America’s favorite soap opera full of fast cars is back with The Fate of the Furious, the eighth film in the likely endless The Fast and the Furious franchise. Everything fans want from one of these things is here: explosions, melodrama, cars jumping over things, martial arts, cars crashing and exploding. The franchise itself is a fascinating creature, the way the makers have fit movies and characters together and kept adding more and more actors to the cast (while still effortlessly keeping a level of diversity unseen in most films). At the same time, the movies have never really fluctuated in quality, as their only mission is to get more and more convoluted and absurd with each subsequent installment.
Fate accomplishes this by doing things like having de facto protagonist Dom (Vin Diesel) turned into a bad guy by the evil hacker genius Cypher (Charlize Theron in tiny dreadlocks for some reason) and the whole crew of car-driving outlaws having to outrun a Russian submarine. That sentence is the basic outline of the plot, from the instigating action to the climax, but hell if I could describe what happens in between besides a lot of trumped-up nonsense. It’s the usual goofiness ramped up to previously unimaginable heights. The plot contorts on itself, the movie disregards the laws of physics and increasingly implausible things happen (like a thousand self-driving cars being turned into a drone army by Cypher’s nefarious hacker henchman). People quip, no one wear sleeves, and the world is saved in the end.
It’s the same basic formula that’s been in place since the franchise was resurrected with Fast and Furious (2009) and — for me at least — it all runs together in a blur of sports car-induced miasma. There’s nothing that separates this movie from its predecessors besides a wonderful (and small) role from Helen Mirren and Jason Statham running around with an infant shooting up bad guys. In this era of self-important superhero movies, with their muted tones and high-minded myth-making and tepid self-seriousness, I’ll take a big, dumb action movie that knows it’s big and dumb and, above all, cherishes its own big dumbness. There’s a sense of artistic purity here — these things are not swayed by trends in filmmaking, they’re wholly autonomous. And that’s to be respected.
This does not, however, mean it has to be enjoyed. The entire enterprise is a bit too macho, a bit too loud and definitely way more complicated than it needs to be at this point. Not that seven The Fast and the Furious movies weren’t already too many, but moving into the eighth installment — especially after losing star Paul Walker during Furious 7 (2015) — makes the whole enterprise feel specifically extraneous. Fans of the franchise will likely enjoy another well-oiled entry, but it’s nothing to really get excited about. Rated PG-13 for prolonged sequences of violence and destruction, suggestive content and language. Now Playing at AMC Classic River Hills, Carolina Cinemark, Epic of Hendersonville, Regal Biltmore Grande.