Is there anything left to say about the "Fast and Furious" movies, of which the current installment -- the fairly hilariously named "The Fate of the Furious" -- is No. 8? Except that, at a point where most franchises have long ago dribbled their way to an incoherent ending, the "F&F" gang is still going strong? Here, as always, they drive really fast, say the word "family" a lot, save the world from evil through their aforementioned ability to drive really fast, and casually demonstrate impressive life skills. I'm pretty sure I saw Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson), the manly former DSS agent with biceps the size of Easter hams, redirect a torpedo with his bare hand; the sort of thing he does with the nonchalance of a man brushing away an errant fly.
Director F. Gary Gray ("Straight Outta Compton") and screenwriter Chris Morgan (who's been scripting the franchise since "Tokyo Drift") know that there's a formula to follow here, and follow it they do: from the opening, breathless street race in Havana to the final, fiery conflict involving a nuclear submarine (!) in icy Russia. At this point, watching these films is like attending an exceptionally well-muscled family reunion, as you check off the players one by one.
Hobbs, we find, is currently keeping himself busy as the world's most intense girls' soccer coach (star player: his daughter) before getting sucked back into The Life. Likewise, Dom (Vin Diesel) -- the one who Never Gets Himself Killed No Matter What (seriously, superheroes could learn from this guy) -- and Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) are on their honeymoon in Cuba, getting involved in street races to pass the time, as one does. Roman (Tyrese Gibson) and Tej (Chris "Ludacris" Bridges) are bantering; former villain Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) is throwing shade from a maximum-security prison; and Mr. Nobody (Kurt Russell) is, well, doing that grinning-fed-who-operates-outside-the-law thing that he does.
New blood enters the mix, in the form of Charlize Theron as silky-voiced cyberterrorist Cipher, described as "like a digital act of God," and an uncredited and deliciously Cockney Helen Mirren, in a role that gets perhaps 90 seconds of screen time but which makes you suddenly imagine an entirely new origin story and franchise designed around her. (Somebody please make these movies. Please. I'm begging here.)
The movie zips along quickly, full of popcorn-worthy moments like a Manhattan chase involving "zombie cars" (some of which appear to commit suicide by waterfalling off a multistory garage), a drowning Lamborghini, Hobbs throwing prison guards around like they're tennis balls, and Statham addressing a baby as "guv'nor." In other words, the formula's tight.
As I drove home in a car that seemed sadly non-badass, I wondered how long this unlikely yet irresistible franchise might last. Probably as long as it wants to.
Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @moiraverse ___
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