‘The Fate of the Furious,’ still burning rubber after 8 movies

Universal Pictures/Courtesy
"The Fate of the Furious" | Universal Pictures
Grade: C

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Even though the seventh film was the late Paul Walker’s last film, it is safe to say that his spirit lives on in this latest installment, and the franchise still has a bright future. Director F. Gary Gray may not reinvent the wheel, but he shows that Dom (Vin Diesel) and company can still burn some rubber.

Action stars Diesel, Jason Statham, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Michelle Rodriguez all reprise their roles, while Charlize Theron plays Cipher, a hacker with her sights set on world domination. The characters at this point fit neatly into already established action movie archetypes. There’s the typical good guy who is forced to do bad things for reasons unknown. There’s the good cop who has to go outside the law to catch an international super villain. There’s the bad guy who has a complicated past and has to join the good guys. Despite the movie’s conventional characters, though, “The Fate of the Furious” still finds a way to entertain.

The film centers on Vin Diesel’s Dom as he is forced to turn on his former crew of outlaw street racers. The rest of the crew must chase him around the globe in expensive cars to figure out why he has double crossed them. This time around, though, there is no big showdown between blockbuster action stars that have been attractions of the past movies. Instead, our heroes are united to defeat Cipher. They also have to save the world, of course.

World saving is not as compelling of a plot the eighth time around and Gray does little to address the lack of plot depth from previous entries. Theron’s character is not properly fleshed out, though she does the best she can with such a poorly written role. It is generally unclear what her motivations are and why she targets Dom in the first place. Dramatic moments are laughable and only serve to get our heroes to their next car chase. Supporting characters are one dimensional throwaways and essentially there as plot devices or for one liners. Plot twists are more M. Night Shyamalan than “Fight Club.” The middle act in particular is one extended action sequence that is unimportant to the overall story. But, plot is not why people go to see “The Fast and the Furious” movies, so what does this matter anyway? People go to see the action, and boy is there action.

The action is glossier, more immediate and more over the top than ever before. The first high speed car chase happens five minutes into the film. It culminates with Vin Diesel beating a local Cuban gangster in a street race in reverse while his car is on fire and about to explode. Yet it only gets crazier from there. The cars are flashy and the stunts flashier. All of it is pedal to the metal, 200 miles per hour, nonstop, heart pounding entertainment. One standout sequence revolves around the protagonists attempting to escape gunfire and missiles on ice while a nuclear submarine surfaces from below, firing torpedoes. It uses pure absurdity to keep its viewers’ attention. The camera shakes with every explosion and the characters never seem to forget to remind the audience how crazy everything is. There is an expectation that viewers will suspend their disbelief for its running time and if we can, the movie rewards us with an entertaining experience.  

Amongst the action, comedy is sprinkled throughout in engaging doses. Though not all of the jokes work, enough of them do that the next punch line is just a few moments away. The chemistry between all the actors and actresses works fairly well. Dom’s “family” is funny, charismatic and amusing to watch as it bark orders and insults to each other while driving at breakneck speeds. The banter between Statham and The Rock, however, steals the show.

None of this should surprise anyone that has seen literally any “Fast and the Furious” movie. Derivative plots are a dime a dozen in this franchise. Seriously, how many “one last jobs” can these characters go on? This eighth film is another action movie filled with mindless enjoyment, but it is aware of what its place is and plays the part well and convincingly. “The Fate and the Furious” is a solid entry into a franchise that shows no signs of slowing down.

“The Fate of the Furious” is currently playing at UA Berkeley 7.

Contact Derek Fang at [email protected].