Warning: Minor spoilers ahead for “The Fate of the Furious.”
“The Fate of the Furious” may make you frustratingly mad for a good portion of the film.
It’s genuinely difficult to stand behind Dom (Vin Diesel), the leader who’s been at the heart of the franchise, as you watch him turn against his family to work for a cyber terrorist against his will.
But boy does it all pay off in the final third of the movie.
The eighth film in the franchise kicks off in Havana, Cuba, where Dom and Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) are having their honeymoon only for Dom to be solicited by a seemingly inconspicuous woman in need of a helping hand.
As you’ll probably be able to guess from her long bleach blonde hair, it’s — shocker — Charlize Theron’s character, a cyber terrorist coined Cipher, who has been brandished in the film’s marketing as the franchise’s first big female villain. You don’t have to read too much into the film’s trailers to guess that she has some sort of blackmail on Dom throughout the film. Why else would Dom “turn [his] back on family,” as Letty puts it in a trailer?
You’ll have to wait a bit to learn what Cipher has on Dom — and that’s okay, because it’s a doozy. The film’s twist may not sit too well with everyone, but the franchise definitely gets some points for keeping fans on their toes.
What “Fate” does do effectively is fix some of the previous mistakes of the past two movies.
“Fast 6” and “Furious 7” were muddled with superfluous side plots. “Fast 6” showed Brian heading randomly back to prison to get unnecessary info about Letty’s amnesia only to find out Dom didn’t want the info when he returned. In “Furious 7” Dom’s crew is told they need to nab a piece of high-tech gear if they want to find Deckard Shaw, only to find that he’s following them the entire movie.
“Fate” tells one continuous narrative without any random silly side missions. Even better? It does so while fixing some of the holes of the previous films.
If you were wondering why the villains of the past two films, the Shaw brothers, turned out the way they did, you’ll get an answer to that. More backstory is provided to clarify why Owen Shaw (Luke Evans) and his brother Deckard (Jason Statham) were military men gone rogue.
Mind you, Owen and Deckard were responsible for the deaths of some of Dom’s “family” in previous films, but “Fate” reminds you to not judge someone until you actually know them. It’s a lesson that goes back to the series’ core. Brian learned that over the course of the first film when meeting Dom and getting to know him. The same rings true for Deckard, the villain of “Furious 7.”
While some may take issue with the “Fast and Furious” franchise for making additions and amendments in later installments to answer key questions and plot holes in previous films, I’d argue it makes them stronger when viewed as a collective whole. It’s obvious Diesel, the creative force behind the franchise, pays attention to what the fans want to know and “Fate” has plenty of fan service for those who keep coming back for more.
Characters from throughout the franchise appear, if only in brief moments. And for those who have missed the racing at the core of the franchise in the past few films, the film kicks off with one of the franchise’s craziest street races in Cuba.
Surprisingly, it’s not the over-the-top action sequences that are the most memorable in this movie. Those fall a bit flat in comparison to the bank vault chase from “Fast Five” and dropping cars from planes in “Furious 7.” If you’ve watched every teaser and trailer, it feels like you’ve already seen much of the submarine scene in Russia and the remote-controlled vehicles taking over New York, a sequence that felt more humorous and unrealistic at my screening than mind-blowing.
Instead, it’s the return of Jason Statham as Deckard who really steals the show in not one, but two amazing fight sequences. The first is in the prison battle that’s been teased in trailers with the Rock. The second is one I don’t want to spoil, but that everyone will be talking about after the film’s release. It’s that good. Statham is definitely the best addition to the franchise in the past few installments.
The only star who may outshine Statham is Helen Mirren who plays his mother, who’s every bit as quick-witted and sharp as her boys, if not more. Mirren looks like she’s having some of the most fun in the film — and she should be. Diesel recently told Kelly Ripa the actress personally asked him to be in the film backstage at the Oscars the other year.
On the flip side, the addition of Scott Eastwood as a protégé to Kurt Russell’s Mr. Nobody is nothing special. The eager-to-please agent feels like a wannabe pretty boy replacement for the late Paul Walker. He never quite fits in and it doesn’t help that Dom’s crew mocks him as well, referring to him as Little Nobody.
Disappointingly, Theron’s monotone drone makes her sound and look the most bored in the film. While it becomes obvious why she singled out Dom, her endgame is never made completely clear — a plot point that will likely unfold in future installments.
Halfway through “Fate,” you’ll probably start thinking this is the darkest “Fast and Furious” movie in the franchise. Much of it doesn’t have the lighthearted, fun attitude of the others. If it weren’t for Roman’s (Tyrese Gibson) comedic chops and playful banter with Tej (Ludacris), the first half of the movie would be a tougher sell.
This is a very different film from any of the others in the franchise, and it’s supposed to be just that. This isn’t just a movie about Dom’s crew getting together to have an adventure while saving the world from another terrorist — this is about seeing what happens when the terrorist is one of your own. This is what happens when a man’s family is turned upside down and is threatened to be taken from him.
It’s the final half hour or so of the film that really makes “Fate” worth it. But even when the gang’s all working together in spectacular fashion, the franchise loses some of its sparkle without the franchise’s other lead, Paul Walker, who died in 2013. His absence is notably felt and that’s clear by the many little references to his character dropped throughout the film.
One in particular may even get you a little emotional at the end. To family, indeed.
“The Fate of the Furious” is in theaters Friday, April 14. Check out a trailer below.
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