The spring season has officially begun at the box office with the release of the 8th installment in the globally successful action franchise, “The Fate of the Furious. This marks the first in the series in which the entire Fast Family is not joined by the late Paul Walker. I am aware that Walker was not in “Tokyo Drift” but neither were most of his co-stars. Ever since “Fast Five”, the series has grown increasingly ludacris (pun intended) while managing to bring the fun. Unfortunately “Fast 8” feels like a step backwards. Yes, we still have plenty of absurd action, but some of the thrill seems to be missing.
“Fast 8” begins with Dom (Vin Diesel) and Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) enjoying their honeymoon in Cuba. We are treated to a fun car race through the streets of Havana in which earns Dom the respect of the locals. Life is great for the couple. That is until a cyber-terrorist named Cipher (Charlize Theron) forces Dom to betray everyone he cares about. We do not learn until later in the film what Cypher is holding over Dom’s head but it must be big.
Dom’s betrayal not only puts his friends on the 10 most wanted list, but also lands Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) in prison. When Mr. Nobody (Kurt Russell) learns that Dom is working with Cipher, he brings in Dom’s team to help track and capture him. Hobbs is broken free from prison and forced to work with the villain from “Fast 7”, Deckard Shaw. (Jason Statham).
We are treated to some awesome action set pieces. We get a car chase through New York City that includes hundreds of computer hacked cars. There is a massive chase in Iceland which pits cars against a submarine. However, my favorite sequence involved Deckard Shaw taking out armed thugs while holding a special package. Statham is actually quite fun here and the scenes he shares with Johnson are the best. I would love to see these to do a film together.
One of the elements I wasn’t too keen on was bringing Scott Eastwood in as what feels like a place filler for Paul Walker. Eastwood is fine, but he lacks Walker’s natural charm. I would have much preferred bringing in Lucas Black’s Sean Boswell from “Tokyo Drift”. Theron is also fine here but she isn’t given a whole lot to do. The problem with having your villain be a cyber-terrorist is that their super power consists of typing on a keyboard.
Tej (Ludacris), Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel), Roman (Tyrese Gibson), and Letty spend most of the time either talking in a warehouse about how they are going to stop Dom and Cipher or driving their fast cars. There is a lack of actual conversations which has never been the focus of this series, but when your film runs 135 minutes, there should be some decent character interactions.
“The Fate of the Furious” is not bad. As an action movie, it is definitely solid, but these characters have come a long way in more than 16 years and they deserve a little better than this.
By: Marc Ferman