The furious family is back for another exhilarating ride.
"From little things, big things grow". If ever there were a film saga to take up Paul Kelly's mantra, the Fast and Furious juggernaut would surely be it. Beginning all the way back in 2001 with a Point Break knockoff about street racers moonlighting as crims, the franchise now boasts eight movies and a combined box office of close to $4 billion. The latest installment, The Fate of the Furious, could not be further from the film that began it all. The cast is bigger, the locations more exotic, the cars more expensive, and the explosions much, much more frequent. Far from a story about living life a quarter mile of a time, the plot is now about saving the entire planet from nuclear devastation.
The rules of franchise cinema are well established. Each subsequent film must honour those that preceded it by including any signature shots, iconic lines or beloved characters that haven't yet been killed off. To that end, The Fate of the Furious knows its history well. The opening shot, in fact, tracks a barely-clothed female derriere as it snakes its way through a collection of vintage Cuban cars. Moments later, series stalwarts Dom Toretto (Vin Diesel) and wife Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) come to the aid of family and challenge a local to an illegal street race for pink slips, all to the tunes of a thumping trap, electro and hip hop soundtrack. This, more than anything else, is the lifeblood of these films. But long gone are the days where such scenes receive anything more than lip service, replaced by action set-pieces so ridiculous that you can't help but go along for the ride.
The Fate of the Furious kicks into gear via the sudden emergence of a computer hacker named Cipher (played by series newcomer Charlize Theron). From there, all it takes is a little bit of blackmail to convince Dom to turn on his extended family, betraying everyone in his life as he helps Cipher carry out a series of increasingly brazen attacks around the world. The rest of the movie tracks the efforts of Dom's crew to hunt him down and stop him. Naturally, a few hundred cars get obliterated along the way.
The returning cast members – including Dwayne Johnson, Jason Statham, Tyrese Gibson, Chris 'Ludacris' Bridges, Nathalie Emmanuel and Kurt Russell – give the intensely silly material everything they've got, though this time there's only a brief reference to the late Paul Walker. Director F. Gary Gray also lands the mother of all cameos, which we won't reveal here, other than to say damn. The vehicular cast is similarly impressive, and includes a 1971 Plymouth GTX, a 2017 Subaru BRZ, a Lamborghini Murcielago LP 640, and a Russian Akula Class Attack Submarine.
Ultimately, and despite the major departure from its origins, The Fate of the Furious still delivers in spades when it comes to entertainment. If anything, the film actually rises above other brainless blockbusters by being, almost paradoxically, extremely clever in its stupidity. For example: any movie can crash dozens of cars into one another, but it takes a special kind of inventiveness to have a hacker assume control of their onboard computers, essentially turning them into zombies on wheels. The action sequence that follows proves utterly exhilarating, and makes clear that the folks behind this franchise still have a few tricks up their sleeve.