The Fate of the Furious | F. Gary Gray | April 14, 2017
After Paul Walker’s death and Furious 7, where was the Fast & Furious franchise to go? Even more international and slightly relevant. Instead of revenge, warlords, and global surveillance, The Fate of the Furious centers on double-crossing and cyber-hacking, the latter of which seems to be an action movie trend in recent years. After an explosive street race over car rights in Havana, Dom (Vin Diesel) and Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) unwind on their honeymoon – until the secretive cyber-hacker known only as Cipher (Charlize Theron) approaches Dom with a hefty and personal threat – which is revealed within the first hour of the film.
The remaining team members (Letty, Hobbs, Roman, Tej, and Ramsey) are divided after an extrajudicial EMP heist in Berlin blows up in their faces when Dom (Vin Diesel) betrays Hobbs (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson) and goes rogue, stealing the EMP and leaving Hobbs for German authorities. Hobbs is locked up in the same US UMAX (ultra-max security) prison where Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) was in Furious 7 after declining a deal from the returning Mr. Nobody (Kurt Russell) and his junior agent (Scott Eastwood), only to unknowingly aid them in recruiting both himself and Shaw after a jailbreak set-up goes awry. The Fast team is brought to Nobody’s secret base to try and track down Dom and Cipher the old-fashioned way after the criminal duo bursts into the facility and takes God’s Eye, which leads them around the globe to New York City (to secure a Russian nuclear football) and Russia (to prevent the start of a nuclear war via a “car-jacked” nuclear submarine).
Now, I’m a stranger to the franchise. How I went a decade and a half (more or less) without diving into the Fast & Furious series isn’t beyond me. I wasn’t interested in the first few films (or the perceptions of them, anyway), and by the time the fifth film hit theaters, my interest still wasn’t piqued. The films have always struck me as loud, over-the-top, and stupid action. But my friend Patrick made a franchise primer video that helped get me ready for The Fate of the Furious.
Going in, I didn’t have the highest of expectations for The Fate of the Furious, but then again, it’s a car-driven action heist popcorn flick made for my generation. Leaving the film, I couldn’t help but laugh off the ridiculousness with Ryan, who, like me, hadn’t seen any of the other films in the franchise. But for all the ridiculousness, there was an art to the filmmaking and the stunts. The car chases are cleanly lensed, and there’s a good use of practical stuntwork – likely in large part from F. Gary Gray, who helmed 2003 The Italian Job remake.
Then again, The Fate of the Furious, like its predecessors, doesn’t take itself too seriously and still has some fun. There is CGI when needed (like a fleet of “zombie” cars causing chaos on New York City streets), the dialogue doesn’t beat around the bush (despite the need for conversations that would have cleared up most of the plot of the film), a few familiar faces from the franchise pop up (along with Kristofer Hivju (Tormund from Game of Thrones), and Helen Mirren in a glorified cameo), and The Rock gets to be The Rock – from an early scene with some youth soccer coaching to the prison breakout to the icy climax and chase. Statham also has a ball as Shaw, from his banter with Hobbs to putting some parkour and gun-fu skills to use.
If you go into The Fate of the Furious expecting the next James Bond film (the international locales, the cars, etc.), it falls short. But if you’re expecting another solid Fast & Furious film, you’re in for a wild ride.