I’ve just watched Charlize Theron remote-control a cold war-era Russian submarine which has been “retrofitted” with nuclear weapons and smart technology, whilst a renegade team lead by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson try and stop her. And you know what? I enjoyed almost every ridiculous minute of it.
The eighth (count ‘em, eighth) instalment in the astoundingly successful Fast and Furious franchise starts with Dom and Letty (Vin Diesel and Michelle Rodriguez) honeymooning in Cuba, attending an epic drag race which is reminiscent of the franchise’s B-movie origins. It takes about 2 minutes for Dom to get himself into a race with the fastest, meanest dude around, and maybe another three for him to find himself under the thumb of super-villain Cipher (Charlize Theron), a cyberterrorist so fearsome that even Anonymous won’t mess with her. She’s hell-bent on teaching the world’s superpowers a lesson, and Dom is going to have to turn his back on his family to help her achieve this.
The Fate of the Furious has a lot going for it: massive movie stars, extravagant vehicles, elaborate stunts and stunning locations. It draws on several movie tropes: it’s an action car-chase movie; it’s a “family” drama, doing the unthinkable in pitting the ever-loyal Dom against his beloveds; it’s a bare-knuckle, bone-crunching fight film in which the ballet-like athleticism of Jason Statham is up against the bulk of muscles that is Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. It’s also a laugh-out-loud comedy, with a genuinely funny script which allows the performers to flex their comedic timing: highlights include Statham and Johnson each using their unique physicality to great comedic effect, and some immature-but-hilarious mockery between Tyrese Gibson and Scott Eastwood.
You’d think that this would topple the film over into total chaos, but director F Gary Gray (Straight Outta Compton) manages to keep it all coherent enough that, scene after extravagant scene, I was kept entertained and engaged. That’s not to say that it couldn’t lose 30 minutes or so of action, but to the filmmakers’ credit I was never bored.
This movie is big, dumb fun, but it’s dumb done smart. Aside from the first 5 minutes which feature loads of gratuitous shots of barely-clothed women leaning on cars, it more than delivers on action, spectacle and laughs.
Never would I ever have thought, after watching The Fast and the Furious at the turn of the century, that it would spawn a franchise. I’m glad to report that somehow, despite ever-inflating budgets and box-office receipts, despite the expectation for each film to outdo the last in terms of stunts and locations, the Fast and the Furious franchise somehow managed to keep something pure (or least, purely entertaining) at its gas-guzzling core.
Image: Paramount Pictures