No matter how fast & furious, they can’t outrun the fate of their follicles
The Fate of the Furious
Starring Vin Diesel, Dwayne Johnson, Jason Statham & Charlize Theron
Directed by F. Gary Grey
In theaters April 14, 2017
Dodge a gigantic, swinging wrecking ball? Gear-jam a souped-up jalopy, on fire, in reverse, through the streets of Havana? Parachute—into an airplane?
No problem! For the Fast & Furious crew, it’s all in a day’s work.
The Fate of the Furious, the eighth movie in the F&F franchise, which began back in 2001, reunites the films’ core crew of Vin Diesel, Michelle Rodriguez, Chris “Ludacris” Bridges, Tyrese Gibson, and later additions Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham.
Director F. Gary Gray (Straight Outta Compton) knows what fans want, and he serves it up: heaping helpings of heavy metal thunder, brawny brawls and ridiculously over-the-top vehicular mayhem, all wrapped around themes of brotherhood, loyalty and “family.”
With Diesel, Johnson, Statham and Gibson’s characters, premature hair loss must run in this family. No matter how fast they drive, they can’t outrun the retreating follicles.
Anyway, Kurt Russell reprises his role, introduced in Furious 7, as government operative Mr. Nobody, now with a sidekick (Scott Eastwood). Kristofer Hivju, who plays Tormund Giantsbane on the HBO series Game of Thrones, makes for a nasty henchman—and makes up for some of his castmates’ absence of hair.
Oscar winning Charlize Theron is newly on board as an icy villainess known as Cipher, with a dastardly plan to hack into the international power grid, start World War III—and rope in ringleader Dom (Diesel) by blackmailing him, forcing him to betray his team. She runs her entire rig from a “ghost” airplane high above the Earth.
And another Oscar winner, Helen Mirren, makes a cameo.
As the F&F movies got bigger, boomier and more Furious-er, audiences came to expect ever more outlandish stunts and setups. So plots, plausibility and physics took backseats to more imaginative scenarios unbound by laws of gravity, continuity or even common sense—which is why, here, you can have a cascade of empty cars spilling onto a busy city street from a parking garage, apparently without a casualty or even injury to a single pedestrian below. Or how, as a matter of fact, with all the explosions, flying debris and high-velocity steel on the streets and elsewhere, very few people ever seem to be injured, or even get their wardrobe or hair mussed.
A lengthy climatic pursuit across a frozen lake, involving a prolonged hail of gunfire, tracer missiles and a series of massive explosions, ends with a shot of all of the F&F crew looking like the actors just stepped out of their trailers, beside vehicles fresh off a showroom floor.
And no one ever seems to die—at least for long. It would be a spoiler to say much more.
Speaking of that, the franchise is still feeling the loss of Paul Walker, who played Brian O’Connor. His death in 2013, in a real-world car crash, left a hole in the hearts of F&F fans that the movies continued to address, in various ways—although they pretended that his character simply drove off, into the sunset. Brian—and Walker—get another salute in The Fate of the Furious, but you’ll have to wait until the very end to find out how.
Director Gray knows that the high octane needs to be balanced with humor, and he brings plenty of that, too. There’s a lot of levity in the script—by screenwriter Chris Morgan, who penned four previous outings—especially in the banter, chatter and riffing between characters. The movie really comes to life when it swivels over to the meaty love-hate bromance between Johnson and Statham’s characters. Bridges and Gibson get laughs when they rib each other or spar over the attention of the sexy computer hacker Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel, who plays Missandei on Game of Thrones).
It’s all good, gear-jamming, blast-’em, blow-it-up fun, mainly for fans who’ve been faithful to the franchise all along. Everyone else might feel a bit lost, especially with the cameo appearances by folks who pop in from previous films.
In TV terms, “jumping the shark” is when a series does something so ridiculous, so attention-grabbing and gimmicky, it marks a low point—a desperate attempt to keep viewers’ interest. It’s rooted in a 1977 episode of Happy Days, when Fonzie went waterskiing in Hawaii and—literally—jumped over a shark.
In The Fate of the Furious, Dom doesn’t jump a shark, but a nuclear submarine—then it explodes, and he gets up and kisses his wife.
All in a day’s work.