Clunk-click. Buckle up and put the pedal to the metal on all the car similes you can think of as we speed into an eighth instalment of the beloved family and Corona obsessed action franchise: ‘The Fate of the Furious’.
The series that began as a drag racing ‘Point Break’ knock off about stolen DVD players, seemed to die after the loss of Vin Diesel (‘2 Fast 2 Furious’) and a stalling spin-off in Tokyo (‘The Fast and Furious: Tokyo Drift), but it then evolved into a billion-dollar grossing automotive action spectacular.
This has been down to two things. Firstly, opening up the world from being purely street-racing-centric to becoming crew on a mission movies, with a single drag race for old times’ sake. And secondly: casting. Introducing Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson in ‘Fast 5’, and then Jason Statham at the end of ‘Fast & Furious 6’, as well as Vin’s return in ‘Fast & Furious’, united a trifecta of the baldest hardest Hollywood heroes – and all of their fanbases.
Also, like the Marvel Cinematic Universe, these movies and the roster of characters have become such a part of our collective conscience now that their stories have become must see because we are all now emotionally invested in Dom’s family. It’s like a comforting soap opera with deaths, births, flings, and characters going back and forth from good to evil – but always sorting everything out in time for a beer and a barbecue before the credits.
F. Gary Gray directs the latest episode, and it quickly becomes abundantly clear that the “F” stands for fun. He has done his Fast and Furious homework and fills the film with the requisite amount of aerial establishing shots, wiggling bums, and crash zoom gear changes; but also adds submarines, zombie cars and a baby – ON ICE.
From a Havana drag race that Dom (Vin Diesel) wins backwards AND ON FIRE, Gray trots us and the gang across the globe as Dom turns to the dark side – leaving Lettie (Michelle Rodriguez) and hooking up with a cyber-terrorist called Cipher (Charlize Theron). To stop Cipher from holding the world to nuclear ransom, the gang’s handler, Mr. Nobody (Kurt Russell), plays a blinder and subs in Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham), the villain from the last movie, to re-even the sides.
Jason Statham (now second-billed – sorry, Dwayne) is spectacular throughout: calling The Rock a “wanker”, participating in a parkour prison break and even spending a wonderful extended sequence fighting through a plane while protecting a baby – flitting between smashing baddies up and mollycoddling the little tyke. It’s a hilarious and stunning scene that showcases Jase’s athleticism and humour, and if he and Dom Jnr. don’t get their own spin-off film we will all be poorer for it.
Another highlight is the addition of Helen bloody Mirren as Deckard’s mum: drinking tea, dropping f bombs and slapping Statham’s face. Hopefully she gets more than two scenes to do in future instalments, but the other new cast member has plenty on her plate. Charlize Theron provides the series’ first actually scary villain – determined, cold-blooded and always one step ahead. For the most part, she keeps the film vaguely in a partial orbit of believability, and provides a genuine threat, but her “hacking” sequences are unfortunately hilarious: wiggling her fingers at a keyboard and magically controlling anything with an engine.
What most definitely is not funny is how wasted the returning Kurt Russell is though. After introducing his new subordinate (a piss-poor “why are you even here?” Scott Eastwood), he has nothing else to do but pop up and grin three times to agree with someone else’s course of action. And who writes the Rock’s dialogue?! And don’t they know that he is not in the WWE anymore? Dropping clangers like “I’m going to beat you like a Cherokee drum” is wince-inducing, and poor Michelle Rodriguez doesn’t have a line of dialogue that won’t make you cringe either. But this is a film in which the heroes wear white jeans and leather waistcoats and solve every problem by going faster. And they do that so well.
The third best ‘Fast’, after 5 and 7, ‘The Fate of the Furious’ is a $100m school play on wheels: a mega budget action-adventure where anything can and will happen, as muscle heads in muscle cars hold physics in an unbreakable headlock and choke slam reality. It is absolutely ridiculous and absolutely tremendous fun.
The Fate of the Furious is released in the UK on the 12th of April.