The Fast and the Furious franchise is a fascinating one. Going strong for sixteen years, through dozens of different locales, and now on its eighth film, it’s amazing the series has lasted as long as it has. What’s even more amazing is how high quality it has gotten. Granted, I haven’t seen the first three films, my first vehicle being Fast & Furious (the fourth installment, gotta love those titles), and I was bored to death by it. I just don’t care about the whole street racing thing. Once they ditched that and went full on action schlock with Fast Five, it’s become quite possibly my favorite blockbuster film franchise. They just get crazier and crazier.

In Havana, Cuba, Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) is laying low with Letty (Michelle Rodriguez), just trying to live a normal life of street racing and family bonding. He runs into cyber-terrorist Cipher (Charlize Theron), who threatens him into turning on his family and working for her to assist in blowing up the world with nukes. Once Dom turns on his own friends, Agent Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) and Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) are recruited to head Dom’s old team, stop Cipher, and get Dom back. Could this really be The Fate of the Furious?

It’s as ridiculous as it sounds, but that’s what I’m here for, baby! I can’t get enough of these movies and it’s shocking that they have remained as consistent as they have since Fast Five. If there’s one thing the filmmakers know what to have with this series, it’s flat out fun. This one is definitely no exception. From the absurd opening drag race through the streets of Havana, you know what kind of film you’re going to get. Yes, this film isn’t full of complex characters and pertinent themes, but it’s well written in the respect of what it’s going for. As silly as everything in the film is, it all works within its own insane logic. It’s actually somewhat admirable that filmmakers will shamelessly go to such absurd lengths to entertain.

I couldn’t get enough of the absurdity, consistently impressed by how creative every single action sequence was. Even the obligatory street race was a lot of fun! Whenever I thought an action scene was going to end, the filmmakers swooped in and injected another layer of ridiculousness to the events. You want a stampede of remote control cars rampaging throughout New York City? Well, you got it here. While the action scenes did somewhat outstay their welcome, as each one is incredibly long, a smile never left my face. Occasionally dodgy CGI aside, there are some truly impressive stunts to behold, with every scene just oozing with invention. Everything about the story was simple and predictable, but the action consistently kept wowing me. Yes, it’s complete schlock, but incredibly well directed schlock of the highest caliber.

What makes these films work, especially in this installment, are the characters. You can have all of the fun action schlock you want, but if you don’t have good characters, or stakes, you’re just sort of soullessly along for the ride. Now, I know a lot of people say nobody watches these films for the characters, but that’s the main reason we’re having fun. Every actor completely embodies their roles, giving their character their own unique voice, personalities, and motivations. Everybody gets their own moments to shine, show off their unique skills, and make their own little quips. Jason Statham and Dwayne Johnson are the absolute highlights, who only seem intent in one upping each other in the hilarious one-liner department. These two need their own film together, pronto. We’re not just seeing cars smash together, but we get to hear the characters banter throughout the action and show off their wonderfully natural chemistry.

As cheesy as it is, their chemistry honestly sells the whole family angle. These characters really feel like they care for each other, and that’s mostly due to the cast actually feeling this way. There’s just so much passion from everybody involved. Everybody is having a great time, and we’re laughing along with them. The cast and crew clearly care about these films, and each other, to where it really makes the franchise stand out from the rest of the blockbuster films we normally see. While Charlize Theron is a generic villain who just wants to launch some nukes, the fact that there are personals stakes involved with Dom and his family actually make the events have weight. As ludicrous as the films are, we still need to care and the filmmakers and cast succeed in making us do so, simply through their enthusiasm.

At eight films in, any franchise really should just be running on fumes, but The Fate of the Furious was anything but slow. Without a single doubt in my mind, it’s my new favorite of the franchise. The set pieces are all exhilarating in their scope and creativity, the characters and their chemistry are as great as ever, and the series has not lost its sense of self-awareness one bit. The Fast and the Furious franchise represents the absolute best at modern blockbuster filmmaking. Whenever I think these films can’t top themselves, the next comically named sequel comes out and proves me wrong. I can’t wait to see Vin Diesel hijack a space shuttle in the next installment.


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