By Ed Sum (The Vintage Tempest)
The ride is not over for the gang in The Fate of the Furious (F8). This franchise is still going strong since its beginnings in 2001 and even though it hit bumps along the way, I was thrown off and did not want to necessarily continue following until word of mouth coaxed me back.
Director F. Gary Gray keeps the visual action moving at a steady pace. There was never a dull moment and I had to whoop at the introduction fondly recalling how this film franchise started — all about racing — before dealing with heist scenarios and counter-espionage. While some knowledge of all the films is helpful before going to see this latest entry, at least I still remembered the basics:
Dom Toretto (Vin Diesel) is an excellent racer and mechanic. Just how he winds up in subterfuge in every corner is because his skills are in demand. He values family over everything else and this key theme is emphasized in F8. When villains start messing with his amigos, he will fight back. When there are innocents being held, that’s another story, and this latest film nicely slides this fact in like a motorcycle through busy traffic.
This movie quickly sets up Dom “betraying” his team. Although there’s a reason behind it, he has no ability to tell his friends or even let them in on the reasons why he’s gone rogue. They have to figure out what’s going on in classic fashion, trying to put the pieces of the puzzle together, and it makes for a decent film of who is after whom. The puppet master is simply evil, and no huge spoilers will be revealed here.
As expected for this set of films, the highlight is in how high octane the chases get and lend value (or nostalgia) at how great those muscle cars from decades past can stand the test of time. Thankfully some of the magic is done with the aid of digital effects. If some of those actual vehicles are trashed or torn apart, I wonder how many of them were sacrificed to make this film feel realistic. This movie easily puts the chases and police car pile-ups from The Blues Brothers and its sequel to shame. Those were the benchmarks I grew up with. For recent material, thoughts of Michael Bay’s Transformers came to mind because we get a broad spectrum of vehicles put on the spotlight, akin to the Autobots in vehicle mode, poised to defend against tyranny. The tight camera closeups on Vin Diesel show even the head honcho has to act for himself than for a greater good.
F8 is a beginning of a new chapter for the saga. The team has a new threat to deal with and I’m in love with her; Cipher (Charlize Theron) has it in for Dom and his team. She is a cyber-criminal with tons of mad hacking skills and I can only imagine how this series could look if it went full-on punk. While the series will always be about vehicles (cars) accomplishing the impossible, the fun with these films is in seeing how they can outdo other forms of transportation. Am I a returning fan? Hard to say. The movie makes me want to revisit Gunsmith Cats / Riding Bean manga artist Kenichi Sonoda wrote. Animated or live-action, these products are just fun filled crazy action-adventure romps about car culture and it shows.
3½ Engines out of 5