It’s pretty amazing to think that 16 years ago a movie that started as an undercover LAPD officer investigating local street gangs has turned into international acts of espionage revolving around stopping nuclear wars in Russia. The Fast and the Furious series is far removed from what it was in 2001, the series that everyone left for dead after Tokyo Drift in 2006 is now one of Universal Pictures biggest earners. In what most people believed was the last film in the series, Furious 7 after the death of Paul Walker was supposed to be the walk into the sunset…that is until the film made 1.5 Billion in the box office so Universal decided that 3 more films were in order.
The film begins with Dominic (Vin Diesel) and Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) in Cuba enjoying their honeymoon when Dom is confronted by the leader of a cyber terrorism ring, Cipher (Charlize Theron). Cipher blackmails Dom into working for her using information unknown to his team. Dom turns on his team and steals an EMP device used for war. With Dom gone rogue, the team must band together to take down their former brother and stop one of the most dangerous terrorists in the world from launching World War 3.
The Fast and Furious movies have become pretty hard to objectively review for the same reason the Transformers movies are hard to review, despite critics and a majority of people talking about how terrible the film is, it clearly has an audience as both series tend to make a billion dollars despite poor reviews. While this movie isn’t terrible, many complaints that would bury other action movies simply can’t be applied here. Things like the ridiculous stunts performed in the movie that would easily kill any normal man are a signature now in this series. The laws of physics and human capabilities be damned because if Vin Diesel believes he can drive a rundown Cuban export that is fully engulfed in flames backwards at 120 MPH and manage not to kill anyone including himself, then dammit, that is what is going to happen. Things like that, you just gotta accept because the films have evolved so much, you might as well be watching a superhero movie at this point.
One thing I picked up on was I’m positive this movie was filmed at the same time as xXx: Return of Xander Cage because some of the sets look like they were taken right from the other movie. At one point, I noted during the scene where Cipher brings Dom into her headquarters on a massive plane I said: “Is this the same plane from XXX 3?” Apparently, XXX was filmed right before this movie so it wouldn’t be much of a surprise if they reused sets and hoped no one would notice, despite the other movie being released just under 90 days ago.
As the film progresses we get more moments of “come on now” for the audience when the film shifts to New York City. The entire sequence involves Cipher hacking into every car in the city which apparently every car in New York can be hacked into and operated at will creating a Sharknado of cars. Then after trapping a Russian ambassador in a pile of metal, Dom who for some reason is dressed like Crossbones from Captain America: Civil War steals the Nuclear Launch Codes and retreats to Russia. Now you think after committing what would definitely be viewed as an act of terror in NYC, the place would be crawling with military helicopters, jets, tanks, and enough police officers to sink the island of Manhattan but no cops show up until the last second and the bad guys still get away.
As far as the actors go, you don’t get anything you haven’t seen from every other movie. Ludacris is the brainiac hacker even though I’m sure he was just a garage owner in 2 Fast 2 Furious, Michelle Rodriguez is there to beat up guys 3-4 times her size with ease, Scott Eastwood is in the film to be incompetent, Tyrese is collecting a check, then finally The Rock and Jason Statham threatening to beat each other up for the entire film but don’t actually do it. To be fair, Rock and Statham are the best things about this film by far, so much so that Universal apparently filmed an after credit scene featuring the duo that could have led to a spinoff but Vin Diesel allegedly found out about this plan and cut it from the movie. Now you have to take these kinds of things with a grain of salt, but Diesel does have a considerable amount of creative control so it probably isn’t a stretch that someone who has an addendum added to his contract that states “Vin Diesel’s character (Dominic Toretto) will not lose an on-screen fight” would do something like this. Not only is Dom not allowed to lose an on-screen fight, he apparently isn’t allowed to die either because, for the third straight movie, Dom survives a circumstance that he absolutely should have died from but when ego is involved you get stuff like surviving the blast from an exploding submarine with a nuke on it because 4 cars blocked the blast from you, because physics.
I ended up feeling the same way about this film as I did with XXX: Return of Xander Cage, it’s not good, it’s not bad, it’s just a dumb but fun film. Watching this with XXX 3 so fresh in our minds, it feels very much like the same film. However, I wonder if the behind the scenes drama is ultimately going to sink this film franchise going forward. The Fate of the Furious is a step back from the last few films, mostly due to the fact that there is a more interesting story going on behind the camera than in front of it.