It is an unabashedly unapologetic, ridiculously fun, high-octane, automotive extravaganza that, from the get-go, fires on all cylinders and never really slows down long enough for you to catch your breath. I mean, usually, by the time a film franchise somehow manages to crawl its way to an eighth installment, no one’s having a good time. Storylines feel tired, the cast – if any of them are still around by that point – is phoning it in and audiences are presented with a narratively underwhelming cash grab (not to mention a serious case of franchise fatigue).
But not The Fate of the Furious.
No, instead of resting on its considerable laurels, it ups the ante on everything that came before in its cinematic universe, ratcheting up the spectacle and the high-wattage casting to such an extent that you wonder how they will possibly top themselves for the inevitable Fast 9. But I’m getting ahead of myself...
This latest chapter in the life of Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) finds the burly gearhead trying to enjoy some R&R in Cuba with new wife Letty (Michelle Rodriguez). Instead, he’s roped into working for a vindictive but brilliant – and perpetually pissed off – cyber-villain named Cipher (Charlize Theron), who wants Dom to pay for all his past sins: namely, screwing up several of her previous operations, not the least of which was her attempt to snag Furious 7’s “God’s Eye” program.
With Dom made a renegade turncoat and all the world’s technology at risk as a result, Mr. Nobody (Kurt Russell) enlists the only duo skilled enough to stop him: Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) and his arch-nemesis Deckard (Jason Statham). Together, they and Dom’s rag-tag team of betrayed buddies (Tyrese Gibson, Chris “Ludacris” Bridges and Nathalie Emmanuel) set out to thwart Cipher, figure out why Dom switched teams and, you know, save the entire world from annihilation. No biggie.
Cue: more astoundingly amazing car chases (people, at one point there’s A WHOLE ARMADA OF SELF-DRIVING ZOMBIE CARS SPEEDING THROUGH MANHATTAN!) and fabulously choreographed fight sequences (Hobbs and Deckard pummeling and parkouring their way out of prison is a standout) than you can throw a lug wrench at. It’s obvious the studio took a big chunk of Furious 7’s $1.5 billion (!) worldwide gross and reinvested it into this sequel.
Lest you think F8 is all style over substance, though, fear not: the script is clever, with enough twists and surprise cameos to keep fans giggling with glee in their seats. And speaking of giggling, the filmmakers wisely opt to keep the proceedings light despite the mass destruction. It’s almost like a wink at the audience that says, “Yeah, we know this is all completely outrageous, so we’re really going to have fun with it.”
Though Diesel and Rodriguez remain the least interesting actors onscreen – their characters’ “romance” is still just as wooden and unconvincing as it’s always been – Johnson and Statham are great, and Theron is a magnificent villain (one of the best the series has had). Cipher never cracks or backs down or shows her hand. There’s no attempt to humanize her or have the audience sympathize with her in any way, which was fantastic.
And, really, so is the entire movie. Like its most recent predecessor, F8 is a Grade-A popcorn movie designed to leave audiences slack-jawed with amazement and delight. Check your brain at the door, buckle up and hang on for its wild, WILD ride.