With eight movies, two short films, theme park attractions, video games and 16 years of history, The Fast and The Furious is undeniably one of the most important action franchises of all time, together with James Bond and Mission Impossible.
The Fate of the Furious is directed by F. Gary Gray, and it sees the return of Vin Diesel, Dwayne Johnson, Michelle Rodriguez, Jason Statham, Tyrese Gibson, Chris “Ludacris” Bridges, Nathalie Emmanuel and Kurt Russell, and introduces newcomers Charlize Theron, Scott Eastwood and Kristofer Hivju. As you can see, the cast just keeps getting bigger and bigger, including a couple of surprise cameos.
The story of this franchise has become very similar to that of a soap opera, with characters dying and coming back, allegiances broken and rivalries settled. This time around, Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) is being blackmailed by the evil hacker Cipher (Charlize Theron) and is forced to turn against his team (better known as family). Now the gang, lead by Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson), joined by Furious 7 villain Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) and helped by government agents Mr. Nobody (Kurt Russell) and Eric Reisner (Scott Eastwood), has to go on a globe-trotting adventure to stop Cipher and make Dom good again. As you might imagine, the story is very dumb, with dramatic moments that sound silly due to an overly serious script filled with pathos, and intentionally and unintentionally hilarious lines and moments that made the entire audience laugh (courtesy of Tyrese Gibson, the unofficial comic relief).
The returning cast fits well into their shoes and their chemistry is as explosive as always. The (alleged) feud between Dwayne and Vin can be felt on screen, especially in the lack of screentime that the two share. Thankfully, the duo Johnson-Statham was great to watch, and the latter is easily the MVP in the cast: not only does he have the most memorable scenes (a prison riot near the beginning, and a humorous fight scene on an airplane), but he also carries the most charisma. Who was really disappointing here (due more to the script than her) is Charlize Theron: a badass as Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road, here she has jack to do, playing a villain part Boris Grishenko from Goldeneye and part Blofeld that is very underwhelming. In the last entry we had Statham, who was easily the best villain so far for his presence and menace, something that is truly lacking here since she spends most of the time inside a private airplane hacking what she wants when she wants to. Hopefully she will be better in the sequel(s).
Let’s stop talking about the story and acting, something that no one cares about when watching one of these movies. All you care about is the action, and I am very happy to say that it was great here. Even though I am not the biggest fan of the franchise and I would not know how to rank them, this is easily among my favorites for one simple reason: the pacing. All of the other movies have some tediously boring scenes of dialogue that do not move the story forward, making you feel the weight of the long runtime. This time around, there is plenty of action, the dialogues are light, and the tight editing makes the 136 minutes runtime feel much shorter.
Each setpiece is achieved with a mixture of practical effects and CGI, and each one of them feels fresh. The movie starts with a street race in Cuba that archens back to the first entries in the serie. Then we have a prison riot that sees Johnson and Statham jumping around and kicking all kinds of ass showcasing their different fighting styles. An highlight is easily the chase in New York (mostly filmed in Cleveland) where hundreds of cars are hacked to turn into a zombie army. Yeah. And the climax set in Russia has our heroes infiltrating a base, being chased on a lake, and fighting a submarine, all while there is another fight occuring inside an airplane. As you can see, the locations are varied, and the well-shot action (which can be a bit too close during close-quarters combat) keeps moving along nicely. I am also very impressed by how much was achieved practically, especially the huge explosions and some car stunts during the New York chase. They spent their $250 million budget well.
Overall, The Fate of the Furious is a solid entry in an action franchise that keeps getting bigger and more fun. While the story is not as smart as it thinks it is, the overall product is so enjoyable and fun to watch that I have to recommend it to fans of the genre and franchise. Judging by its record-breaking opening weekend, you have probably already seen it.
Visual Effects: 8
Violence & Gore: 7.5
Sex & Nudity: 4
Drugs & Profanity: 5
Intensity & Horror: 4