The gang is back in ‘Fate of the Furious’
In November 2013 the film world was rocked as Paul Walker, star of the “Fast & Furious” franchise, died in a car accident. At that point, the franchise had berthed six films and was well in the process of a seventh film. But Walker’s death posed many questions.
Seventeen months later, the seventh film in the franchise debuted, and audiences came out in droves to see “Furious 7.” Released more than a year after Walker’s death, and completed thanks to some film effect work, it was his final film. And it was an incredibly fitting tribute, up to and including the closing sequence, which saw Walker’s Brian O’Connor drive off into the sunset.
The film made more than $1.5 billion at the worldwide Box Office and proved the franchise still had plenty of life left. But could it continue? Should it continue? How would it continue? Those were just some of the questions facing the rest of the cast and studio executives.
Last Friday, we got our answer. “The Fate of the Furious,” the eighth film in the franchise, brings back many familiar faces while launching the story in a new direction. And judging by the fact it made more than $530 million worldwide on its opening weekend, breaking the previous all-time opening weekend record, it’s clear there’s still plenty of life left in the franchise.
“The Fate of the Furious” picks up with Dom (Vin Diesel) and Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) celebrating their honeymoon in Cuba. It’s a time where they look to the future, and Dom naturally does a little racing. But those good times change when he encounters the mysterious Cipher (Charlize Theron), who seems to know all about him and vows to pull him into something shady.
Meanwhile Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) has been tasked with recovering a dangerous EMP, and he recruits Dom and the crew to help with the extraction in Berlin. All goes according to plan until Dom turns, steals the weapon and causes Hobbs to get arrested for terrorism.
While Dom heads off with Cipher, the rest of the team feels burned, especially Letty. Mr. Nobody (Kurt Russell) and his assistant (Scott Eastwood) recruit the team (including Tyrese Gibson, Ludacris and Nathalie Emmanuel), Hobbs and former nemesis Deckard (Jason Statham) to reign Dom in and get the weapon back.
Things don’t go quite as expected.
“Fast & Furious” has become one of the most entertaining and bankable film franchises over the past 16 years. “Furious 7” grossed more than the first five films in the franchise combined, and “The Fate of the Furious” may end up breaking even that record. These films have a great ensemble and could seemingly go on for another decade.
Despite that, you can feel Walker’s shadow in the film. But instead of trying to steer away from it, this film wisely steers right into it. They reference his character, they give nods to the actor and you can feel that everything was done to begin a new chapter while honoring everything that’s come before. And for a film franchise built on the idea of the unbreakable bond of family, that makes perfect sense.
This installment also welcomes a new director, F. Gary Gray, to the fold. While the film’s look and action sequences aren’t as polished as when Justin Lin – who helmed chapters three through six – was behind the camera, it all works well. And the story and plot does enough to string together the characters and action sequences to be enjoyable. This film runs 137 minutes but never feels overly long or bloated. It moves at a great pace and delivers what audiences have come to expect from this franchise.
All the favorites are there, and they work well. The film also makes the most of its new additions – Eastwood, Helen Mirren and Theron. Theron, in particular, seems to be having a lot of fun with her villainous character, and she adds plenty to the experience. I also enjoyed the work from Johnson and Statham, who appear to be taking on bigger roles in the franchise and adding a lot of buddy humor and great action sequences.
I was one of those viewers who thought this franchise couldn’t and shouldn’t continue without Walker. “The Fate of the Furious” proved me wrong, and it was one heck of a fun ride. It was also an action adventure that will likely be more satisfying than half the summer blockbusters headed our way.
“The Fate of the Furious” has been rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association of America for prolonged sequences of violence and destruction, suggestive content and language.
Three stars out of four.