When a movie franchise reaches installment eight, fans are going to the theater either out of habit, fierce loyalty or morbid curiosity. Maybe even some fearful combination of all of the above.
Have no fear, lovers of the whiz-bang that started way back in 2001 with The Fast and the Furious. Vin Diesel as the complex muscle car manipulator Dominic Toretto and Michelle Rodriguez as his devoted first seat in life and on road companion Letty remain just as free wheeling and angry in The Fate of the Furious. In fact, directed by F. Gary Gray and written by Chris Morgan, it shows how the march of time and its inevitable changes can alter things for the better. Stronger family times in their family of car racers that’s evolved to so intrinsically include Dwayne Johnson as the cop Hobbs on their side, Chris “Ludacris” Bridges as the computer geek Tej, Tyrese Gibson as the insecure Roman, and Kirk Russell as the agent Mr. Nobody.
Throw Jason Statham as the cagey and springy former Brit villain into the crew for this one, along with his super-cool spy mom played by Helen Mirren, as well as an earnest second-level Fed played by Scott Eastwood, and you’ve got an ensemble ready to fight one of the most powerful enemies ever.
That would be Cipher, a cold-blooded leftist played by Charlize Theron, a woman ready to swipe nukes to get superpowers under her thumb.
First, though, she surfaces in Havana to spoil Don and Letty’s honeymoon. The secret she shows him on her cell convinces him to switch teams.
For a good part of the 2 hours, 16 minutes, Hobbs and the rest of the gang – yes, Letty, too – must fight Cipher and Dom. Dom, meanwhile, struggles mightily with the situation that Cipher has thrust upon him.
The chases are magnificent, as expected and hoped for, starting with a pretty street scene in Havana in which Dom drives an old buggy he souped up the old way and winding to a smart Manhattan fracas in which “zombie cars” are hijacked to instigate a logjam for a Russian minister carrying nuclear codes and ending up on a frozen Russian expanse that includes a stolen submarine, snowmobiles and a tank with their really fast cars. You betcha.
There’s no mention of the lost character Brian played by the late Paul Walker, who died in a car crash himself during the filming of installment seven. But there is an allusion at the end that’s pretty darn sweet.
Family, indeed, I thought, departing with the dozen others from the 11:30 a.m. Saturday showing in the Regal Cinemas’ big theater at Syracuse mega shopping, dining and entertainment complex Destiny USA.
If you’re a follower of the ‘Furious’ franchise still, why?