With The Fate of The Furious, America’s greatest action series is slowly eroding the laws of physics. That’s okay. You can see Chris Morgan, writer of every Fast movie since the third, trying to figure out how to top the increasingly ludicrous escalation that began with Fast Five, which officially converted the racing based franchise into an over the top action spectacle machine able to absorb whatever sub-genres it felt like. Heists, Bond-ian spy madness, and even city-saving super heroics have all become part of the Toretto family’s cinematic saga, and they all work thanks to the ceaseless rumbling of that ridiculously earnest thematic engine: family.
The family is down a member now—aside from Tokyo Drift, it’s the first Paul Walker-less entry since his tragic death—and the lack of Brian O’Conner’s mellow, mere mortal presence among the sometimes almost literally larger than life titans like Dom (Vin Diesel) and Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) is difficult to replace. So Fate doesn’t even try, opting instead to fill the gap with what’s already there. It’s a good move. Bring back Jason Statham as Furious 7 villain Deckard Shaw, force him to work alongside the gang, and let his rivalry with Hobbs grow into the most joyful (and homoerotic) part of the movie. Spend more time with Letty (Michelle Rodriguez), a character who it took ’til Furious 6 to get right. And Dom…
You already know. Yes, Dom betrays his family, giving Fate, directed by series rookie F. Gary Gray (Straight Outta Compton, The Italian Job), a very different feel than anything before. Manipulated by Cipher (Charlize Theron), a master cyberterrorist complete with ridiculous dreads that only a master cybercriminal in a movie would have, Dom carries out missions that the team must stop, and reveals himself to be, essentially, the Terminator, through some ridiculous one man-vs-team matches that, if you care about this series like you should, are emotionally fraught with betrayal.
When it comes to action, Gray doesn’t have the same distinct visual flair that 7’s James Wan or 3-6’s Justin Lin managed to exert on the blockbuster behemoth, but he gets the job done with some nutso set pieces that combine the family drama with, uh, car waterfalls. Because like always, the real draw here isn’t the action, but the people involved. It’s a bummer that removing Brian means Jordanna Brewster has to go too, but the other two pieces of the core fam Tej (Ludacris) and Roman (Tyrese) are as great as ever. Plus Kurt Russell returns as whoever he is, and… Helen Mirren is in The Fate of The Furious too. Like every entry post-Fast Five (which is perfect), it can be a bit uneven, but the highs are far and frequent enough to keep this, on average, as fast and as furious as you could ever dream.
Images from Universal Pictures