Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) has finally married Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) who asks the man who values family above all why they've never talked about having a child. Just after they've begin to do just that, Dom stops to help a woman (a dreadlocked Charlize Theron) on the street, but she's no ordinary woman. She's a cyber criminal known as Cipher and she has enough on Dom to make him go rogue, joining her in a nefarious plot for world domination in "The Fate of the Furious."
Do two good action scenes and a great villain a good movie make? What if said villain's main threat is a plot hole big enough to swallow a Lamborghini and the film's climax enters a whole new level of unreality? If you're looking for some big, dumb, noisy fun, the eighth film in the franchise is a big step up from "Furious 7." Returning screenwriter Chris Morgan tempers his bad ideas (Cipher's sway over Dom is a highly emotional one, but does anything justify a nuclear attack?) with clever ones (a not-too-futuristic hack into Manhattan's traffic) while "Straight Outta Compton" director F. Gary Gray keeps the pedal to the metal.
The film opens in Havana, where Dom is honeymooning with Letty in a paradise of sunshine, scantily clad youth and gleaming vintage cars (this is the first American production to film in Cuba). Dom comes across his cousin Fernando (Janmarco Santiago) as his rust bucket 1953 Chevy Fleetline is being repo'ed by a Cuban racing hustler, so he challenges the guy, whose 1956 Ford Fairlane is an obvious winner, to race for it. The Cuban mile race finds Dom leaning on a nitrous oxide tank that could either help him win or blow him sky high. Dom's winning gambit is as ridiculous as it is fun and the race brings us back to the franchise's roots.
When Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) calls Dom's team for a black ops mission to steal an EMP in Berlin, Dom's already in cahoots with Cipher, making off with the weapon while Hobbs ends up in prison across the aisle from his old nemesis Deckard (Jason Statham). Dom's team, especially, Letty, reels at the betrayal. With Mr. Nobody (Kurt Russell) and his new recruit Little Nobody (Scott Eastwood) leading the team, Hobbs and Deckard break out of prison beginning as foes and ending up allies. Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel) fires up her God's Eye to locate Dom, but just when they think they've outwitted Cipher's hacking it pinpoints their own location. Cipher and Dom blast in and steal it (and good riddance, as it's a perfect example of how the franchise jumps the shark).
The action then moves to New York City where Cipher is targeting the Russian Defense Minister, whose aid is handcuffed to a nuclear football. Dom diverts with engine problems out of the line of Cipher's eye just long enough for a mysterious meeting with an unknown woman (Helen Mirren, putting on the Cockney). Gray orchestrates the film's best action set piece as drivers lose control of their vehicles and unmanned cars begin to move, all in the act of corralling the Russians' bullet-proof limo. When Cipher commands 'let it rain,' you're in for perhaps this franchise's most inventive mayhem.
While all this is candy for the action junkie, the filmmakers don't address the fact that nuclear codes can be changed on the fly, something that would surely happen the minute Dom makes off with the suitcase leaving the Defense Minister and his aide unharmed. Things spiral into more insanity as the action moves to a secret Russian nuclear submarine station in the Arctic where fireballs never destabilize the ice holding up fleets of vehicles, just as Dom's day-saving stunt defies believability (just like his opening one). Earlier minor players reappear as pieces of the conclusion's mechanism.
Theron is quite captivating as Cipher, her movements elegant, her eyes deadly cold. Norwegian actor Kristofer Hivju ("Force Majeure," HBO's 'Game of Thrones') is her lethal right hand man. The rest of the pack are back, Chris 'Ludacris' Bridges' Tej and Tyrese Gibson's Roman still battling for Ramsey's attention, Gibson still the class clown (his choice of a one million dollar orange Lamborghini proves amusing as he tries to handle it on Arctic ice, eventually surviving with just its door). Also popping back from prior entries are Luke Evans's Owen and Elsa Pataky's Rio cop Elena.
The "Fast and Furious" films have gotten more and more bloated over the years but while this one clocks in at 136 minutes, it never flags. One does tire of hearing Diesel drone on about family and the film's more preposterous CGI enabled stunts are eye rolling, but if it's popcorn you're looking for, "The Fate of the Furious" delivers.
Robin did not see this film.
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