Folks, we are in a place where I never thought we’d be. We are on the 8th film in the Fast and Furious franchise. I didn’t see it lasting beyond one movie. After the dismal sequel and the third film which under-performed at the box office and lacked any of the original stars beyond a cameo, I thought it was done. Then they made a fourth, and a fifth, and sixth, and so on. I guess it proves that if you keep making a thing more fun and absurd than the last one, people will keep coming back for more.
Before we get into The Fate of the Furious let's take a quick look back at the franchise.
The Fast and the Furious (2001)
Brian O’Connor (Paul Walker) is a young FBI agent tasked with infiltrating a ring of illegal street racers to find out who is behind a string of dangerous high speed heists. The crew is led by Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel). In the course of his mission Brian and Dom become close friends and Brian falls for Dom’s sister Mia. During a shootout/chase with rival street racers, Brian decides to let Dom go rather than seeing his new friend and mentor locked in a cage. Think of this movie as Point Break but with cars instead of surfing.
2 Fast 2 Furious (2003)
Easily the weakest of the franchise, Brian O’Connor is on the run after letting Dom go. When he is captured during a bust of street racers, he is forced to bring down a drug dealer. He recruits former childhood friend Roman Pierce (Tyrese Gibson) to help along with local street racer/mechanic/hustler Tej (Ludacris). The best stunt in the movie is when our heroes drive a car off a dock and onto a boat in the film’s finale otherwise it’s an uninteresting mess of a film.
The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift (2006)
This 3rd entry lacks any characters and stars of the previous entries but does introduce a character to the franchise that is a fan favorite. Tokyo Drift stars Lucas Black as gear head street racer Sean who is sent to live with his father in Tokyo after being threatened with jail time over a race gone wrong. He meets Han (Sung Kang) who takes him under his wing to show him the world of drifting. The villain is another drifter and Yakuza thug D.K. who comes after Han. Han dies in a crash during a really cool chase scene through downtown Tokyo. Sean challenges D.K. to a race. Sean wins. D.K. is humiliated. The end credits scene shows Sean getting ready to race against a new driver in town that is an old friend of Han’s. Who is it? Dominic Toretto.
Fast and Furious (2009)
The opening scene is the coolest stunt in this movie. It features Dom and his crew, which includes girlfriend Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) and his pals Han, Leo, and Santos stealing a gasoline truck somewhere in South America. Fast forward a bit and we learn that Letty has been killed in a car crash, Dom has been in hiding but comes back to L.A. for the funeral and to find out who is responsible for her death. We also learn that Brian is back in the FBI. Of course, it turns out the two of them are after the same person who happens to be a drug lord that uses street racers to smuggle his product across the border. This is where we also meet Gisele (Gal Gadot) who works for the drug lord. After saving the day, Dom is arrested and while the movie ends with Dom on a prison bus while Mia and Brian race to break him out.
Fast Five (2011)
Brian and Mia bust Dom out of the prison bus and flee to Rio de Janeiro where they get a job working with another crew to steal some cars from a train. They learn that the cars had actually been seized by the DEA and the one they got away with has a computer chip with the details of a South American drug dealer’s criminal empire and the locations of millions of dollars in cash. Federal agent Luke Hobbs (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson) is sent to bring them to justice. Mia announces she’s pregnant with Brian’s child. Dom decides they need to rob the drug lord so they can buy new lives and stop running from law enforcement. To do this, they need help so they bring in some old friends. Invited to form this new crew is Roman, Tej, Gisele, Han, Leo, and Santos. They eventually get arrested by Hobbs but when his team is ambushed and Dom saves his life, Hobbs vows to help the crew as a way of getting revenge for his fallen agents. They pull of the heist and Hobbs give Dom and his crew a 24-hour head start before he starts chasing them again. The crew divides their money and splits up. In a mid-credits scene Hobbs is shown a file concerning the hijacking of a military convoy that also contains a photo of Dom’s believed-to-be-dead girlfriend Letty.
Remember how Han died in Tokyo Drift? We’ll get back to that.
Fast and Furious 6 (2013)
Hobbs tracks down Owen Shaw, a former British Special Agent who is responsible for the military convoy hijacking mentioned in the mid-credits scene of Fast Five. He realizes he needs special help and tracks down Dominic Toretto and his crew to assist in exchange for amnesty for their previous crimes. Dom agrees after being shown the photo of Letty working with Shaw. They go after Shaw, who seems to be one step ahead of them while Dom is also trying to help Letty remember who she is and learn the story behind her new life. Turns out Letty has some sort of amnesia. Dom and his crew foil Shaw’s plan but in the process, Gisele sacrifices herself to save Han. Letty returns home with Dom. Han goes to Tokyo. During a mid-credits scene, Han is in the car crash that you see in Tokyo Drift. The driver of the car leaves a cross that belonged to Letty by the crash and calls Dom as Han’s car explodes saying “You don’t know me. You’re about to”.
At this point we know that Tokyo Drift takes place between Fast and Furious 6 and Furious 7. This was also when Paul Walker died in a car accident. A lot of his scenes for Furious 7 were finished but reshoots were needed so director James Wan was tasked with using Walker’s brothers as stand-ins along with some great CGI to make a fitting tribute film.
Furious 7 (2015)
After defeating Owen Shaw and securing amnesty for their crimes, Dom, Brain, and the rest of the crew are settling down to live normal lives again. Brian is getting used to being a father while Dom tries to help Letty regain her memory. Owen Shaw’s older brother, Deckard (Jason Statham) swears vengeance against Dom and his crew. He breaks into Hobbs’ office to get information about Dom’s crew where he and Hobbs get into a fight that ends when Shaw detonates a bomb that severely injures Hobbs. Remember that mid-credits scene from Fast and Furious 6? That’s right, the man behind the crash and death of Han is Deckard Shaw who has his brief conversation with Dom then blows up his house.
This is where things start to get complicated. Dom’s team is forced to work with the mysterious “Mr. Nobody” who is played by Kurt Russell to find Deckard. In order to do that, the team must kidnap a hacker who knows the key to a device called “God’s Eye” that allows a user to hack into any camera anywhere in the world and track anyone. In the process of rescuing Ramsey (the hacker), gaining control of “God’s Eye”, and defeating Deckard Shaw and an arms dealer named Jukandi (Djimon Hounsou) the team drives cars out of a plane, Dom and Brian leap a car from one skyscraper to another, Hobbs and Deckard have a brawl in a parking garage that ends when Jukandi attacks both of them collapsing part of the garage and Dom driving his car into Jukandi’s helicopter which Hobbs also helps destroy from the ground. Dom is injured and when the team finds him near the wreckage of his car, they believe he is dead.
When Letty tells him she remembers their life together he miraculously wakes up and says “it’s about time”. Shaw is taken into custody by Hobbs and put in prison. At the end of the film, the team is on a beach observing Brian and Mia with their children and collectively agree that Brian is better off with his family. Dom silently slips away. As he is driving off, Brian catches up to him at a crossroads. As they drive side by side, as a tribute to the character and the late Paul Walker, Dom reflects on their time together in a really nice montage as the characters split off and go their separate ways.
Which brings us to The Fate of the Furious…
Dom and Letty are on their honeymoon in Cuba, of course there’s a street race, and one day a mysterious woman (Charlize Theron) shows up and shows Dom something on a phone which convinces him to work for her. We later find out that her name is Cipher and she’s a cyber-warfare terrorist. Of course part of working for her means that Dom has to turn on his team, which he does after they help Hobbs steal an EMP device in an unsanctioned U.S. Government operation. Hobbs winds up in prison with Deckard Shaw and, in a very exciting prison riot sequence, both of them are promptly broken out by Mr. Nobody (Kurt Russell) and his protégé, Little Nobody (Scott Eastwood) who team them up with Letty, Roman, Ramsey, and Tej to find Dom and stop Cypher from whatever she’s planning. Meanwhile Dom is working against his team going on missions for Cypher.
The Fate of the Furious is a popcorn flick in its’ simplest form. Turn off your mind and just watch. Each movie in the franchise works hard to one up the previous entry and at this point nothing is off limits and there is nothing too ridiculous for these street racers to pull off. This movie has “zombie” cars, a nuclear submarine (complete with nuclear missiles) racing through the ice, and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson beating up a lot of people.
Somehow for all of its silliness, this movie works. It’s entertaining on nearly every level as a popcorn flick. It is entertaining. It is funny, at times unintentionally and the story is more focused than Fast and Furious 6 and was relieved of the weight of “what will they do about Paul Walker” that hung over Furious 7.
Two sequels have already been announced and I’m sure the studio is eager to keep making them as long the franchise continues to be a cash machine.
Also in theaters this week, you probably remember Kristen Stewart as Bella from the Twilight series. It seems she’s really found her niche as an actress and has become someone of a muse for director Olivier Assayas, whose latest film Personal Shopper is the 2nd film he directed in which she has starred. It’s an ethereal and mysterious ghost story starring Kristen Stewart as a high-fashion personal shopper to the stars who is also a spiritual medium. Grieving the recent death of her twin brother, she refuses to leaver his home until he makes contact with her.
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