The Fate of the Furious Review: Cars, Espionage, and Family

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This is the eighth Fast and the Furious movie. It features a submarine chasing the heroes on ice while they’re driving their colorful muscle cars. It also involves a cyberterrorist hacking a massive number of cars in New York City, which she literally refers to as “zombies.” These films are by no means everyone’s cup a tea (though the huge box office numbers beg to differ), but I’m happy to say that Fate stays true to the over-the-top renaissance that’s started with Fast Five. As the sequel number gets higher, the films get more and more ridiculous, and that’s only a good thing.

Fate sees Dom (Vin Diesel, who’s over-relaxed mumbles somehow add to it all) getting pulled into betraying his team by Cipher (Charlize Theron), a villain that, when not delivering painfully cliche dialogue, is waxing philosophical as if she just walked out of a Matrix sequel. She wants to let loose a nuclear missile. Why? If you’re sitting in the theater watching the eighth film in a series that was initially about drag racing, do you really give a shit? The series stopped giving a shit four movies ago. The game is all about endearingly stupid comic relief and all the ridiculous things you can do with a car these days.

With Dom forced to fight his team, and the ghost of Paul Walker hanging over like a shadow (he gets a lovely nod in the film’s final moments), the franchise gets to give some other characters more screentime. Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham initially feud, but start to warm up to each other after a quip about a toothbrush going into someone’s rectum (yes, really). But it’s Michelle Rodriguez who must carry what thankfully little emotional heft this series carries with it. She does it with a smirk and a killer punch.

Action is obviously what audiences are here for, and there’s certainly plenty of it. More CGI than typical of this series, but that does allow it to really go for broke with some truly insane set pieces. But the film’s best action scenes come when the cars are parked and the fists come out. A prison break featured in the trailers shatters all expectations. Another one late in the film that I won’t spoil will make you beg for another Transporter film.

But then maybe just a ninth entry to this franchise will do the trick. Fate doesn’t change the game, but no one really asked it to. There’s cars, action, ridiculously lenient and forgiving government agencies, and cheesy as all hell monologues about family. But director F. Gary Gray keeps the series winking at its audience, rather than going for serious drama. So long as that keeps up in future installments, the Fast and the Furious won’t lose its peculiarly long-lasting dose of fun in the world of blockbusters. Grade: B+

By Matt Dougherty

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