If you are a fan of the long-running “Fast and Furious” franchise, chances are you will see “Fate of the Furious” no matter what. The good news is, you’ll have a blast. The eighth film in the franchise has all of the crazy action, slick cars and family melodrama that fans have come to expect from the series. While it may not be the best film the in the franchise (“Fast Five” still reigns supreme), “Fate of the Furious” comes pretty darn close.
The plot follows our heroes as they race to stop an evil hacker named Cypher, played by the reliably talented Charlize Theron, from completing a convoluted scheme involving the theft of an EMP bomb, an assassination of a Russian ambassador, and a nuclear sub-marine.
Taken by itself, that sounds eerily similar to the setup of the last few “Fast” movies, but “Fate of the Furious” has a trick up its sleeve: this time team leader Dominic Toretto is driving alongside the bad guys. Depending on how you look at it, this is either an interesting twist on the usual action, or a shameless excuse to keep Vin Diesel – always one of the worst performers in his own series – away from the more charismatic actors who form the main team. The result is an absurdly fun and action-packed flick. Which, again, you probably expected.
Speaking of the rest of the team, the whole gang from “Furious 7” returns, this time with a beefed up role for Hobbs (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson), who sat out most of that film. The rest of the team does a good job playing out their familiar character roles: Roman (Tyrese Gibson) is the comic relief; Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) is the tough-as-nails woman of action and Tej (Ludacris) is the tech guy. They are joined this time out by Jason Statham returning as Deckard Shaw, the villain of part seven who has reluctantly joined the team.
Statham is somehow both the films greatest weakness and its greatest strength. Having our heroes so quickly forgive and accept Shaw into the fold feels clunky and forced. On the other hand, Statham gives an all-time great action performance. Whether he’s trading trash talk with Hobbs, parkouring his way through a prison riot or taking out legions of thugs on an airplane, Statham is firing on all cylinders. This is career-best work for him, saying a lot about the man from “The Transporter,” and he pulls it all off so effortlessly that it almost makes the rest of the cast look bad. Statham is an A-list action star, and he proves it in every single scene.
The action on a whole is spectacular. Not only are the huge car-based set pieces just as massive and ridiculous as fans have come to expect, but the smaller scale gun and fist fights have been beefed up and given more weight and style than the series has ever given them before. Every punch landed and car crashed is perfectly put together. If it wasn’t for the even smoother and more stylish action of “John Wick: Chapter 2” this would easily be the best action of the year.
“Fate of the Furious” certainly has its flaws: Scott Eastwood invents a new kind of bland playing a government spook, the villain isn’t particularly interesting and the absence of Paul Walker can be most definitely be felt in the scenes of the team bonding. But those nitpicks disappear when compared the many insane action scenes and cheer-worthy one-liners the series has always done so well. This isn’t just one of the best “Fast and Furious” movies; it’s one of the most finely constructed action films to come out in a very long time.