Let’s start with a totally surprising scene in the first part of the film that blew everyone in the audience away. It caught everyone off guard, it was delightful, it brought a smile to everyone’s face, and it was a massive acknowledgement of the culture of this part of the world. I won’t say any more for fear of spoiling it for you, but suffice to say that when applause broke out at the end of the film, I strongly suspect the good will engendered by that scene had a lot to do with it.
Also before launching into a review proper, I should point out that while the Furious franchise has been around since 2001, and this movie is its eighth instalment, this is the first I’ve seen. So I’m woefully lacking in historical context, although I was aware of the death of actor Paul Walker and how this film is the first without him. And the series has been a huge money spinner, with the last entry, Furious 7, earning more than $1.5 billion at the worldwide box office.
So, is this any good? Well in many ways The Fate of the Furious is a lot of arrant nonsense, but then it’s not trying to be too serious an action movie. This is no Daniel Craig-era Bond, or a Jason Bourne. Those films often boasted classy scripts, classy directing, and stunts which, while outrageous, still invited you to believe that they could, just, happen in real life. This film does not fall into that category.
It’s more akin, perhaps, to a Michael Bay Transformers movie, but without the Transformers, if you get the idea. The film plays like a Mission Impossible/Bond (the Roger Moore kind) mish-mash, with ridiculous sequences and leaps of faith. Example? How likely is it that a nuclear submarine can travel as fast on the surface as a turbo charged race car? Google suggests 74km per hour for the sub. Say no more. Of course this doesn’t matter, as the point of the exercise is to show the spectacular on screen. So we have cars raining down on the street from above, cars emerging unscathed after negotiating all sorts of mayhem, and cars defying all manner of laws of nature and physics. Cars rule.
The story isn’t worth discussing at any length. Our heroes are faced with a planet-threatening baddie called Cipher (Charlize Theron), a task made all the more difficult when it seems she turns team leader Dominic (Vin Diesel) against his mates. Mmm, wonder how that will go. Most of the cast approach their work with a suitable application of tongue in cheek. Of the regulars, Dwayne Johnson, Jason Statham, and Tyrese Gibson especially, know where the laughs are. So does their mysterious boss Mr Nobody, as per Kurt Russell. Vin Diesel and Michelle Rodriguez play it straighter, more’s the pity.
They are comic book superheroes without super powers, and that might be the best way to approach this type of film. Dwayne Johnson’s rock hard body means rubber bullets bounce off him. Jason Statham drop kicks bad guys around better than Dan Carter in the Rugby World Cup. Vin Diesel handles a fast car as if he can telepathically control its movements. Some will be thrilled, many will laugh, and probably most will be entertained.
Scott (son of Clint) Eastwood is here as a new kid on the block. Maybe he’ll be back, to assume the spot left vacant after Paul Walker’s death. This franchise has plenty of grunt in its engine yet.