The opening scene in The Fate of the Furious goes back to the franchise’s roots with a good old-fashioned street race for pink slips. Our favorite muscle-bound, wife beater wearing lead, Dominic Toretto, is on vacation in Cuba with Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) when he finds out his cousin has gotten into some trouble.
To get him out of it, Dom must race the guy with the fastest car in town in a rust-bucket of a car. But it doesn’t matter because “It’s not what’s under the hood that matters, but who’s behind the wheel.”
The whole scene is vintage Fast & Furious with beautiful locations, even more beautiful women and an exhilarating chase down narrow streets that concludes in glorious fashion. In fact, it’s probably the best opening scene to any Fast & Furious movie.
Unfortunately, the rest of the movie is not quite on par.
Dom’s getaway is cut short when a mysterious woman named Cipher (Charlize Theron) blackmails him into stealing something and turning on his crew. What she has on him we don’t know, but it’s enough for him to go rogue.
But what he steals is just once piece to a much larger puzzle that revolves around Cipher essentially hacking the world so that she can hold it accountable for the many wrongs it has committed. Sound familiar? It’s basically the same plot from Live Free or Die Hard.
Having Dom turn on his own team is an interesting wrinkle in the franchise and the mystery of why he’s obeying Cipher’s every command is somewhat engaging. We also get Vin Diesel actually stretching a few acting muscles this time around. Although, he seems to have only two volumes, the usual deep monotone and moments of spontaneous SHOUTING!
The reveal comes about halfway through the film and it’s actually kind of clever and a nice callback to one of the running themes throughout the franchise which is family.
As for the rest of the family, they’re forced to not only figure out why Dom would turn on them, but also work with Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) who killed a member of their family, Han, at the end of Fast & Furious 6. Or 3. Or 7? The timeline for these movies is really confusing.
Led by Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson), the team of Letty, Roman (Tyrese Gibson), Tej (Ludacris) and Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel) work with Mr. Nobody (Kurt Russell) to track down Dom and Cipher and save the world.
The main reason to go to any Fast & Furious movie is for the action sequences and once again, the filmmakers have created unique set pieces that have become a staple of the franchise.
Besides that opener in Cuba, there’s a scene where it is literally raining cars in New York City causing massive amounts of destruction. There’s also a fun prison break scene involving Johnson and Statham and the end provides plenty of mayhem as the crew escapes a Nuclear sub on the frozen landscapes of Russia.
What you don’t go to see in a Fast & Furious are the performances and this entry continues that tradition. Roman and Tej are once again the comic relief, Ramsay is essentially the female version of Tej but she’s better looking so that’s why she’s there and Letty is the backbone of the team.
Johnson as Hobbs is kind of a letdown in this movie. I miss the sweaty and pissed off Hobbs with his Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart goatee from Fast Five. He had one goal, track down Toretto by any means necessary and bring him in. Now he has a daughter and he’s coaching youth soccer?
Theron is the first female villain in the series which is inspired, but she spends most of the movie staring at computer monitors, pushing buttons and saying things like “It’s zombie time” and “They just don’t know when to quit.” And what’s with her hair? I miss Furiosa.
I will give The Fate of the Furious props for knowing it’s a Fast & Furious movie more than the others. This is by far the jokiest movie in the series with numerous one-liners and insults. At one point, Johnson and Statham literally stop and laugh at the absurdity of it all.
And Statham gets perhaps the biggest laughs in the movie (If you can believe that) particularly in a scene where he’s fighting bad guys while protecting precious cargo.
Is The Fate of the Furious the best in the franchise? No, but it’s far from being the worst. The opening scene is terrific, the set pieces are fun and Johnson and Statham have great chemistry together.
The franchise really came together with Fast Five because that was the movie where they finally embraced the ridiculousness. This wasn’t a crew of street-racers stealing DVD players anymore. They were dragging bank vaults through the streets of Rio and skydiving in cars.
The Fate of the Furious continues in the ridiculous, but that opening scene made me think, maybe it’s time to ease up on the gas peddle a little. This new formula is beginning to get a little redundant.