Movie review: Fast and Furious series gets better and better

The Fate of the Furious starring Vin Diesel outshines the hard-driving, logic-defying stunts of the series’ seven previous films. Courtesy Universal Pictures The Fate of the Furious starring Vin Diesel outshines the hard-driving, logic-defying stunts of the series’ seven previous films. Courtesy Universal Pictures

After 16 years—old enough, as it turns out, to finally get its driver’s license—the Fast and Furious series finally has nothing left to prove. There’s no need to explain why good guys turn bad, how a particular bit of technology works or where an improvised ramp came from that Vin Diesel somehow knew would be just the right angle to leap over and save the day in the most spectacular way possible. The Fast and Furious movies have transcended the need to make cinematic sense in any conventionally definable way; they make their own rules, no matter how absurd, then break them before things get too stale.

The Fate of the Furious
PG-13, 136 minutes
Regal Stonefield 14 and IMAX,
Violet Crown Cinema

The Fate of the Furious—or F8, if you will—sees the team divided as Dominic Toretto (Diesel) goes rogue under the command of mysterious supercriminal Cipher (series newcomer Charlize Theron). We meet Toretto in Havana on his honeymoon, having just married Letty Ortiz (Michelle Rodriguez). An improbable situation, perhaps, but as F8 is the first American film to be shot in Cuba since before the Revolution, director F. Gary Gray (The Italian Job, Friday, Straight Outta Compton) squeezes every ounce of color and excitement out of the island nation’s legendary car culture in a breathtaking opening race. It is there that Cipher corners Toretto with some damning information, using it as leverage for him to do her bidding. Toretto then turns on the gang after stealing an EMP device, a blow so severe that they must now team up with former adversary Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham).

Along the way are some of the most spectacular action sequences of the past decade, or at least since the best entry in the series, Fast & Furious 6. A glorious prison break, a stampede of zombified cars with auto-drive remotely activated in New York, a race to and then away from a nuclear submarine in Russia’s far north—you may forget the plot halfway through, but Gray and company know that it’s just an excuse for insane set pieces and batty dialogue.

Take a moment to consider how far we’ve come from the plot of the original films which was essentially Point Break with cars instead of surfboards. The characters aren’t even the same people. Ludacris somehow became the world’s greatest computer genius, The Rock is evolving into a literal granite monster and Tyrese Gibson’s actual role on the team is unclear as he spends most of his lines bragging and/or complaining.

This is actually a vast improvement on the first movie; platitudes about the importance of family are a lot easier to swallow if you’re willing to blow up a world-ending missile/computer/whatever, than if you’re just driving really fast. The Fast and Furious franchise started as a bro-cop B movie and turned into a playground for the best stunts and action sequences in any modern flick not called Mad Max. We might groan at how silly it is, but we need more films like what the series has become, not where it started. Here’s hoping the franchise survives long enough to be the first American movie filmed in North Korea and they have to stop a space shuttle.

Playing this week

Regal Stonefield 14 and IMAX
The Shops at Stonefield, 244-3213

Beauty and the Beast (and Sing-along), The Boss Baby, The Case for Christ, Get Out, Ghost in the Shell, Gifted, Going in Style, Logan, Power Rangers, Smurfs: The Lost Village

Violet Crown Cinema
200 W. Main St., Downtown Mall, 529-3000

Beauty and the Beast, The Boss Baby, Get Out, Gifted, Going in Style, Smurfs: The Lost Village, Your Name, The Zookeeper’s Wife

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