Eight chapters in, the “Fast and Furious” franchise is now a fantasy fulfillment factory. Anything you can dream up — as long as it involves cars, dudes and speeches about loyalty — it can produce; the more ridiculous the better. Want to see a fleet of cars get chased across a frozen lake by a Russian submarine? Have a seat, friend.
Don’t get caught up in the details; normal, everyday logic does not apply to this series, and neither do normal, everyday rules. So if you’re not interested in seeing a fleet of cars get chased across a frozen lake by a Russian submarine, that’s between you and your maker. As long as you are, “The Fate of the Furious” is a wildly entertaining thrill ride that never lets its foot off the gas.
“Fate” — as in F8, get it? — is super-stuffed with stunts, machismo and character moments from its gigantic cast, which is now the size of a small community. This franchise is like a snowball rolling down a hill that keeps collecting new trinkets along the way, in this case cast members. So now, in addition to cast vets Vin Diesel, Michelle Rodriguez, Chris “Ludacris” Bridges, Tyrese Gibson and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, there’s also Jason Statham (who appeared in “Fast & Furious 6” but officially debuted in “Furious 7”) and Kurt Russell (who arrived in “Furious 7”), along with newbies Scott Eastwood, Helen Mirren and Charlize Theron. The series is employing half of Hollywood.
This time around, the crew is enlisted to stop “a cyber terrorist known as Cypher” (that’s Theron, wearing her hair in spring break cornrows), who is out to get her hands on some nukes and blackmails Diesel’s Dominic Toretto into helping her. Wait, Toretto, a bad guy? Yep, and it leads to the immortal line of dialogue, “Dominic Toretto just went rogue.”
The script is full of these glowing neon signs, which read like bumper stickers and will guide you along even if you’re not paying close attention to the particulars of the plot: “You make a deal, you gotta live up to it”; “I don’t work for anyone”; “Hell yeah, let’s roll.”
And roll it does, beginning with an outrageous car chase through the streets of Cuba, continuing with a New York City smash-em-up and leading toward the big submarine chase at the end. (In between there’s a prison riot, just in case you were getting squirmy in your seat.) Director F. Gary Gray (“Straight Outta Compton”), the series’ fifth helmer, has a great sense of rhythm and keeps things rolling, even as the film stretches past the two-hour mark.
Historians will remember 2011’s Justin Lin-directed “Fast Five” as the entry where the “Fast” series officially went off the rails, shifting from a too-serious meditation on bros and their engines to a highly adrenalized comic book fantasy in a constant state of one-upmanship with itself. That movie opened with Diesel and Paul Walker (R.I.P.) launching their car off a cliff and skydiving off the back of it without the aid of a parachute, still the best sequence in any of the “Fast” movies. Ever since then, the series has been finding new ways to combine autos, glances between two drivers, explosions and soliloquies about the importance of family, much in the same way Taco Bell constantly finds new ways to re-purpose the same four ingredients.
Theron, in full menacing whisper mode, should be having more fun; maybe she could borrow some from Gibson, who is forever having the time of his life in these movies. (Honest question: Why have no other movies used Gibson the way the “Fast” movies do?) Everyone else is on board for “Fate’s” unquestionable levels of silliness, which is good because at one point there’s a car chase that resembles the animal stampede from “Jumanji.”
There are certainly questions to be asked — Johnson has an endorsement deal with Under Armour but does his character, too? — but we’re at a time where the questions are better left to more pressing issues of the day.
“The Fate of the Furious” is like playing with Hot Wheels after injecting them with steroids. Like the man says, “hell yeah, let’s roll.”
‘The Fate of the Furious’
Rated PG-13: for prolonged sequences of violence and destruction, suggestive content, and language
Running time: 136 minutes
The Fate of the Furious (PG-13)
The good times keep rolling in this eighth installment of the hyper-adrenalized franchise which now stars half of Hollywood. (136 minutes) GRADE: B