A stupendous mash of soap opera dramatics and gloriously over the top action, The Fate of the Furious delivers on its promise of stupefying action cinema and then some.
Eight films into a franchise and something surely has to give, right? At least that is what history has shown us, with all matters of “Part 8” bottom of the pile dross. The Fate of the Furious avoids such a, well, fate. This is due to the monumentally successful franchises’ ability to evolve in effectively slight ways which has seen it transform from Point Break drag racing knock off, to a globetrotting heist actioner filled with the kind of ludicrously entertaining scenarios that would make the Roger Moore era Bond films blush with envy.
It is also a franchise filled with memorable, charismatic characters that make up a crew of street racing heist masters. There is Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) a colossal sized DSS agent with a soft heart for his pre-teen daughter. Roman (Tyrese Gibson) a former criminal who uses his charms to try and best mechanic Tej (Chris Bridges) for the hand of resident hacktivist Ramsey (Nathaniel Emmanuel). There is Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) the aggressive spirit of the crew. And, of course, her husband and crew leader Dom (Vin Diesel), the man with the plan, and another plan in case that plan backfires.
When Dom is coerced to the dark side by terrorist mastermind Cypher (Charlize Theron) the crew which he calls his “family” are left devastated. Yet with a powerful resource in CIA agent Mr. Nobody (Kurt Russell) and former foe turned ally Deckard (Jason Statham) joining ranks, the crew come together at their darkest hour to get to the bottom of Dom’s treachery and save the world.
There is much more to the plot, such is the soap opera nature of this franchise that has delved into creative ways to keep character motivations and narrative alive. During the series run one character has already come back from the dead, while throughout a homoerotic subtext (applied or otherwise) between the central bromance simmers underneath. In this instalment the reveal of a baby, used for emotional blackmail, is a key plot point. If there was ever an action movie series equivalent to the Bold and the Beautiful, the Fast and the Furious would be it.
Such soap opera dramatics is partnered beautifully with the high octane, logic bereft action scenarios of the vehicular kind and much more. Souped up cars burning rubber is partnered with the glorious sight of Johnson manhandling a heat seeking missile as a submarine gives chase. Then there is a prison breakout, headlined by the double act of Johnson and Statham, trading barbs while kicking ass. Rumours of a spin-off featuring the two leads to all kinds of giddy expectations.
Of course, no matter of Hollywood dreamt scenarios can match the real-life drama behind the scenes, such as the well documented rivalry between muscle bound co-stars Diesel and Johnson. Then there is the tragic death of franchise regular Paul Walker, whose yang to Diesel’s ying is something that is sorely missed. Yet the return of Statham to the franchise is one that fills the void with a different kind of energy, bringing more humour and charm compared to his previous role as chief villain in Furious 7, not to mention an always impressive display of acrobatic martial arts.
Where Johnson previously owned the mantle of series MVP, Statham has at the very least risen to the ranks of co-champion. Such is the strength of the Fast and the Furious series, as new elements bring new energy with every instalment of one of the most entertaining action series there currently is.