‘I’ ON CULTURE
I enjoyed The Fate of the Furious, the eighth movie in the hot cars/hot women series. Of course, I had enjoyed the last several movies in the series. They are nonsense, of course, but they are fun nonsense. Plots are ridiculous, fights and chases are completely unbelievable, but the time goes by fast.
The movie begins in Cuba (and the Cuban tourist board should love this… while the cars date from the 1950s, the people are all happy, and no one looks ready to sail to Florida), where Dom (Vin Diesel) wins a race in a real clunker that somehow becomes a turbo-charged jalopy with a few seconds of work on it. Nice, exciting, particularly as the car catches fire and blows up. The next day, he meets Cipher (Charlize Theron) who gets him to go up against his entire team, which has become his “family.” We eventually learn why she was able to do it.
Right afterward, his group meets with government agent Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) to take an EMP (electromagnetic pulse) device from some terrorists. Dom betrays his wife Letty (Michelle Rodriguez), Hobbs and the rest of the gang, and takes it for Cipher.
Hobbs is sent to prison where he meets up with old nemesis Shaw (Jason Statham). Within minutes, they have broken out, with a bit of assistance from Mr. Nobody (Kurt Russell), head of a super-secret agency.
There are some tremendous car chases in Manhattan, which fully convinced me that self-driving cars are really dangerous, and then a battle inside Russia to take control of a submarine that leads into a long, skidding chase across ice. At the end, all is resolved.
Yes, the story is ridiculous, less believable than even the James Bond movies. But it has style. At one point, Shaw winds up in a major battle while holding a baby in a carry-seat. The baby, whom he carefully prepares with headphones playing nice music, has no idea that the man protecting him is killing a dozen or so bad people along the way. An absolutely delicious touch!
I do have one important nit. We watch the cars smashing into things (often each other), being hit by missiles, at one point in the middle of a gigantic explosion, yet the cars not only can still function well, they seemed untouched. I’ve seen cars in minor fender-benders in parking lots that can’t be driven anymore, yet these cars can handle anything. I want one of them… and it doesn’t even have to be all that pretty.
The cast looked like it was having fun. Johnson, who handles comedy well, was great as he led his daughter’s soccer team of little girls through war chants to scare their opponents before a game. And he kept his calm, almost bemused demeanor throughout. Statham again demonstrates his flair for comedy as the antagonist who turns hero. Rodriguez is good as a fierce and loving wife, loyal even when it seems Dom has betrayed her.
Tyrese Gibson as excellent as the group’s clown, a man who constantly puts his foot in his mouth. Chris “Ludacris” Bridges, the chief techie, is fine as the man who constantly puts him down while still being his best friend. Nathalie Emmanuel is the gorgeous hacker who keeps those two in line.
Russell is good, and Scott Eastwood is quite amusing as his assistant, who has no idea at first how to handle the crew. There is a charming cameo by Helen Mirren as Statham’s mother (although it is rumored she wanted to be one of the race drivers, which she was not).
Theron was appropriately villainous. Every time she did something awful, she blamed it on Dom, explaining away everything nasty as a result of something he did that usually was noble. It reminded me of people on news shows, finding ways to rationalize an awful lot of terrible behavior with reasoning about as reasonable as our villain here.
The best thing about this series is that you get what you expect. There is a lot of fancy driving and a huge focus on family. Yes, Dom went against his family, but eventually we find out why, and the reason seems quite valid. In the end, he is back on the team. If you want a simple good time at the movies, this one is for you.