Ever since The Fast and the Furious raced onto our screens in 2001, the series has gone through a bit of a transition. The first was based just on street racing, and while still unrealistic, was grounded, but since then the series has gone past the line of ridiculous action so far that it can't even see the line in its rearview mirror. This brings us to The Fate of the Furious (or Fast 8 as some call it), a film that keeps this trend very much alive.
The premise of the film is that cyberterrorist Cipher (Charlize Theron) has some dirt on series protagonist Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) that makes him ditch his family (something that's been so important for him ever since he started clinking Coronas with the gang 16 years ago) to go rogue and work for her, simultaneously throwing his friend Luke Hobbs (Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson) under the bus in the process. The group we've come to know and love, comprising of new and old faces alike, therefore have to track Dom down and stop Cipher's plans.
The story isn't that special, although there were a few tense moments that got us on the edge of our seats, and without Dom at the head of this motley crew of drivers it feels a bit odd. Obviously it's meant to feel unnatural that Dom isn't leading the group any more, but without him the gang feels a bit useless, as none of those characters are strong enough to carry the 'good guy' team on their own, especially not the inclusion of Little Nobody (Scott Eastwood). Even when he is on screen, Vin Diesel barely has any words, and he's stony-faced for the majority of the film.
While Vin Diesel is quiet, though, the action certainly isn't, and while it isn't the best the series has seen in terms of great action scenes (the safe scene in Fast Five and skyscraper scene in Furious 7 are some highlights), there's still plenty of high-octane craziness going on. We don't want to spoil too much here, but over the course of the film Dom races a car that's engulfed in flames, Hobbs does the rock bottom to a prison guard, and cars literally rain from the sky. Believability and plausibility, as we said, have been thrown out of the window, but that's what's great about it - it recognises that it's ridiculous, and goes all in.
What's also important to mention in any Fast and Furious film is the cars, as they're the centrepiece. While guns and muscles have been added, it's still all about the audacious motors being driven about the various locations, such as the streets of Manhattan, or the snowy plains of Russia. This time we see the Lamborghini Murcielago, a Bentley Continental, a 1966 Corvette Stingray, a Mercedes-AMG GT, and a Jaguar F-Type Coupe - some of which are in colours you wouldn't be seen going to the shops in. In short, the series continues to be a car lover's dream, although they might wince when these cars get consistently smashed up.
In terms of acting, it's what you'd expect. Heavyweights like Jason Statham, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, Vin Diesel, Tyrese Gibson, and Ludacris aren't exactly Oscar winners, but their performances remain convincing. The odd cheesy phrases like "that's not good!" are a bit tedious, as are Tyrese Gibson's strained attempts at being the "funny guy," but all in all the characters work well together, and Charlize Theron's villain is especially sinister, more in a thriller sort of way than we were expecting.
All-in-all, the ride The Fate of the Furious offers doesn't disappoint, as there's plenty of action, fan-favourites return, and there's still beautiful cars aplenty, but it's more of the same, and doesn't push the formula any further. It was nice to see that they memorialised Paul Walker's passing in a respectful manner as well, without steering the film off course, instead producing a really touching gesture that was the cherry on top of a film that thoroughly entertained for the two hours it was with us.