The Fast & Furious series is an unstoppable juggernaut of a franchise, turning from a Point Break knock-off to a globetrotting action spy-thriller adventure with a huge ensemble cast. It now has its eighth entry where it ups the ante by having Dominic Toretto turning on his crew.
Toretto and his long-time partner Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) have finally gotten married and spend their honeymoon in Havana where they do the usual touristy pursuits – see the sites, experience the culture and partake in illegal street races. However, Toretto ends up being blackmail by a hacker and cyber terrorist Cipher (Charlize Theron) – demanding that he helps her acquire military equipment. The mysterious intelligence operative Mr. Nobody (Kurt Russell) assembles the rest of Toretto crew – along with the villain from the last movie – Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) to find and stop Cipher and Toretto.
The Fast & Furious series is a license to print money and has cultivated a devoted fan base – who will go and see them no matter what. I personally have been fairly ambivalent towards the franchises: I have found most of the movies range from average to mediocre and I only really enjoyed Furious 7. The eighth film sadly goes back to the realm of meh.
The Fate of the Furious does have moments of fun – it continues the series love for ludicrous action set-pieces and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and The Statham are always a welcome presence. This movie is self-aware about its ridiculous nature and has a tongue-in-cheek tone throughout the runtime. There are regular verbal sparring sessions between characters – The Rock and Statham getting the best moments with their macho posturing – whilst Russell has fun at the expense of his new junior played by Scott Eastwood: taking on the straight-laced Paul Walker role and Tyrese Gibson’s Roman continues to be the idiot butt of the joke: it is amazing he is still alive in this universe. British natural treasure Helen Mirren appears briefly, playing a Cockney stereotype and clearly having a blast.
The series is known for its over-the-action-sequences and each movie has a mission to outdo the last. The Fate of the Furious starts off with a race on the street of Havana where Toretto literally drives a flaming car and continues with a big prison break where The Rock and Statham show off their different fighting styles – a huge chase in New York City and infiltrate a Russian naval based, fighting off hundreds of militants in the process. One of the best fight scenes happens on a plane that could have easily fit in a John Woo film. The series has turned into something more like a Bond or Mission Impossible movie – if it were written and directed by a 12-year-old boy on a sugar rush. It is a throw everything at the screen approach, relishing in its ridiculousness – it’s a movie where a woman is able to hack into hundreds of cars around a major city. It’s a movie that treats hacking like its magic and citizen causalities are glazed over (like all entries since Fast Five).
Cipher is basically a Bond villain: she flies around in a military grade place with her own army of hackers and security – Game of Thrones‘ Kristofer Hivju plays her main henchmen. She is also able to navigate the world to prevent being detected and like what Spectre did with the Daniel Craig-era Bond movies, The Fate of the Furious retcons the previous movies since Fast & Furious 6 to make out Cipher was the main mastermind behind all the villainous schemes. This is a series that has turned from being about highway robberies to stopping a woman obtaining nuclear missiles. The action is so relentless that it is draining to keep up.
Writing has never been the series strong suit and fans have embraced its soap opera nature. Yet screenwriter Chris Morgan – who wrote his fifth entry in the series – goes to the big book of clichés for inspiration: along with F. Gary Gray’s direction The Fate of the Furious has plot points, reveals and jokes that can be seen from a mile off, including Luke Hobbs making an inspirational speech (although it does allow The Rock to perform the haka) and the numerous ‘twists’ that were made throughout the movie. Considering the movie was produced by Original Films originality was not a major concern. Anyone accustomed to the action and thrillers genres will get not get any surprises from its paint by numbers screenplay.
Fans of the series are the ones who will enjoy The Fate of the Furious the most – continuing the series’ long-running love for implausible action; the drama between Toretto and his family and has The Rock and Statham trading insults. Yet detractors are not going to be won over and considering how the series continues to up the stakes, it won’t be long before it ends up being set in space. The series does need some fresh writing blood!