Review: The Fate of the Furious

I must confess that my knowledge of the Fast and Furious franchise is extremely limited. Even though Universal Studios has churned out seven previous F&F movies, the high-octane car-centric action series has never really appealed to me. As a result, I was skeptical walking into The Fate of the Furious (or F&F8 for short). After all, most franchises which have managed to reach an eighth installment usually sputter out by the end. However, I’m delighted to say that I was wrong. The Fate of the Furious is a slick, exciting, well-made spectacle that represents pure escapist fun at its best.
For the uninitiated, the Fast and Furious series follows the adventures of Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) and his crew of renegade street racers as they get themselves involved in various high-stake missions which typically require heists and over-the-top car stunts. In F&F8, the crew faces their greatest challenge yet as Toretto is forced to work for a cunning cyber-terrorist named Cypher (Charlize Theron), who has lofty plans of world domination. The rest of the team, including former government agent Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson), have to stop Cypher while dealing with the betrayal of their leader.
            Fast and Furious has never been about cerebral storylines and sophisticated themes. These movies are about fun action and snappy humor, and F&F8 has these elements in spades. Director F. Gary Gray does an excellent job at capturing the frenetic thrills of high-speed car chases. One sequence in the middle of the film involves an army of self-driving cars zooming through the streets of Manhattan and piling on top of each other. This premise alone should tell you everything you need to know about this movie.
Beyond the action, F&F8 simply oozes charm and personality. Most of this comes from the highly-entertaining cast. Almost everyone is lighting up the screen with goofy heart and cheesy dialogue. Normally this would be a detriment. But thankfully, F&F8 has a healthy amount of self-awareness which embraces its silliness without a hint of shame. The absolute standouts of the movie are Dwayne Johnson’s Hobbs and Jason Statham’s villain-turned-reluctant-hero Shaw. These two are constantly firing off quips back-and-forth, and both actors have such wonderful comedic chemistry that it’s hard to take your eyes off them.
My problems with this film are relatively minor. The primary antagonist, Cypher, is rather generic and uninspired. Charlize Theron is a wonderful actress, but very little of her talent gets to shine through. Her motivations are practically non-existent, and she seems to just make up her plan as it goes along. Some of the characterization was also a bit lazy, even by crazy action movie standards. Despite being put in a very intriguing situation, Toretto doesn’t have much of a character arc. Also, I found it a bit strange that Jason Statham’s Shaw is so quickly accepted into the crew, even though he was the main villain of the previous film.
Looking past these flaws, I still had a blast with The Fate of the Furious. It can be difficult for a stylized action movie to sustain a sense of fun while not descending into schlock territory. But somehow, F&F8 makes it look easy. In a time when many action movies are desperately trying to come across as overly dark and mature, it’s refreshing to see a film that isn’t afraid to be goofy while maintaining a high level of quality and craftsmanship. If you need a break from work, or just want to have a fun time at the movies, I would highly recommend checking out The Fate of the Furious.