The Fast And The Furious franchise started way back in 2001 and Fate Of The Furious is the first of the series that I’ve seen. Mainly as I rarely drive so it takes me about 16 years to get anywhere. Still, I saw this today, and really, really enjoyed it.
It’s so cheesy they should sell the DVD at the Waitrose deli counter, the plot is advertised a mile off, and there’s lots of very obvious exposition in the dialogue. But it’s hilarious – most of the time intentionally so – with some seriously impressive and entertaining action sequences. (Though possibly don’t take my word for this – as an occasional driver, it’s fair to say I get excited watching a well-executed reverse parking manoeuvre in a Vauxhall Nova).
Like so many of the big films out this year (Logan, Guardians of The Galaxy Vol 2) this is a movie all about family – the ties of both blood and bond – and what happens in families from bickering to babies to betrayal. Oh plus bombs. (Nuclear ones). This time around the family isn’t just the team. There’s an adorably cute baby who, can only be described as a scrumptious bundle of chubby smiliness. The jokes about it are predictable but that doesn’t matter as when you see this baby you’ll spend the whole time sighing and wanting to tickle its chin. In fact this is a baby with amazing powers as it manages to bring out the best in Jason Statham (Deckard) who otherwise is not, sadly, very good (I have no idea where he got that accent from but as a Brit I have never ever heard anyone talk like that apart from Christian Bale at the beginning of Reign of Fire and he was being hunted by a dragon).
The story starts in Cuba where Dom (Vin Diesel) and Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) are on their honeymoon, examining a cousin’s car which has had so many parts changes over the years it’s turned into the vehicular equivalent of the broom that has had eight new heads and five new poles and is still going strong. There’s a fabulous if completely unbelievable car chase and lots of stunning young women wiggling their pert bottoms which made me and my friend glad we’d decided against the giant tub of pick and mix to get us through the film.
And we – and Dom – have our first meeting with the new villain who is one of those people who says crazy things (“you’re going to betray your brothers, abandon your code and shatter your family”) and everyone goes ha that’ll never happen then 10 minutes later they happen and we all go “oh”.
Meanwhile Luke (Dwayne Johnson) is now coaching his daughter’s soccer team. They terrify their opponents with a pre-match haka, to an audience of adoring soccer moms, far more soccer moms than there are children on the teams and which might have something to do with the hunk factor of their coach.
For an initially unexplained reason Dom goes rogue, mid-task, and steals a nuclear electromagnetic pulse weapon that can take out a whole electric grid causing chaos in any city (and bring Britain to its knees, as we all know that no electric means no kettles and no kettles means no tea). While dealing with his betrayal, the team have to track him and retrieve the stolen weapon before World War 3 starts but worse than that before World War 3 starts (that’s a joke about family arguments by the way).
We follow the team from Cuba to New York to the snowy wastes of arctic Russia, in a series of increasingly fast and fiery action sequences, and a range of vehicles which I won’t spoil for you by listing but cars are the least of them.
And all because there’s a new villain in town. Cipher, played with icy detachment by Charlize Theron, is a super cyberterrorist and she’s so good – actually make that bad – that at one point she hacks 1000 cars at the same time in New York. Though I’m not sure whether the resulting traffic mayhem is any worse than on any other day.
We don’t find out much more about her name though, which presumably she changed to match her occupation rather than when someone called Mr Bun decides to train as a baker. Whatever, she’s super careful about her online identity which means she’s not a lady who is ever going to accept cookies.
Kurt Russell is back as Mr Nobody only this time he’s got his own little Mini Me, Master Nobody (Scott Eastwood) with an ongoing but not that funny joke about how by-the-book the new boy is. (The running gag about Roman – Tyrese Gibson – finding out that most of the team have made Interpol’s Most Wanted top 10 without him is much better).
Nathalie Emmanuel’s Ramsey provides the tech talk which all sounds impressive though I have no idea if it is accurate in any way (to be honest anything about computers that doesn’t involve the phrase “switch it off and then switch it back on again” will have me nodding sagely and pressing a few keyboard buttons, though possibly more in hope than expectation).
There are some hilarious one liners (I’m already trying to work out when I can next tell someone I’m going to punch their teeth so far down their throat they have to brush them by sticking a toothbrush up their arse), but the best joke of the film goes to Helen Mirren, in a fabulous cameo as Deckard’s mum. Looking like a cross between Peggy Mitchell from Eastenders and, well, Helen Mirren, her renaming of the God’s Eye tracking software as “The Devil’s Bumhole” means I’ll never again be able to think about online privacy without winking.
It is a very silly film. The story is derivative and has been made so many times that whenever I hear the phase “nuclear launch codes” I think not of taking a door off its hinges to make a fallout shelter, but of Austin Powers.
And Cipher’s reason for doing what she does just doesn’t make sense – what does she want this power for? What will she do with it when she has it? And why does she spend so much time explaining in very complicated ways what everyone is thinking, when they probably just want sandwich or to go to the toilet? It’s really no surprise that she doesn’t have any friends, apart from a ginger bloke from Game of Thrones.
But it’s a while since I’ve seen such a familiar plot portrayed with such gusto, and, if this is the right word, joy. And it is a joyous film. The actors are clearly loving it but play it completely straight and while a lot of the dialogue is completely batshit, most of them take it seriously and you know, act.
The only real issue I have with Fate of the Furious is that it is far too long. There are some flat stretches and a few jokes that don’t work and they could have been cut to make the whole thing tighter. I’m sure for serious fans of the series more may be better but as someone who isn’t already invested in the stories and the relationships, I was definitely clock-watching by the end. Then again it’s a film about stolen nuclear weapons, so everyone on screen was clock-watching too.