The Fate of the Furious Movie Review
There is still a part of me that can’t believe we’re actually on the eighth installment of the Fast and the Furious franchise. Granted part of that may be because this is still the kind of franchise were the title for said installment, The Fate of the Furious, is a giant pun about this being the eighth movie, and yet against all odds, it still delivers one of the most entertaining rides you’ll find in a movie theater.
The movie opens with Dominic Toretto newly married to Letty, both enjoying themselves a quiet life street racing in Havana. At least they were before Dom gets coerced into working for the anarchist and cyberterrorist Cipher, who not only forces him to steal an experimental weapon of mass destruction, but to frame his surrogate family for the theft. With the team once again wanted criminals, and forced to take on one of their own to clear their names, one thing is very clear, that after the dust settles, things won’t be the same anymore.
In terms of plot and story, The Fate of the Furious is about what you’d expect by now from the series, our merry band of car racing heroes saving the world by driving really fast, even with the novel twist that Vin Diesel’s Dominic Toretto is playing for the bad guy’s team this go around, but there are little touches that make it stand out. For starters, it could well be the funniest movie in the franchise, with plenty of lines earning whoops and hollers from the packed theater I watched the movie in. The other major thing that helps is that, with Furious 7 concluding a number of lingering story arcs, we’re finally seeing the franchise drive off in the direction it looks to be heading for the next series arc.
Without sounding too callous, it’s nice to see the Fast and the Furious movies dumping actors who have long been dead weight – sorry Sung Kang, Gal Gadot and Lucas Black – in favor of actors like Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham who can actually carry a movie franchise. I bring them up specifically because if there aren’t a half dozen pitches come Monday for buddy cop movies starring Jason Statham and Dwayne Johnson come Monday, I’ll write one myself, as the two bouncing blows and insults off of each other is one of the real highlights of the movie.
The rest of the ensemble cast is fairly strong, including newcomers like Scott Eastwood and Helen Mirren, but it’s Charlize Theron who nearly steals the show in a turn as the sadistic villain Cipher. Again, a big weakness of the earlier films in the franchise are the relatively weak villains, but Theron manages to make a big impact by directly threatening the central “surrogate family” dynamic the heroes have built for themselves, whenever she isn’t chewing on the scenery anytime she’s on set.
One of the most notable improvements with The Fate of the Furious over past installments is that F. Gary Gray, hot off of Straight Outta Compton, proves a much more talented director at the wheel than Justin Lin or James Wan, resulting in what is probably the best directed film in the franchise in probably more than a decade. While somewhat more grounded than the past couple films – no cars taking nosedives out of Dubai skyscrapers here – that doesn’t mean there isn’t some gloriously bonkers action scenes in The Fate of the Furious. Hell, the climax alone is worth buying a ticket for, be it to watch Dwayne Johnson chokeslam a torpedo or Jason Statham enjoy the best action scene involving an infant since Hard Boiled.
Despite there being some lingering doubts if the Fast and the Furious franchise had any gas in the tank left after the death of Paul Walker, much less for two or three more movies, I think The Fate of the Furious proves there is still plenty of thrills under the hood of this franchise. I dare say that, from the dialog to the cast to the direction, it’s actually never looked better. If the next two movies are this much fun, count me in for the long haul – even if they do try and set one in space.