The Fateful Eight.
The Fate of the Furious is as ridiculously entertaining as you might expect. It’s certainly better than its trailers — which came across more like parodies of a Fast and Furious movie — suggested. Indeed, no eighth movie in any franchise has any right to be as fun or effective as Fate manages to be.
Fate has a great hook: Dom betrays his team — no, not his team! His family! — for mysterious reasons, joining hacker queen Cipher (Charlize Theron) to help fulfill her nefarious agenda. Why, oh why, would Dom ever do such a thing?! Well, I’m not going to spoil that reveal for you, but it’s a compelling, human reason.
With Dom now an agent of Cipher’s, the team — Letty, Roman, Tej, and Ramsey — and rogue DSS Agent Luke Hobbs are recruited — OK, they don’t really have a choice — by Mr. Nobody to pursue Dom and Cipher and clear themselves in the process. They also gain a surprise ally in Jason Statham’s Deckard Shaw, the villain of Furious 7. (How quickly they all forget about Han’s murder …)
The hunt for Dom takes them to New York City and Russia. (The movie’s opening race in Havana, meanwhile, gives “car bomb” a whole new meaning.) The Manhattan sequence is the movie’s most insane and effective action set-piece as Cipher’s hackers commandeer waves of cars with auto-drive chips to become her unwitting drone army. This auto-pilot assault is followed by the team’s literal multi-prong effort to trap Dom’s car. (I hope Neil deGrasse Tyson one day explains the physics of how such a zany trap would actually play out.)
The final act is essentially one prolonged chase across the ice in Russia. If you ever wanted to see The Rock surf a torpedo or cars take on a nuclear sub then Fate of the Furious is the movie for you. But this whole sequence goes on for way too long, culminating in some truly logic-defying antics even by this series’ admittedly low standards.
The hand-to-hand combat here is likewise over-the-top, especially Dwayne Johnson’s bone-crunching brawling. Jason Statham also gets several cool action moments, but it’s these two rivals’ verbal sparring that proves even more ridiculously macho as their insults grow increasingly crude yet funny as the film proceeds.
Director F. Gary Gray’s movie, like a wrestling narrative, is built around Face-Heel Turns and Heel-Face Turns. These redemptions will also allow for some refreshing of the ranks in the inevitable ninth and tenth films. (Dwayne Johnson’s feud with Vin Diesel is no publicity stunt so I don’t expect him to continue with the franchise after this film.)
But the real standout among the cast is the series’ new adversary. Charlize Theron brings the proper degree of icy cruelty to Cipher, who is essentially a Bond villain. She operates out of a jet, has a seemingly endless supply of henchmen, and harbors plans for global domination. Theron underplays the role, making Cipher’s head games and willingness to kill anyone — and delivering it all with a cobra-like stillness — all the creepier. The biggest letdown is that we never get to see Theron — who previously burned rubber in The Italian Job and Mad Max: Fury Road — behind the wheel or throwing down, as Fury Road and the trailers for her upcoming Atomic Blonde prove she’s more than capable of handling.
As has been widely reported, Helen Mirren has a small, but scene-stealing role in the film. The less said the better for the sake of spoilers, but I would welcome her character’s return in future sequels (and with more screen time).
Less effective is series newcomer Scott Eastwood as Mr. Nobody’s no-nonsense deputy. Eastwood seems a bit too old to play such a callow character, and the jokey jabs at his expense don’t always land.
As my colleague Terri Schwartz put it after her screening, the Fast and the Furious is basically a superhero franchise now. Indeed, if Dom joined a super-soldier program in the next movie I wouldn’t bat an eye. The team goes into space in the 10th movie? Of course they do! Why wouldn’t they?! Now that the franchise is basically a soap opera-meets-comic book series then it’s truly anything goes.