The Fate of the Furious
Vin Diesel, Dwayne Johnson, Michelle Rodriguez, Charlize Theron, Jason Statham, Tyrese Gibson, Chris “Ludacris” Bridges, Kurt Russell
FilmInk rates movies out of $20 — the score indicates the amount we believe a ticket to the movie to be worth
This film is an absolute blast, pure and simple
So here it is, The Fate of the Furious, the latest episode of what has become, against all odds, the most consistently entertaining action franchise of the 21st century. There may be individual outliers – The Raid, the first John Wick, and we’ll allow a rigorous defence of Captain America: The Winter Soldier – but when it comes to the sagas – your Bonds and Bournes, your Marvel Cinematic Universe – the F&F series revs its engines and leaves them all in the dust. A rewatch of the 2001 original demonstrates what a remarkable feat that is.
But we’re here to talk about The Fate of the Furious, or Fast 8, which takes the series’ thematic throughline of the importance of family into new(ish) territory by having our gruff patriarch, Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel), go rogue, betraying his team and throwing in with Cipher, a ruthless cyber-terrorist played with icy glee by Charlize Theron. Of course, she’s got incredible leverage on Dom – our sentimental, potato-headed hero hasn’t really gone evil – but that doesn’t prevent Dwayne Johnson’s lawman, Luke Hobbs, from assuming leadership of the “fambly” and going after Dom with everything they’ve got.
“Everything” in this case being the full weight of the covert intelligence organisation the shadowy Mr Nobody (Kurt Russell, here joined by 2IC Scott Eastwood as, appropriately, Little Nobody) represents. Our gang of rebels and thieves have now effectively become a cartoonish super hero strike force, ala G.I. Joe or M.A.S.K., and the transformation has been so gradual yet consistent that it seems to make perfect sense. “We finally got a tank,” Ludacris’s Tej marvels at one point, and your reaction is laughter at the audacity, and anticipation of the mayhem that is to follow.
And there is plenty of that – the action here is absolutely spectacular; although there’s nothing to rival the building-to-building jumps in FF7, it’s only missing by a few degrees. Cipher’s Bond villain plot gives the story license to jump from exotic location to exotic location, starting off in Cuba and climaxing at an icebound Russian naval facility – with a nuclear submarine thrown into the mix because, hell, why not? The narrative doesn’t even bother to justify the car focus any more – it’s simply the family’s modus operandi. Tyrese Gibson’s Roman gets a bright orange Lamborghini because he really, really wants it – who cares if tooling across a frozen ocean in that thing makes absolutely zero sense? It’s style over logic and spectacle over substance, and it works. Boy, does it work.
We also get some energetic extra-vehicular action, largely thanks to the presence of Johnson and Jason Statham, whose ex-SAS villain gets redeemed when he’s recruited to the cause because of a pre-existing grudge against Cipher. There’s a prison riot sequence early on that is one for the books, and in the climax Statham also gets a big action beat of his very own that will have John Woo fans grinning in appreciation, though to say more would be to (Tokyo) drift into spoiler territory.
Johnson and Statham also get plenty of laughs with their macho posturing as they move from wanting to murder each other to grudging respect (there’s a PhD in analysing the franchise’s simultaneous celebration and subversion of traditional masculinity), but the comedy MVP is once again Tyrese Gibson, whose hapless Roman
gets put through the ringer, much to his dismay. He’s never in any real danger, of course; almost no one is. Our heroes are all but bullet proof, and explosions certainly give them little to worry about. Hell, at one point Johnson is shrugging off rubber bullets like they were mosquito bites. The exception is one recurring character who gets given extremely short shrift in an extremely troubling manner – but, again, spoilers. Still, it’s a troubling note in an otherwise extremely enjoyable ride.
“Enjoyable” is the word – The Fate of the Furious is huge fun, juggling outrageous spectacle and an ever-increasing cast of characters with admirable poise. This film is an absolute blast, pure and simple – strap in and take the ride.