Directed by Gary F. Gray
The Fate of the Furious is, to put it mildly, a bonkers movie. While it’s at this point an understatement to say that the Fast series has long since gone beyond being a series about street-racing, it’s still fascinating at how the series can continually draw back on threads going all the way back to the beginning and still make it fit with the more high-octane Mission Impossible-y style that the series has adopted. This is a movie that has set pieces involving tanks, runaway cars piling on top of each other in a Person of Interest-esque expression of technological destruction and yet it’s all tethered together by the same personalities that have anchored these movies since the beginning. It’s somewhat of a testament to the strength of the series’ willingness to put faith in its actors and its own ability to experiment that it can remain true to its roots, despite gleefully making fun of the ensuing insanity.
It’s also a movie that probably couldn’t have been done without Paul Walker’s death prior to the release of Fast 7. While that movie chose to retire his character Brian O’Connor, this one is somewhat of a reaction to it with a reevaluation of what these characters have become and how that word Dom loves to deploy “family” means in relation to all of that. Which isn’t to say this movie is a philosophy thesis, but it is interesting to see how deeply personal these movies have gotten after all this time, and it’s also what has allowed the Fast series to retain its staying power when most movies would break after two sequels, let alone 7 of them.
One of the best examples of this has the series’ tendency to incorporate practically everyone who’s ever been in a Fast movie (but not Lucas!) into the mix, which has been baked into the series from the beginning. After all what was the most important relationship of the series between Dom and Brian was one based on a game of cat and mouse between them in the first film, when Brian was still a cop and Dom was just a criminal, but eventually they became family in the Fast way and in the literal way when Brian married into the Toretto family. That’s repeated itself throughout the series with additions like Roman, Hobbs, Ramsey, and apparently Deckard Shaw. While that last bit might ring a bit false given that Shaw took his opening shot by killing Han, the movie manages to resolve that quandary about how the crew can work with someone who has so deeply wounded them pretty well. And it of course does make for some dark buddy comedy material between Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham who need to be in more movies together.
Overall though Fate of the Furious isn’t perfect. While it is an extremely fun film and more than the sum of its parts, it does suffer somewhat from not giving someone like Charlize Theron enough meat to chew on beyond twisting her mustache as Cipher. That isn’t to say she doesn’t hold the villain mantle really well, but there isn’t much there like the primal fury of Deckard Shaw chasing Dom around the globe like an angry wraith, or Hobbs having his game knows game moments with the crew, and that sort of over-the-top sensibility is where the series lives.
Thankfully though Gary F. Gray does manage to capture that in the rest of the film. The actors are as heightened as usual, even Tyrese of all people manages to turn in a good performance as Roman, and Dwayne Johnson’s aforementioned brinkmanship with Jason Statham carries a good chunk of the movie’s goodwill for me. It also owes a great deal of debt to the “Mario Kart from Hell”-esque sensibilities of Mad Max: Fury Road, which if you’re going to take cues from a movie, it may as well be one of the best ones for car-fu. Either way though, you’re definitely seeing a blockbuster film in every sense of the word. Even if you’re not a Fast series fan, you’re definitely going to be coming to a movie that welcomes you in and takes you for a ride unlike any other.
4 Mumble Growls out of 5
*Note this review was thanks to Allied Pictures