Believe it or not, we’re 8 films into a planned 10 film franchise filled with fast cars and a furious(ly) absurd story-line. From the humble beginnings of a Point Break rip-off featuring cars and Corona’s (instead of surfing and blatant homo-erotic relationships) to this entry, which we’ll get further into. The Fast and Furious movies are, and can be, so many different things. The one thing this series has been consistent with is family. You can take away specific actors and story-lines, but the theme of family has always stuck around and that is what makes this entry in the franchise that much more memorable and inconsistent.
Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) and his wife, Letty (Michelle Rodriguez), are enjoying their long delayed honeymoon in Havana, Cuba. In the midst of relaxing in bed and racing Cuban tyrants for their rides, Toretto is blackmailed by hacker Cipher (Charlize Theron) to join her crew and betray his family. Of course, we won’t find out why until later in the film, but have we ever cared about why these people do things? Give us the fast cars, the awful jokes from Roman (Tyrese Gibson), and the amazing action scenes and we’ll be a happy audience. But I was genuinely shocked at how well writer Chris Morgan and first time Fast & Furious director F. Gary Gray used the family theme at their disposal and how well it worked throughout the film while blinding me from another one of the many plot-holes in the series.
Dom’s family (aside from Letty) feel betrayed and are prepared to take him down, especially Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson). With the help of their ally, Mr. Nobody (Kurt Russell) and his new trainee Eric Reisner (a dull Scott Eastwood), the crew is able to find some reluctant help out of Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) to track down their friend and hope none of them lose their lives in the process. This is the simple concept of the film that shouldn’t take a lot of work (and doesn’t) but it also gives off a greatest hits feel at times. Minor characters pop up here and there with varied levels of importance to the plot, but there’s one spoiler-ific inclusion that doesn’t just serve as a hokey thematic connection, but a true extension and conclusion to what I thought was going to be an abandoned plot thread.
I don’t want to give off the impression that this is an intelligent film in terms of storytelling. Motivations between well established characters feel questionable and certain characters personality changes completely. A large knock against the film is with the team-up between Deckard Shaw and the crew. Never mentioned in this film, Shaw is responsible for murdering their friend, Han (Sung Kang) after Toretto threw Shaw’s little brother out the back of a commercial airplane (this brother survived with major road rash). While I don’t believe this is something we should be thinking too hard about, this plot point betrays the concept of family that the series has carried forth. That being said, I would abandon the death of Han when we get the amazing chemistry between Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham. Aside from Statham looking like he’s having the best time on screen since the Crank films, Johnson and Statham have an instant on-screen connection that Diesel has never had with anyone in his career. I love Diesel as much as the next guy, but let’s keep these two together, not just for the sake of the franchise, but for the sake of action filmmaking.
There’s a level of action the Fast & Furious films must attain after the prior 3 installments. We get our zombie car chase which is incredibly watchable but slightly overlong. The submarine sequence is absolute vintage Justin Lin level insanity that almost touches the stupidity of Furious 7. The one to get me really excited though is the prison breakout sequence with Statham and Johnson. There’s a weird feeling deeming an action scene without cars as the best scene in the film, but the level of choreography mixed with the physical performances from these two actors scored by a remixed Bassnectar track just oozes a level of fun that the movie almost matches in those previously mentioned scenes. It’s rare to see the love of the craft injected into a scene, it’s evident the love is all there at that point in the film.
I wouldn’t be doing this review justice if I didn’t mention that the series is still as sentimental and trite as its always been. Characters do things for one reason only, family. The Fast & Furious series only manages to keep their family growing with magnificent cameos and surprising reprisals. We could all knock this film saying it’s exactly the same as the prior chapters, but that’s to seriously underestimate how happy Diesel and the producers are with what they have. After scoring billions of dollars combined with the box-office of the last three films and a critical re-appraisal of the series, why would they want to change? The series may have plateau’d at this point, but when you’re that close to the top, I can’t blame them for sticking with the same. For better and worse, it’s the same Fast & Furious movie that we’ve come to love and hate.
The Fate of the Furious
- Action sequences are up there with the best in the series, particularly the prison riot
- Diesel gives the most vulnerable performance of his career while Johnson & Statham shine as the best duo in the series, to date
- The Fast & Furious template hasn't changed a bit...
- ...the Fast & Furious template hasn't changed a bit
- Scott Eastwood is among the worst additions to the franchise through giving a completely lifeless performance
- Consistencies with character motivations and other behaviors is off the wall