'The Fate of the Furious' Review: Believe It or Not, the Family Is Now Even Faster and More Furious
If all of the Fast and Furious movies before this have been like, familyfamilyfamilyfamilyfamily, then The Fate of the Furious is the first installment that's about family. Biologically speaking. Saying any more would spoil some of the fun, though, so let's stick to the family we know -- and why Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) betrays them.
The characters in this franchise never really change -- they're all badass, virile family men -- so the only reliable way to mix things up is by temporarily having good guys go bad and bad guys go good. (See also: Letty, Hobbs, Deckard Shaw...) Obviously, Dom isn't going to turn on his family for nothing. Enter Charlize Theron's Cipher, a hacker who blackmails Dom into doing her bidding. "Your team is about to go up against the only thing they can't handle," she purrs. "You." (Never trust a white woman with dreadlocks.)
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Cipher has been touted as the franchise's first female villain, and of course the first time the team goes against a woman, it's another female who lists off her skills ("Anything that can be hacked is hers to play with") while the boys then immediately comment on how hot she is. Which Theron is! She plays the role sexily, full of undercooked camp and cockiness, and it's only a shame she isn't given more action-y stuff to do than a kind of tense computer hack-off. Still, I'll take Charlize Theron in F&F however I can get her. Her Cipher character has deep ties to the previous movies (if you care), or she is the latest cool baddie. (Continuity has never really been that important in the tao of Toretto.)
Director F. Gary Gray (Straight Outta Compton) is also new to the franchise, taking over for Justin Lin (3 - 6) and James Wan (7). He delivers what you expect from one of these movies -- and by now, you know what to expect from a Fast and Furious movie. There are as many gratuitous shots of muscle cars as there are of butt cheeks hanging out of jean shorts. There's the obligatory drag race -- here, a standout sequence set in Havana -- as a reminder that before the team became superheroes of international espionage, these movies were about street racing. It is earnest, but never overly serious. The most self-serious thing about Fate is that it's not actually called F8 of the Furious. (It should be.)
And that's how this goes. Nothing in the Fast and Furious verse gets reinvented. It expands. Vin Diesel and the F&F mind trust won't throw out anything that works and, going on eight movies now, it pretty much all works. Instead, they continue to add new faces to the cast -- Scott Eastwood as a "candy a**" government flunky, Dame Helen Mirren in a cameo that's too good to divulge here -- and even crazier stunts.
As if answering moviegoers who left Furious 7 asking, "How could they possibly top that?!" the action is escalated once again in Fate, as dumb as it is cool, as ridiculous as it is brilliant. Dwayne Johnson said they shot a "'holy sh*t' iconic prison breakout," and he was not lying. (The Rock stabs a dude in the heart while Jason Statham does parkour.) A mob of "zombie" cars on auto-drive gives new meaning to hellish traffic. When Fate of the Furious eventually has the team racing a nuclear submarine across Russia and the stakes have escalated to Dom & Co. stopping World War 3 and saving the literal world, you may wonder, How did we get here? Who cares. Buckle up and enjoy the f**king ride.