After seven films, a collective gross of $3.9 billion, and on-screen damage in excess of $514 million, you'd assume that The Fate Of The Furious couldn't help but go over old ground or partially drive down a cul-de-sac.
The fact that The Fate Of The Furious avoids such territory, and instead features the demanded preposterous blockbuster excess that we've all come to know and love from the franchise, while at the same time evolving the series to such an extent that it feels like a new beginning rather than an imminent end, is a testament to the efforts and planning that those involved in its production go through to make each new film at least rival, if not top, the last. That being said, The Fate Of The Furious doesn't quite reach the heights of previous installments, but it is still an exhilarating joy ride, and proof that the franchise continues to be the most thrilling and astounding in cinema.
Those of you who have seen The Fate Of The Furious trailers know the gist of the movie, and that overview is the perfect amount of prior knowledge required before you head into see it. Basically Dom Toretto (Vin Diesel) has mysteriously gone rogue on his Fast And Furious family, and is now working in cahoots with Charlize Theron's Cipher, a criminal mastermind and cyber-terrorist who has orchestrated a meticulous plan that she wants Dom to carry out for her.
The only people that can stop Cipher and Dom are his old cohorts, which remarkably sees Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) teaming up with his old adversary Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham), while of course Letty Ortiz (Michelle Rodriguez), Roman Pearce (Tyrese Gibson), Tej Parker (Chris Bridges), Ramsay (Nathalie Emmanuel) are along for the ride, as well as the covert operations pair of Mr. Nobody (Kurt Russell) and Eric Reisner (Scott Eastwood). Throw Helen Mirren and the returning Elsa Pataky into the mix, too, and you've got yourself quite the cast.
Because of this ensemble, and the humungous success of Furious 7, which not only scored the franchise's highest gross to date but its best reviews, too, The Fate Of The Furious certainly has a confident swagger. It also helps that director F. Gary Gray (Straight Outta Compton) is able to seamlessly join the fray, and he wisely avoids trying to change too much, incorporating the usual mass of gratuitously sexy, loud, explosive, and frankly absurd images into the film, while also re-grounding the emotion of the franchise after the understandably fervent Furious 7. Of course there are references to Paul Walker's Brian O'Conner, but they're not exploitative and actually help to add a vulnerability to proceedings.
But while Furious 7 was miraculously re-assembled following the tragic death of Paul Walker to be the most cohesive and well-rounded Fast And Furious film yet, The Fate Of The Furious instead slightly stumbles as it tries to establish the new group and introduce its villains and their plot. Thankfully you're never too far away from an action set-piece that immediately thrusts you out of its ramblings, with it opening sequence in Cuba, the jail-break sequence with The Rock, and its icy finale particularly rousing and immediately up there with anything the series has ever produced.
Surprisingly The Fate Of The Furious actually ends rather abruptly, though, plus its action scenes don't have quite the same build as its predecessors, and while you're far from unsatisfied, you're also not hooting and hollering in delight. Ultimately, The Fate Of The Furious feels like it has one eye on the road ahead rather than in its immediate present, which makes it all the more remarkable that it still manages to deliver exactly what you expect, just not as smoothly as you'd hoped.