Director: F. Gary Gray
Starring: Vin Diesel, Dwayne Johnson, Kurt Russell, Jason Statham, Michelle Rodriguez, Charlize Theron, Ludacris, Tyrese Gibson, Helen Mirren, Scott Eastwood

Who would have thought that a street racing movie from 2001 starring Vin Diesel and Paul Walker would still be going strong and onto its eighth movie in the franchise. It picks up with Dom (Diesel) and Letty (Rodriguez) vacationing in Havana where his cousin lives. It only makes sense in a movie like this that their vacation comes to an abrupt end when he attempts to help a stranded woman on the side of the road with her broken down jeep. The driver happens to be the elusive Cipher (Theron), one of the world’s most dangerous computer hackers. You can sense there is some bad blood between the two of them, but we’re not quite sure yet what happened between them. She propositions him with a job offer he can’t refuse. What is this, The Godfather? It comes with a catch as it means turning his back and working against his team of drivers and friends whom he considers family. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is also back as ex-security agent Luke Hobbs who’s now coaching his daughter’s soccer team. He’s been called in on special duty by Mr. Nobody (Russell) to gather Dom’s team for a covert mission. Just when the mission appears to be a success, Dom goes rogue by stealing the EMP device and abandoning his team for Cipher’s plan of attack. It’s up to Hobbs and the rest of the team to track down Cipher and Dom before she uses the device and other nuclear missiles and submarines to start a nuclear war.

That already sounds ridiculous, am I right? Well, this is The Fast and the Furious franchise after all. As the franchise has carried on they’ve gone the route of James Bond and Mission: Impossible style plotlines. There’s nothing wrong with that to a certain extent. This entry was written by Chris Morgan who has written every one starting with the third movie (Tokyo Drift). While you could enjoy this one on its own, it helps if you’ve seen the others in the franchise. There are plenty of references and callbacks to previous storylines and relationships. Fate offers the typical opening scene with a massive street race where we see Dom in a tricked out junker car racing around the streets of Havana. It doesn’t really have anything to do with the plot outside of setting the tone in place that all Fast fans enjoy. These movies work best when it teeters on being melodramatic while staying somewhat realistic. One of the reasons why this franchise continues to do well is the chemistry in the cast. Along with Diesel, Dwayne Johnson, Jason Statham, Kurt Russell, Michelle Rodriguez, Ludacris, and Tyrese Gibson are all back. The only absent member of the team is Jordana Brewster who played Paul Walker’s wife. They’ve written in that those characters have started a newer, quieter life elsewhere. Don’t worry– there is still a tribute to Walker in this film.

Every actor seems to be having fun with his or her characters. This includes Oscar winners Charlize Theron in the villain role and Dame Helen Mirren as the uncredited mother to Jason Statham. There’s plenty of bro-type humor and banter between the guys when the team reunites for their latest mission. Russell, Statham, and Johnson have just the right tone in their acting, as they know exactly what kind of movie they’re starring in. The same can’t be said for Scott Eastwood who’s overacting like crazy as the by-the-books mentor to Kurt Russell.

The issue with this entry is that it starts to rely too heavily on using CGI versus the practical stunts the franchise is known for. Cipher is able to hack into the GPS system of self-driving cars making them drive off parking ramps crashing into other cars and civilians. It has this “raining cars” effect. It’s a bit scary to think that this could happen if self-driving cars ever become a reality. The final showdown in the climax takes place over frozen Russian tundra and is so bonkers and over the top it results in plenty of eye rolls. It reminded me of the late Pierce Brosnan-era James Bond movies where everyone’s more concerned with tricks and stunts versus sticking to what makes these movies special.

The franchise’s main theme of family continues to stay front and center as Dom is reminded of the power of family in more ways than one. There are some surprise twists and a return of some characters we’ve seen before. While he may be having some cathartic family moments, his choice to go rogue tests the loyalty and trust he has with his other family, his team. It’s an odd plot device to have Dom split apart from the rest of the team for a majority of the movie. It may have worked better and not felt so disjointed if it was one of the side characters.

The Fate of the Furious is in the capable hands of F. Gary Gray (Straight Outta Compton) who takes over from other directors like Justin Lin and James Wan. There’s no sense of slowing down for this franchise even though it could have ended with Paul Walker’s tribute in Furious 7. There are still two more to come after this one. Audiences flock for the high-octane action sequences and the chemistry of the cast. If Gray signs on for more, I want him to go back to a strong focus on the characters and the use of practical effects. Is that too much to ask?

Is It Worth Your Trip to the Movies? Fans will buckle in and enjoy this ride even if it’s not one of the stronger entries.


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