Despite the major departure from its origins, The Fate of the Furious still delivers in spades when it comes to entertainment.
“From little things, big things grow". If ever there were a film franchise to take up Paul Kelly’s mantra, the ‘Furious’ juggernaut would surely be it. Beginning all the way back in 2001 with The Fast and the Furious - a small, $38 million film about street racers cum hijackers - the franchise now boasts eight movies and a combined box office of close to $4 billion.
The latest instalment, The Fate of the Furious, could not be further from the film that began it all. With its $250 million budget, the cast is bigger, the locations more exotic, the cars more expensive, the explosions more frequent and the plot now about saving the entire planet from nuclear devastation instead of 'living one’s life a quarter mile at a time'.
The rules of franchise cinema are well established. Each subsequent film must honour those that preceded it by including any signature shots, iconic lines or beloved characters that haven’t yet been killed off. To that end, The Fate of the Furious knows its history well. The opening shot, in fact, tracks a barely-clothed female derriere as it snakes its way through a collection of vintage Cuban cars. Moments later, franchise stalwarts Dom Toretto (Vin Diesel) and wife Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) come to the aid of family and challenge a local to an illegal street race for pink slips, all the while backed by a thumping trap, electro and hip hop soundtrack. This, more than anything else, is the Furious lifeblood, yet gone are the days where such scenes receive anything more than lip service in this forever mushrooming franchise.
Instead, The Fate of the Furious throws an immediate spanner in the works via an appearance by newcomer ‘Cypher’ (Charlize Theron). All it takes from her is an unseen ’something’ on a cell phone that immediately convinces Dom to turn on his extended family, betray everyone close to him and assist Cypher in a series of increasingly brazen attacks around the world. The film, then, traces the efforts of Dom’s crew to track him down and stop him via a series of massively destructive car chases in which each and every car costs about the same as the entire budget of the first Furious movie.
All the regulars are back, of course, as well as a few notable cameos (Helen Mirren, ladies and gentlemen. Helen Mirren). Dwayne ’The Rock' Johnson, Jason Statham, Tyrese Gibson, Chris 'Ludacris’ Bridges, Scott Eastwood, Nathalie Emmanuel and Kurt Russell all return, though this time there’s only a reference to the late Paul Walker’s character Brian. The cast of cars, too, is an impressive one, with everything from a 1971 Plymouth GTX, a 2017 Subaru BRZ, a 2016 Mercedes AMG GT S, a Lamborghini Murcielago LP 640 and, for good measure, a Russian Akula Class Attack Submarine.
Ultimately, and despite the major departure from its origins, The Fate of the Furious still delivers in spades when it comes to entertainment. Another comfortable member of the ‘Big, Dumb and Fun’ genre, The Fate of the Furious rises above most of its contemporaries by being, almost paradoxically, extremely clever in its stupidity. Any movie, for example, can crash dozens of cars into one another, but The Fate of the Furious does it via a hacker assuming control of almost 100 cars’ computer systems and turning them into 'car zombies'. It’s an exhilarating sequence and a fine example of how the brains behind this franchise know they need to do more than just be ‘big’.