The Fate of the Furious

2017 sequel craziness

Rating: 14/20 (Rubber Duck: 14/20)

Plot: Dominic is lured to the dark side by a James Bond villain, and it's up to his "family," along with Deckard (lured to the light side) and a couple of Nobodies, to stop him and save the world. Submarine!

A quick note: If you only like these Fast and the Furious movies because you're a huge Paul Walker fan, you're likely going to be disappointed in this entry in the franchise. They're not going to get Brian and Mia involved in this!

Rubber Duck put the over/under at 10 for references to "family," and I foolishly took the under. It ended up being fourteen. Now I might have to revisit the others a third time to count how many "family" mentions are in there to do a little statistical analysis. It seems as important as anything else that's going on in the world right now.

I thought this 8th movie in the series was exactly what anybody would expect after seeing the fifth, sixth, and seventh in the series. They've got a formula now that they don't seem to want to mess with. A big action scene starts things off, a villain emerges and a conflict develops, the crew is assembled, a big action sequence takes place, the crew kind of gets stuck for a bit, another ridiculous action sequence occurs, the crew figures something out, a final giant and even more ridiculous action sequence takes place, and then there's an ending scene where the characters are chilling and sometimes eating or tossing their babies around on a beach somewhere. And they're globetrotting as much as James Bond does.

This installment follows that perfectly, and since the movie is brand-spanking new, I won't spoil anything by giving away locations or plot points or anything like that. I will say that I likely had a giant smile on my face during that initial action sequence where Dominic gets to do something utterly ridiculous, loved the effects and mayhem in a scene where Charlize Theron's character works her hi-tech magic, and thought the big submarine scene you saw a glimpse of in the trailers was so far-fetched that it transformed into a kind of higher art. The Rock and Statham get to show off their skills in some well-choreographed punch-'em-up sequences that were as gorgeous as ballet. There were none of those jumping punches, but there were plenty of elbows, human beings being thrown around like they were dolls, headbutts, elbows, and kicks. Also, more elbows. If there had been any of those jumping punches, I might have left the theater seat and whooped.

Speaking of that sort of behavior, there were some people in the theater who whooped it up. This was the first of these I've seen in a theater, and I'm not sure I've seen a movie with that much audience whooping. It happened a few times during moments that you might expect, but it also happened at a scene that I can't describe because it would give too much away. It involves something that you're not supposed to know about and a decision made about that something that didn't really warrant the enthusiastic reaction these theater patrons gave it. It was pretty awesome.

The principals pretty much do exactly what you'd expect in this. Kurt Russell has a little more to do and almost everything he gets to say is humorous. Scott Eastwood enters the franchise as "Little Nobody," I suppose as a bit of a feeler sent out to see if he could possibly replace Paul Walker. His rapport with a clownish Tyrese Gibson is fun enough, and Gibson and Ludacris (the perfect name for an actor to have in a series like this) form two sides of an emerging comic love triangle with Nathalie Emmanuel's returning cyber expert. Michelle Rodriguez brings the one-and-a-half dimensions she's got, and Vin Diesel gets to scowl more than anybody has ever scowled on screen while also getting a chance to be really really sad once. Statham's terrific physically and very funny. Maybe more than any other action star, Statham really seems to get it and understand what he is. And The Rock just continues doing the sorts of things that only The Rock can get away with in movies. The first time we spot him here, it's in a scene that seems like it belongs in one of his dopier projects like that Tooth Fairy thing instead of a Fast and the Furious movie. I mean, he references Taylor Swift.

And then, you get the new characters. Eastwood's fine, mostly at filling in space. Helen Mirren pops in just a little bit more than Paul Walker does. I can't actually figure out how she logically enters this movie, and when it's revealed later on who she actually is, the whole scheme that set up a meeting between her and another character makes no sense at all. Charlize Theron is the other new face, and she's definitely capable of playing a smart villain even if she does seem a little flat at times and if her performance morphs into this thing where she just interrupts action sequences with cutesy one-liners. She seems a little wasted despite lots of screen time and dialogue. We had just seen her kick ass in a preview for another movie, so she's definitely capable of doing more than just standing around and being mean to the good guys.

I can't tell you who the best performance is from because it gives away a new character that you're not allowed to know about.

I wonder if the tone of this one was too comedic. There are a lot of really dark things going on, and the leader of their "family" has "gone rogue." Just the use of that word reminding the characters about the existence of Sarah Palin should be enough to put these characters in no mood to joke around. It's still a good enough balance of action mayhem--often a little slapsticky--and the natural humor of these characters to make the whole thing work, but I do fear future sequels could get too cartoonish. It struck me while watching this that these things are becoming more like James Bond movies than James Bond movies. I'm talking about the really goofy, superior James Bond movies that would use slide whistle sound effects, not the early Connery stuff or the morbid Craig stuff.

Man, I can't tell you how much I want to see Nicolas Cage in one (or more) of these movies!

My favorite thing about this: There's a race scene (I don't think that's a spoiler), and when one character loses, he exclaims something that sounds very close to what Sebulba exclaims when he loses the pod race in Episode One. I'll have to watch this again sometime to verify.

Oh, no! My favorite thing was a close-up of The Rock and a drawn-out "Somabitch." It was almost in slow motion, and I'm surprised the audience survived.

These movies are just so much fun. I think I'm ready to anticipate future releases of this series as much as Star Wars movies. So viva la Diesel!