*Spoiler Free Review*
“Dominic Toretto just went rogue!”
As The Fate of the Furious kicks off, Dom (Vin Diesel) and Letty’s (Michelle Rodriguez) honeymoon gets cut short when a mysterious hacker named Cipher (Charlize Theron) enters their life and turns everything upside down. Now, for some unknown reason, Dom has turned his back on the most important thing in his life, his family, and it’s up to his old team to take him down before he goes too far.
When a series is eight movies in (good lord), there comes a time in any series when you have to start shaking things up. Full disclosure: I used to hate the Fast and/or Furious movies. For the first few films, I couldn’t care less, but somewhere around the fourth or fifth film, the series really turned things around. Like SKYNET, the franchise became self-aware. That was the first time it shook things up. Life shook things up for the franchise the last time, but I thought Furious 7 did a remarkable job of rolling with the punches and adapting after Paul Walker’s tragic passing. Now, the series enters an exciting new chapter with The Fate of the Furious and it’s time to shake things up once again. And boy, did they!
I love the premise here, with the whole team versus Dom. It’s such a fantastic idea. This many films in, it’s tough to come up with a villain worthy of the combined efforts of this group, so why not put them up against one of their own? That’s not to say that the film’s actual villains weren’t great. Charlize Theron was wonderful as Cipher, providing a genuinely ruthless antagonist unlike any this series has ever seen, one that really will stop at nothing to achieve her goals. My only problem was, I didn’t really know why she wanted what she wanted. This film pays no mind in spelling out her motivation. I did, however, like Game of Thrones‘ Kristofer Hivju as her main henchman, Rhodes. Put this guy in everything!
Even without Dom, though, the team is still firing on all cylinders. Rodriguez was badass as usual as Letty and I liked seeing her play a slightly different dynamic than usual, hurt and confused by Dom’s betrayal. Some of my favorite moments in the movie were shared between Luke Hobbs (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson) and Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham), the only two men in the world that have ever tracked Dom. Johnson is always entertaining. His first scene was hysterical. I love Statham as an action star as well when used correctly and this franchise certainly knows how to use him correctly. Putting the two of these guys together again and having them working on the same side this time was just genius.
Every time I see one of these films I forget just how hilarious Tyrese Gibson is as the butt-of-the-jokes Roman. He really keeps the film moving with his non-stop quips. He always plays well off of Tej (Chris “Ludacris” Bridges) and Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel) as well. I love the dynamic between these three. There are a few other great appearances from Fast & Furious regulars, but I won’t ruin the fun here. The remainder of the cast is filled with some other fantastic actors. Kurt Russell is always great and brings his usual charm to the role of the mysterious head of some covert op organization known only as Mr. Nobody and Scott Eastwood was a welcome addition to the film as his junior agent that the teams calls Little Nobody. I hope we learn more about these guys in future installments. The real surprise though was how great the addition of Helen Mirren’s Magdalene Shaw is to the franchise. Her crass Cockney mum was utterly delightful. It’s actually pretty insane the level of talent these films draw now.
Speaking of insane, the action is just as batshit crazy as always, in all the right ways. I always enjoy leaving what very little I know about real-world physics at the door. It’s getting to the point where they are running out of ways to top themselves. By the time the planned tenth film rolls around, they might actually just have to go to space because it’s the only thing left they haven’t done yet. I am not a car guy, but if a film can keep me engaged and if I can follow everything that’s going on in all the racing and chase sequences, it’s doing something right. F. Gary Gray was an inspired choice as director. He did a brilliant job of picking up where James Wan left things with Furious 7 and delivering on all the fun that fans of this franchise have come to expect. I’d like to see him come back for another.
As far as the twists and turns of the story go, there were a few moments in this film where I felt like I was way ahead of the writer, Chris Morgan, but I was pleased to discover that most of the time the script zigged when I thought it would zag. There is one moment that I saw coming for like an hour-and-a-half, but when it finally happened, I’ll be damned if I didn’t get a little bit glassy-eyed. There were actually a couple of genuinely touching moments for me, which was a bit surprising because I figured we were done with all that after saying goodbye to Paul Walker in the last movie. Not to say that they don’t always try to hook you with the whole family theme that runs through most of the franchise, but this time it actually worked for me. I guess that’s the benefit of having an audience follow you for eight movies. It took a little while, but they’ve actually earned those moments by now. There are a ton of surprises in this film too. The fan service in this movie is off the charts. This franchise knows how to give the fans exactly what they want.
And now for my negatives. I already mentioned the lack of motivation for Charlize Theron’s character. That was definitely disappointing, because she was a terrific villain otherwise. Also, as usual for the franchise, some of the dialogue (mostly exposition stuff) was worthy of an eye roll or two. It was a bit too lengthy as well at 2 hours, 16 minutes. The climax, as epic and entertaining as it was, could have maybe been trimmed a bit. Finally, and this one isn’t as much the film’s fault as much as the marketing team’s, the trailers showed way too much. Just about all of the great action beats and even some of the reveals are spoiled in all the ads or TV spots.
Overall, though, most of the negatives don’t even matter. I got exactly what I wanted out of The Fate of the Furious. At this point, everyone knows what these films are all about: fun, fast cars and family. This film definitely delivers on all of those promises. If you’re expecting anything more, you’re doing it wrong. The story may be a little bit thin at times, but it’s never boring. I saw it in a packed house in a theater that serves alcohol. I don’t even drink, but it was a blast, because that crowd was into this movie, cheering and laughing at all the right action beats and one-liners. If you’re a fan of the franchise or just looking for a big dumb action movie to watch while you shove popcorn into your face, this is definitely a great couple of hours spent at the cinema.
The Fate of the Furious is in theaters now. Have you seen the film yet? If so, what did you think? Are you a fan of the franchise? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.