twist provides one of the franchise’s darkest moments, but let’s be honest, you’re here for the gravity-defying vehicular carnage, and the film delivers.

As always, the real stars here are the iconic action sequences, which are just as inspired and unhinged as ever. Massive showdowns amidst busy NYC streets, cars parading like bulls, brutal hand-to-hand combat, and, of course, the much-publicized finale involving a nuclear submarine add fittingly to the franchise’s legacy, holding up a giant middle finger to logic but embracing full bore absurdity. Seeing The Rock barrel through people like they’re plastic straws will never get old, and the tricked out cars that can do whatever each character needs will never stop making me smile. The downside here, is that you can tell the story’s been stitched around the film’s action – the character moments still anchor everything though, even amidst the superhuman strength, flying bodies and clashing steel. There’s even a Bond-ian flair this time out, with complex sequences that don’t take themselves too seriously but carry a grit and toughness that would make the British icon blush.

The performances are what you’d expect. Vin Diesel takes sort of a back seat this time out, even though the story hinges on him. Since he’s basically taken against his will, he’s in captivity, giving Diesel some moments of tension and torment, but never focusing on him for too long. The real spotlight goes to the crew, with The Rock and Jason Statham stepping forward and stealing the show. I would kill for a spin-off with these two, and if the series decides that it doesn’t need either one, I’ll be done with it as well. I really wish Michelle Rodriguez had more to do, but she gives the film lots of heart as is, while Ludacris and Roman have charms that will never get old. Their attempt to woo Nathalie Emmanuel’s Ramsey is a bit awkward, and poor thing, the script doesn’t know what to do with her. You can also tell that Charlize is loving every moment of bringing Cipher to life, but she doesn’t have much to do but stand in front of computer screens while snarling commands – she is ruthless though, and a great interesting to canon. But hey, bring back Helen Mirren and let her drive next time, okay? The story is also unfair to another female character, but I can’t get into it without spoiling.

The Fate of the Furious is what it is, extremely fun and oozing with charm, even if it lacks James Wan’s (Furious 7) approach to character and plotting. A second tier Fast film is still worth the watch, and while this installment finds the series in transition, there’s plenty of payoff. You know what to expect – the savage car carnage, goofy, endearing humor, bromances which leap off the screen and skirts that are way too short, this film’s got it all and then some. Here’s hoping the series can tighten things up next time around, give the women a bit more prominence, and not be afraid to try something new. I’m not ready to leave Dom and crew yet, family for life.

SG