OK, first things first, yeah? If the testosterone fuelled, physics mocking, rubber burning, super-franchise that is the Fast & Furious universe still isn’t your thing after seven movies and a then you might wanna knock a few stars off the rating below right now, because this really ain’t gonna be for you.
For everybody else – and considering that this franchise has made like, all of the money, I’m assuming that it must be the majority – it’s very much business as usual as sweaty biceps, screaming engines and roaring fireballs continue to be the order of the day with a few ballsy retcons along the way.
If the previous movie took us into the realms of the MCU’s Avengers, with complex teams, ridiculous wisecracks and devastating urban collateral damage, The Fate Of The Furious drags us into the utterly preposterous area of the Transformers films with stunts, plot shifts so blatantly absurd, you won’t know whether to whoop with joy or send an angry tweet to Mythbusters in order to call out some of the iffiest physics you’ve ever seen.
Since conquering Deckard Shaw, the vengeful, rival pretender to the mantle of “alpha bald”, the F&F gang are all taking it rather easy with Dom and Letty finally having time to have a honeymoon in Havana after making it through life threatening escapades and a spot of the odd amnesia. However, the honeymoon period is literally over when Dom is approached by the deadlocked, techno-terrorist known only as Cipher and the overconfident super villain manages to coerce Toretto into doing something we all never believed was possible – turning his impossibly wide back on his family.
Stabbing his team in the back mid-heist as they steal an EMP device from Berlin (as you do), our gravel-throated hero not only makes off with the macguffin in order to give it to his new boss, but he leaves swole DSS Agent Luke Hobbs to be arrested and locked in maximum security supermax that looks like it’s been designed to hold gamma irradiated cannibals. Coincidentally, lurking in the cell opposite Hobbs is Deckard Shaw and after the two break out (key word: break) with an assist to smug government spook, Mr. Nobody, the two are folded into the original team to accomplish the impossible. Bring down Dominic Toretto.
However, Dom’s alarming attitude adjustment has obviously been brought on by extenuating circumstances and while he does Cipher’s bidding, he plots to escape her control with help from Deckard Shaw’s crime boss mum (Helen Mirren bizarrely channeling Peggy Mitchell). As Cipher gets ever closer to her true goal – car jacking a russian submarine and stealing the nukes on board – the team has to try and outmanuver her in various, flashy vehicles while trying to keep in-fighting to a minimum as they hope that Dom sees sense before metaphorically crushing them under the wheels of his muscle car.
Firstly, while it must be said that this latest model of cinema’s most over revved action machine has lost some of the sparkle that made instalments 5 and 7 so identically joyful, what helps sells this latest instalment is the expanded roles of three of the more savvy actors of the rapidly bloating cast. Firstly, Kurt Russell, riding the crest of yet another career resurgence, returns as the perpetually perky government spook Mr Nobody, peering at his ludicrous surroundings through (presumably rose tinted) shades, thoroughly amused at the testosterone soaked craziness swirling all around him. One suspects he didn’t have to act much to look so entertainingly perplexed. The second MVP is The Stath, now illogically upgraded from previous big-bad to team member this time round thanks to some serious ret-conning that virtually breaks it’s back in contorting to make him a misunderstood good(ish) guy. The fact that he murdered a member of their team in the previous movie isn’t even properly broached, but his snide sneering at the white hats and a fantastic late in the day riffing on John Woo’s Hard Boiled during the baby-saving/goon shooting climax makes his shift to the side of the angels welcome, if utterly baffling. The third and final great point is, of course, Dwyane Johnson’s hulking supercop Hobbs. Whether deflecting rubber bullets with a flex of his massive pecs, shoving torpedoes off course with his bare hands or ripping up a concrete bench to keep up with his reps while sealed in a super pokey, Hobbs is the perfect poster boy to how impressively stupid this series has truly become. However, the true gold to be mined here is the double act he has going with Jason Statham that not only plays up to both their physical and comedic strengths (Statham in particular is as funny here as he was in Spy) but produces the best action set piece to boot as the two stage monumentally entertaining prison break executed with nothing but damaging fists and even more bruising wisecracks.
The rest of the cast are fine, falling into their regular rhythm amongst the flames and numerous cameos Although rather worryingly, Vin Diesel seems for some reason be taking all this guff seriously, gruffly stomping from one scene to the next switching from angry to very angry and not much else. I mean, sure, Michelle Rodriguez pretty much dies the same thing, but at least she puts in an actual performance while she’s doing it.
With at least two more episodes guaranteed, it’s going to be interesting to see where the Fast And Furious movies can actually go next. I mean. You can’t argue that things don’t get much bigger than a submarine exploding from the deep and scattering cars like toys, or the sight of hundreds of remote controlled automobiles raining out of a multi story car park like an auto-vehicle World War Z and unless Diesel and Co. are gonna start drag racing on Mars, I can’t fathom where else the films can go. However, there’s an awkward sense that things may finally be getting too big as the scale is starting to affect the fun and the preposterous nature of the action, while truly impressive, is starting to take the piss. You have to understand, it takes very smart people to make a movie this dumb, but even I’m curious to know if anyone involved among the legions of stuntmen, CGI artists and pre-vis boffins are cool with the fact there’s atvleast two moments in the movie that’ll have you screaming “That’snothow fire works, guys!” directly at the screen.
While busting his F&F cherry, director F. Gary Gray doesn’t quite match up to James Wan’s Furious 7 or Justin Lin’s Fast 5, but while the franchise’s chassis is starting to noticably sag from the weight, he still delivers outrageous action beats and explosions so big it could rouse a dormant, eldritch god from its slumber of a millennia. Whether the series can keep up the pace is debatable, but the Fate Of The Furious brings all the crash, bang and wallop needed to narrowly steer it though the rough patches.