It might be career-suicide to try to criticize what has become one of the most popular, successful and unlikely film franchises of all time. The ongoing saga of Dom and his criminal, speed-racing pals now enters into its eighth installment with "The Fate of the Furious," a chapter that is bigger, louder, badder and more implausible than ever...just the way its millions of fans like it.
This latest film in the "Fast and the Furious" franchise is a decidedly lighter chapter, following the dark cloud that hovered over "Furious 7," where star Paul Walker was killed in a single-car crash mid-way through filming. As Vin Diesel stated, the seventh film was "for Paul," and this eighth film is "from Paul." (Spoiler Alert!) Walker's character was retired at the end of the last film, having parted ways with his crew to live a normal life with his wife Mia (Jordana Brewster) and two children. Dom Toretto (Diesel) and company have moved on too at the start of this one, with Dom and now-wife Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) on their Honeymoon in Cuba.
But their vacation is cut short when a mysterious woman (Charlize Theron) shows up and somehow convinces Dom to do the unthinkable. His old crew is re-assembled by Mr. Nobody (Kurt Russell) and his new sidekick, Little Nobody (Scott Eastwood) to take down Dom, now inexplicably working for the side of evil against his old "family," the only people he has ever claimed to care about and who have thus far been the center of Dom's personal moral "code."
Yes, in this cartoon universe, people switch sides faster than you can keep track of...which is why a former WWE star, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, feels right at home in this franchise. His Agent Dobbs somehow is thrown in prison after a botched job and is given a cell - coincidentally - right across from Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham), the big-baddie from the previous film. The two men despise one another, that is, until they are working together. Yes, it only takes a few lines of dialogue from long-time "Furious" scribe Chris Morgan to explain away everything and anything we've come to understand from these characters' pasts.
Morgan though, is now a master alchemist with this explosive (no pun intended) formula, and he includes more than a few references and cameos from the earlier films to pacify hardcore fans. Roman (Tyrese Gibson) and Tej (Chris "Ludacris" Bridges) are still wise-cracking with one another, now existing in a love-triangle of sorts after Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel), the damsel in distress from the last movie, who just decided to stick around and join the crew apparently. There is only a passing reference or two to Paul Walker's character Brian, but it's done in such a way where his name will forever be a part of these films moving forward, which feels fitting.
Of course, the plot, the characters and these situations are absolutely preposterous, but that's been a huge part of the fun. Dom's actions are not in the least bit believable, and we've come so far now that they don't even waste time giving the villain - Theron - a purpose other than being evil. It's humorous watching action stars like Johnson and Statham go toe-to-toe, but isn't Statham's character Shaw responsible for Han's death, a close member of Dom's crew? That doesn't stop Shaw from joining the team for a barbecue once the team finishes the take-down of a nuclear submarine (yes, that happens).
Something here works though, and this will of course be a huge smash hit. Now having moved on from Walker's death, this particular effort is a bit more enjoyable than "Furious 7," but not quite as good as "Fast 5" or even "Fast and the Furious 6." This "Furious" vehicle is now moving full-throttle, full-steam ahead, and there is seemingly nothing that can stand in its way. It's probably best to just sit back and go along for the ride.
Genre: Action, Crime, Thriller
Run Time: 2 hours 16 minutes, Rated PG-13
Starring: Vin Diesel, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, Jason Statham, Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese Gibson, Chris "Ludacris" Bridges, Charlize Theron, Kurt Russell, Nathalie Emmanuel, Luke Evans, Kurt Russell, Scott Eastwood
Directed by F. Gary Gray ("Straight Outta Compton," "Law Abiding Citizen," "The Italian Job," "A Man Apart," "The Negotiator," "Set It Off")
This movie open everywhere Friday April 14, 2017 (check for showtimes).