For my money, 2015’s Furious 7 was in every way the most satisfying and certainly emotional of Universal’s multibillion-dollar fast-car franchise. Of course, a lot of that was due to the way the filmmakers handled the sudden and tragic death of co-star Paul Walker, who played Brian. That character is “retired” in the latest edition of the series which, ratchets up the action and testosterone-driven set pieces to the point the franchise is looking more and more like a James Bond flick than the more modest street-racing saga it started out to be.
As I say in my video review (click the link above to watch), the pressure is on to deliver bigger and better stunts with each new film. And Universal is promising this one is the first in a new trilogy that will be the grand finale of this enormously profitable worldwide phenomenon.
For The Fate of the Furious, an ice-cold, conniving and evil Charlize Theron joins the cast as a mystery woman who seduces Dom (Vin Diesel) into her world of crime, making it appear to his faithful team that he has gone rogue. She clearly manipulates the situation to further her goal of getting nuclear codes and causing complete anarchy from her headquarters, where she seems to be controlling all the action and everything Dom is told to do. Of course the team — including Dom’s new wife, Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) — is devastated by these developments and goes into action not only to save Dom from himself but also the world, as it turns out. This dopey plotline is every bit as one-dimensional as it sounds, but director F. Gary Gray (Straight Outta Compton) manages to give it a degree of credibility that might be impossible in lesser hands. He knows what he is supposed to be delivering here and doesn’t miss any opportunity to rev up the engines for the action sequences audiences expect.
That includes a terrific opening set on the streets of Havana, Cuba, with picaresque racing and chases leaving you breathless — particularly when one of those cars is fully engulfed in flames and still stays on course. Scenes in NYC provide more opportunity, including a classic pile-up that is literally a pile-up as it starts raining cars. The piece de resistance, though, is saved for toward the end with a confrontation in the Arctic’s Barents Sea, where it’s wheels on ice.
It is lots of fun to see this cast, now feeling like old friends, come together every two years or so for one of these flicks, and the stunt teams don’t disappoint for the fans. In addition to Diesel and Rodriguez, longtime Furious regulars Tyrese Gibson and Chris “Ludicris” Bridges are back, along with Dwayne Johnson as DSS Agent Hobbs, Jason Statham as cunning Deckard Shaw — now calling shots from prison — and Kurt Russell’s highly amusing Mr. Nobody, who now has a sidekick in the form of a very green agent played by Scott Eastwood. Helen Mirren makes a welcome cameo in a couple of scenes that are nicely pitched. Theron, cornrows and all, stays clear of the center of the action and is relegated to barking orders and threats for most of the movie, a plot device that sacrifices the basic authenticity of the franchise.
The script is credited to Chris Morgan and Gary Scott Thompson. Producers are Morgan, Michael Fottrell, Neal H. Moritz and Diesel. Universal releases Fate of the Furious on Friday, and its fate is probably to add another billion dollars at least to the bottom line. What’s wrong with that?
Do you plan to see The Fate of the Furious? Let us know what you think.