In the opening scenes of THE FATE OF THE FURIOUS (or F8), a horse and cart appears amidst the frenetic energy of a drag race across Havana. That tiny anachronism is a metaphor for the previous seven Fast and the Furious films, each of which has steadily elevated the stakes to happily insane proportions. The latest entry in the bulletproof series is literally thousands of miles away from drag races on the streets of LA, but nevertheless makes perfect sense in the history of the franchise.
The tragic death of Paul Walker, the co-star of the majority of the series, has done little to slow down a sequel where the supporting characters are the story. Dom (Vin Diesel) and his wife Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) are honeymooning in Cuba when the mysterious Cipher (Charlize Theron) makes Dom an offer he can’t refuse. Turning his back on his family/team, including ally Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson), his crew must unite with some old friends and foes to take on the one person they have no contingency plan against.
Even with a unnecessarily complicated set-up involving secret pasts and women and children in peril, each moment of the film is designed to outdo the last. The one-upmanship that director F. Gary Gray (Straight Outta Compton) instills takes us from the Hulk-like Johnson smashing his way through a prison riot with Jason Statham, a car chase involving grappling hooks, and an attack on a Soviet era military base in the icy hinterlands. It’s magnificent in terms of raw action power, even if the escalating scenarios are just as likely to elicit chuckles of disbelief as they are roaring ovations.
It’s usually a cop-out to say that a blockbuster film is made for the fans, yet THE FATE OF THE FURIOUS systematically checks off boxes that will please the faithful. Dominic Toretto is never truly allowed to be seen as a ‘bad’ guy, but all the other familiar players (especially The Rock, Kurt Russell and Jason Statham) are all given solid hero arcs as well. The real joy comes in the interactions between Statham and Helen Mirren in a cockney-flavoured cameo that somehow gives the film all the legitimacy, sandwiched as she is between the retina-burning colours of the hotrods and the hypnotic jiggles of barely-covered butt cheeks.
THE FATE OF THE FURIOUS is ultimately impossible to criticise. Can we really argue that the submarine chasing a bright orange Lamborghini across the ice is a “step too far”? Indeed, one set-piece seems to be going for the record of most cars trashed since a Blues Brothers film, and as remote-controlled vehicles come pouring out of a building, there’s not a single thing we can say against its audacity. Whether its ogling the gorgeous cars, the unfeasibly large guns, or the semi-clad money-makers at the finish line, it’s hard to imagine the core audience will be anything less than thrilled. Bring on F9!