The Fast And The Furious franchise got its 8th instalment this year with The Fate Of The Furious, another action-packed, star-studded rollercoaster ride which promised an even bigger scale, crazier set-pieces, a new intimidating villain and some unexpected twists and turns.
The film opens with a street race, something that helped make this franchise popular early on, as Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) makes a point by racing someone in a juiced-up relic that's slowly falling apart. It's corny and completely ridiculous but it's a welcome homage to those films' relatively humble beginnings. This is as sensible as it gets in this movie, believe it or not, as the plot that soon unfolds only gets sillier and sillier. The Fast And The Furious movies have made a point to attempt to jump the shark higher and higher each time and it's somehow paid off with audiences flocking to each new instalment. Series veteran Vin Diesel plays a villain of sorts in this one as evil hacker Cipher (Charlize Theron) forces him to separate from his team and even fight back against them while doing her dirty work. This new dynamic promises a lot of drama seeing as Dom and Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) have just gotten married and all his friends can't quite figure out what's going on.
The core plot involves Cipher sending Dom to pick up a nuclear device which she would then use to create a war thanks to a stolen Russian submarine. Meanwhile, Kurt Russell's off-the-grip intel operative recruits Dom's team including controversial new recruit Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) to stop Cipher once and for all. This leads to various confrontations between both teams, all of which admittedly pretty spectacular. Cipher hijacks hundreds of cars in the city remotely to create chaos and facilitate Dom's retrieval of the nukes so Dwayne Johnson and the rest are having to deal with a sea of cars which is both absurd and visually compelling. Then there's the epic climax which sees a tank and about every other vehicle you could think of fighting it out, along with an armed submarine, on an icy lake. If you enjoyed the over-the-top nature of the last two movies, you'll have a lot of fun with The Fate Of The Furious as it offers more of what worked then.
That said, this eighth film also offers more of what didn't work in the previous movies and the lack of focus in the script is certainly hard to ignore this time around. A lot of potentially engaging drama is built-up during the first half of the film in a franchise that is essentially a high-octane soap opera at this point with villains turning good, characters coming back from death and/or amnesia etc. An unlikely friendship/bromance between old foes Hobbs (Johnson) and Shaw (Statham) starts to develop, Letty can be seen getting increasingly angry at her new husband for turning bad mysteriously overnight, there's a hint that Luke Evans' scarred baddie might return. And yet literally none of that comes to fruition. We never see Letty confront Dom or have any emotion relating to what just happened, instead the film cuts to a barbecue and everything's cool. We never see Hobbs react to his new friend's surprising character arc and Owen Shaw (Evans) is now randomly a good guy. Add to that tons of other plot holes and you've got yourself one messy film indeed.
When it comes to action sequences and its charismatic cast (Charlize Theron is terrific), The Fate Of The Furious does not disappoint and fans should lap it up. However, an unfunny and often confused script, a heavygoing running time and far too many characters make this a bloated, unfocused effort that will make you miss the simpler times when this franchise wasn't quite so crowded.