Outrageous. Ridiculous. Far-fetched. Impossible. "The Fast and the Furious" franchise lives mightily by the same descriptive words that would scare other producers, directors, and writers out of their minds if they were listed in their reviews. Here, it's that special brand of fuel ejected swagger that separates their films from the pretenders.
It's their code of honor-when the spring rolls around, it's time for fast cars, beautiful women, dialogue with macho-infused fuel running through its veins, big sweaty bald-headed action stars, and outlandish stunts to take over. "The Fate of the Furious" — the eighth entry in the franchise that never sleeps and shows zero signs of dying — is a highly entertaining and luxurious experience for action fans to rejoice with for two hours.
This time, the Furious six are divided when their leader, Dominic Toretto (franchise and face, Vin Diesel), goes rogue due to a mysterious piece of leverage held over him by Cipher (Charlize Theron). She exploits the main weakness of our rogue anti-hero, and that is the invaluable existence of family. This forces him to run his foe turned friend Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) off the road after a successful heist in Berlin, and leave the rest of the crew dazed and confused.
In order to retain order and get their leader back, Mr. Nobody (Kurt Russell, reliving the 80's with a better haircut) breaks the imprisoned Hobbs and his arch nemesis Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham, thriving on extra dialogue and material to work with) loose and sends the crew on another whirlwind mission-spanning New York City and Russia.
The result is a series of unlikely yet very fortunate action sequences that include yet aren't limited to: a race through the big apple with remote controlled cars smashing into each other on the streets and cars flipping themselves out of parking garages; a gun battle with exotic cars and a submarine across a patch of ice overseas; an entertaining fight on an airplane, and a knockdown, drag-out affair in a prison that reminds us that orange can be the new black if it means Johnson and Statham dishing out swollen eyes.
Watching "The Fate of the Furious" is like being allowed to eat a large amount of several tasty and different cartons of ice cream that taste so good they should be illegal. Right when you think the filmmakers and stunt coordinators have exhausted every death defying stunt known to the make-believe land, they come up with something even crazier. Instead of leaving the theater in detached envy, you might ask the usher for a seat belt to attach to your seat.
It's important to remember that nobody is really acting here, and the movie is better for it. Diesel is at his best when he is working the gravelly voice in between the long stares and fisticuffs. Johnson can mix swagger, beastly action, and comedy one liners with the ease of us moving our finger to click the left turn blinker in our car. Tyrese Gibson and Chris "Ludacris" Bridges have their usual comedic game faces on to keep things light, and Michelle Rodriguez rocks her "lady alpha" pride like never before.
The best scenes happen between Johnson and Statham; it's like two lions being thrown into a phone booth to see which one has the sharper claws. They trade quips and chirp each other so hard that at one point, the pair burst out laughing, like a pair of comedians trying to outdo the other with a time limit. It's almost as if Johnson retains a little of his wrestling ring suaveness to ease the action into overdrive, but Statham is right there to match him with a British voice that painfully never saw a Bond film (hint, hint MGM).
The directing and screenwriting don't get in the way of a good time. F. Gary Gray and Chris Morgan are like the managers of a restaurant known for riots; they put the chairs on top of the table and let the kids play. The ability of multiple directors to be able to hold their own on this playground is a credit to the franchise’s appeal.
You won't want to miss a plane sequence where Statham fights several rogues with a baby in one hand and a gun in the other. It brings out some of the bullet-headed actor's comedic charm that was first untied in Paul Weig's Spy. Bringing him back was important, because when it comes to action bravado warriors, "The Fast and Furious" gang can't get enough.
One of the quiet strengths of the franchise is the ability to connect certain films and story threads. The actions of Toretto's crew in the past bring them into the predicament in this eighth film.
Will this movie entice non-fans to get involved? No, because the recipe in this kitchen isn't going to change after seven hugely successful renditions. Will the casual movie fan get a rise during this film? You bet, as long you expunge every ounce of disbelief in your system for the running time wager.
By turning Toretto rogue and bringing in Theron and special guest star Helen Mirren, the franchise is showing its staying power. Unlike Will Smith wanting to bolt "Independence Day 2" faster than a Bad Boys director, these stars all stick around and have some fun while bringing in Oscar winning talent to uncoil with in this fast moving world. Their formula shouldn't change if it's working this well. Just ask the 600 million plus fans who soaked up the seventh installment last year.
Is there a mention of the late Paul Walker's Brian? Of course, and it's a good spot.
Is there something after the credits to tease the upcoming Fast 9? No, so don't worry about those six minutes of credits.
While not as soulful as "Furious 7", "The Fate of the Furious" excels at creating an exhilarating cinematic environment for action junkies to explore in. Just unplug your brain upon entering the theater, pop a cold one, put your legs up, and enjoy this unique blend of mayhem. There's no need to think here, because doing so would only hinder the experience.
Dr. Diesel and his super-charged friends have just the prescription this somber spring of movie’s needs.
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