From the "We Can't Believe It's Still in Theaters" department: Vin Diesel drives away with your money in The Fate of the Furious

After seven films, they know what we like. We like the cars, the cars that go boom!

The Fate of the Furious

3.5 out of 5 stars

PG-13. Directed by F. Gary Gray.

Starring Vin Diesel, Dwayne Johnson, Jason Statham, Charlize Theron, Kurt Russell, Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese Gibson, Chris “Ludacris” Bridges and Helen Mirren.

click to enlarge The Fate of the Furious - Universal Pictures
Universal Pictures
The Fate of the Furious

Let’s face it — too much of a good thing can sometimes be too much.

Hollywood, of course, rarely heeds such logic, and routinely runs most beloved film franchises into the ground long after the creative spark is gone.

How then to explain the rabid fanbase and unprecedented box-office success of The Fast and the Furious franchise? The eighth film in the 16-year-old series, The Fate of the Furious, which is still in theaters (yeah, it shocked us, too).

Here’s how: Cars. Girls. Jokes. Explosions.

Seriously, it’s that simple.

And The Fate of the Furious knows its audience and delivers on all counts in spades.

Vin Diesel returns as Dominic Toretto complete with his signature black Dodge Charger. Following the events of Furious 7, and the tragic death of actor Paul Walker, whose character Brian O'Conner was featured in all but one of the films, Toretto is on honeymoon in Cuba with his longtime love Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) when the film opens.

After a ridiculous (and ridiculously cool) street race through Havana that culminates with Toretto doing more than 100 mph in reverse while his car is on fire and falling apart, he’s approached by the evil Cipher (Charlize Theron), a cunning cyberterrorist who wants Dom to help her steal a couple of WMD’s — or else.

Spoiler alert: Cipher has something, or someone, that Dom can’t afford to lose.

The only catch? He has to turn his back on Letty, former federal agent Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) and the rest of his family/crew.

Of course, Team Toretto isn’t about to let him go without a fight. Enter Kurt Russell’s government spook-tastic Mr. Nobody from Furious 7, along with his new protégé Little Nobody (Scott Eastwood). Their plan involves a federal prison break to free Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham), the former British Special Forces assassin who was the Big Bad Guy in Furious 7. Deckard and his brother Owen (Luke Evans) — he was the Big Bad Guy in Fast & Furious 6 — have history with Cipher, and Team Toretto needs all the help it can get once they chart a course for the climactic showdown on a frozen tundra in Mother Russia.

Did you catch all that?

Believe it or not, The Fate of the Furious has one of the more linear narratives, as far as plot structure, in the entire franchise. That’s saying something, when you consider the first film in 2001 involved a simple undercover assignment to infiltrate an underground car theft ring, and has since grown increasingly less believable by introducing runaway trains, speeding tanks and flying cars, just to name a few, and leaving California for the exotic flavor of Mexico, Rio de Janeiro and Abu Dhabi.

Don’t worry, The Fate of the Furious manages to one-up itself again by staging a race across ice against a nuclear-armed submarine.

But let’s get back to basics: Cars. Girls. Jokes. Explosions.

The Fate of the Furious has cars galore, from tricked-out muscle cars to an army of everyday cars in New York City that — in one of the most-inspired sequences — are all hacked by Cipher to operate remotely, even if that means speeding out of a parking garage from the 10th floor and smashing traffic below.

It’s got lots of girls, including Theron, Rodriguez and Elsa Pataky, a series regular since Fast Five, who played Dom’s law enforcement love interest in Furious 7 when he thought Letty was dead.

Tyrese Gibson’s Roman and Chris “Ludacris” Bridges’ Tej provide much of the comic relief, along with several great one-liners from Johnson and a fantastic (and very funny) fight sequence involving Statham, a baby and an airplane full of cyber-terrorists.

That leaves explosions. Did we mention the nuclear-armed submarine?

Here’s the thing: there’s no rational explanation for this franchise’s enduring success. It was at a creative dead-end in 2006 when the third entry, The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift, opened with just $23 million. Three years later, Universal Pictures brought back the original cast for Fast & Furious, the fourth installment, and it opened to a whopping $70.9 million. In 2015, Furious 7 made $147 million in its opening weekend alone.

It’s doubtful The Fate of the Furious can top that high-water mark. It’s not the best film in the series (that would be Fast Five), but it’s still entertaining as hell to watch. And you can bet there will be a ninth, and probably tenth, installment before the tank finally runs out of gas.

The only downside to seeing so many cool cars revving across a multiplex movie screen for two-plus-hours?

Leaving the theater and climbing into your four-cylinder 2009 Honda Civic with the big dents in the hood and rear panel and puttering back home at a barely-angry 40 mph.

About The Author

John W. Allman

John W. Allman has spent more than 25 years as a professional journalist and writer, but he’s loved movies his entire life. Good movies, awful movies, movies that are so gloriously bad you can’t help but champion them. Since 2009, he has cultivated a review column and now a website dedicated to the genre films...
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