The usual quarter-mile suspects are back at it again in this Friday’s release of The Fate of the Furious. The movie may come as a bit of a surprise to fans of the franchise as Paul Walker, the series’ front man (along with Vin Diesel), tragically passed away during filming of the previous installment, Furious 7. That film ended on a touching note with a poignant ode to Walker in the form of a montage of his character Brian O’Conner through the years. Most wondered whether the series could continue after losing such a prominent and charismatic figure as Walker, but with a behemoth of a movie franchise this big, eight films and counting, there’s no stopping it and so the boys, and girls, are back for one more ride.
Chances are that by now most have likely seen at least one of the methodically titled films of the franchise, whether it used the word “fast” or “furious” amalgamated with some number, or, both words with either the use of “the” or without it (if you don’t know what I’m talking about look up the first and fourth films of the franchise and learn how to reinvent a series with a title). If you enjoyed any of the previous films, chances are you’ll be right at home with this one as well. The Fate of the Furious checks all the necessary boxes required for all installments in the series. Fast cars, wild chases and struggles to keep the ‘family’ together. This film centers around the same basic and ridiculous premise as the seventh, that being, in an attempt to bring down an international terrorist various covert government agencies choose to rely on a team of street racing criminals, rather than highly trained military personnel, who incorporate fast cars into nearly all their missions. A scene in which the team is given access to a secret government warehouse, which stores impounded cars seized from drug dealers, leads to a later chase across a Russian military installment involving a Lamborghini and a nuclear submarine.
The Fate of the Furious follows a progression that’s been in the works since Fast and Furious (no “the”s), where the missions the street racing crew find themselves caught up in grow more and more absurd while the stakes involved get higher and higher. True to form, this film sees Dominic Toretto’s (Vin Diesels’) gang squaring up against an international cyber terrorist, Cipher (Charlize Theron), to stop her from acquiring and launching nuclear weapons. This takes the crew on another of their bond-esk globetrotting adventures, this time to locals like Russia and Cuba. The latter being of particular note as the film was the first Hollywood production to shoot in Cuba since the travel embargo was lifted. This leads to a fresh take on the mandatory quarter mile street race scene where instead of racing supercars, Vin Diesel races a local kingpin in the only cars found in Cuba, 50’s era American imports.
The twist this time is that Dom, the proverbial father of the group, is blackmailed into working for Cipher. He becomes her henchman for most of the runtime meaning that he’s forced to work against his team. Theron, who is by far one of the best actors around at portraying frightening villains, provides a great depart from previous Fast and Furious antagonists. Whereas, past villains have represented purely physical dangers, Cipher stands as a psychological threat in addition to a physical one. The theme of family, which is at the heart of every film in the franchise, is central here as well. However, where in past installments this familiar premise was hammered into the plots through eye-roll inducing on the noise dialogue, it is incorporated into the story here rather expertly (for a Fast and Furious movie) and fuels some quite terrifying scenes led by Cipher.
Perhaps the greatest trend in these movies is there ability to draw exciting actors and then hang on to them for subsequent films. Both Jason Statham and Kurt Russell are back, and provide many of the great comedic moments in the movie. Statham in particular nearly steals the whole show with his back and forth tough guy banter with Hobbs (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson) and one particular scene near the end of the movie where he guns down a gang of mercenaries while carrying around a baby in a basket. Statham’s Deckard Shaw, like Johnson’s Hobbs from the 5th to the 6th movie, turns from villain to good-guy and joins Dom’s team to take on Cipher and Torreto. New faces include Helen Miren, playing a tough talking English thug, and Scott Eastwood as a bumbling green government agent comically partnered with Russell’s Mr. Nobody.
The Fate of the Furious follows the same outline established by previous installments, routinely doing things a little faster and a little more furious. However, with a few twists to that structure, some hilarious performances (particularly by Statham and Russell) and a great climax (involving that Lamburgini and nuclear submarine), Fate is elevated to one of the series’ better offerings.
Universal Pictures Canada releases The Fate of the Furious on Friday, April 14, 2017