Over the past several weeks, I embarked on a cinematic journey through the Fast and Furious franchise, watching them in order, each for the very first time. It’s not a perfect series by any means, but I fell deeply in love, especially as the series progressed and switched from being prominently about street racing to being big-budget action capers, becoming all the more ridiculous and over-the-top in all the best ways. Despite what you might expect from an eighth entry in a franchise, with The Fate of the Furious, Vin Diesel and his family of street-racers-turned-government-agents still manage to up the ante and deliver one of the absolute best movies in the series.
F8 picks up with an opening scene that calls back to the good ol’ days of Fast & Furious (circa 2001-2006), complete with trash talking, street racing and a tropical pop hit setting the scene. Dom (Vin Diesel) has settled down in Havana with Letty (Michelle Rodriguez), but it isn’t long before he’s dragged back into the increasingly explosive life he’s lived for the past 16 years. What sets this entry apart from its seven predecessors, is that this time Dom’s playing for the wrong team, and betraying the family he loves. Gasp!
But Dom isn’t just suddenly evil for no reason. Instead, he is forcefully coerced into working for Cipher (Charlize Theron), a menacing cyber terrorist with big plans for starting a nuclear war between the biggest nations in the world. So, they of course assemble the team to stop Cipher and figure out why Dom has gone rogue. The ever-expanding ensemble cast includes all your favorites: Letty, Hobbs (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson), Roman (Tyrese Gibson), Tej (Chris “Ludacris” Bridges), Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel), Mr. Nobody (Kurt Russell) and his new partner Little Nobody (Scott Eastwood) as well as Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham), whose stint as a villain has concluded now that he’s working alongside our heroes.
I don’t think anyone would dispute that the story isn’t the main draw of F8, but I will say that it’s a fairly coherent plot that’s made better by Theron’s threatening performance as the villain, who becomes one of the most memorable antagonists of the entire series. The real reason you’re here is to marvel at the action set-pieces that have only become more inventive and impressive with each iteration. F8 serves up some of the most memorable scenes the series has ever had, including a fantastic prison break sequence and an exhilarating race through New York City against an onslaught of hacked cars. These two scenes alone are worth the price of admission.
The Fate of the Furious solidifies the series as being its own brand of superhero movies, with characters who may as well have superhuman abilities and storylines that feature world-ending scenarios. Almost everything that occurs here is absolutely absurd, but it’s so much fun to watch that you don’t even think about it. At this point, if the series doesn’t go to space or crossover with The Avengers or Transformers, then I don’t know how they’ll be able to keep up with the pace they’ve set for themselves.
F8 really allows for Johnson and Statham to shine every time they’re on screen, whether that be separately but especially when they’re together. These two completely steal the show here. And I was unsure going in if series newcomer and director F. Gary Gray (Straight Outta Compton) could take on the job, but his direction is solid.
The Fate of the Furious is an absolute spectacle to watch and I immensely enjoyed most of what it had to offer, although that’s not to say it doesn’t have any faults. And while I loved F8, it isn’t likely to convert anyone into a fan if they weren’t already. However, if you have followed the series for any amount of time and have enjoyed any of the more recent entries, then I can almost guarantee that you’ll have a great time with this one.
— Michael Lane, Blog Editor