By JACKSON MURPHY
Since when did “The Fast and the Furious” turn into “Mission: Impossible?” This eighth installment in the long-running car racing franchise, “The Fate of the Furious,” veers too far from its lane, making it difficult to qualify as a legit “F & F” film.
Sure, there are plenty of insane races and chases – involving sports cars, SUVs, tanks and even a submarine. But the plot centers around a new villain, Cipher (played by Charlize Theron), who has more screen time than any of the regular gang. She’s scouring the globe in her private plane looking to round up some nuclear missiles and take over the world. Sounds more like a Tom Cruise script and not the formula of hot rods, hot bods and relationship values that’s been the backbone of this franchise.
“The Fate of the Furious” also falls into the trap of other movie sequels by breaking up its core of characters that fans love. Not a smart move. Cipher locates Dom (Vin Diesel) in Cuba and quickly, and mysteriously, convinces him to join her on her evil mission. The rest of the gang, including Dom’s now-wife Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) and Hobbs (Dwayne “I’m in every single movie” Johnson) – are stunned that Dom has turned his back on his “family,” but they also have to do what’s right and track him down to try to save the day.
This is “Straight Outta Compton” director F. Gary Gray’s first “Fast and Furious” effort. He definitely knows how to stage action scenes. An amazing sequence in New York City is the best of the lot. There’s also a good opening race through the streets of Havana and a climatic escapade in very cold Russia.
But like “Compton,” “Fate” suffers from issues with story and length. It’s two hours and 15 minutes long, and feels like it. I wish the structure wasn’t so stagy; we know exactly when all the action scenes are coming and know they’re going to be extreme, which deflates any opportunity for anticipation or surprise.
Saving graces come in the form of Jason Statham, who returns as Deckard Shaw, and Helen Mirren who debuts in the series in a small but memorable role.
“Fate” certainly has its high points, but it feels way too conventional and steers in directions it simply shouldn’t have. Before the next model is unveiled, with two more installments in development, this series needs a major rebuild.