Maybe it was when it rained cars down on 7th Avenue in New York. Maybe it was the shootout on a plane with a baby. Or maybe—just maybe—it was when the gang attacked a nuclear submarine with sports cars gliding across a tundra.
However naturally each absurd setup manages to segue within the operatic universe of the franchise, the totality of The Fate of the Furious finally answers the question: how much is too much Fast and the Furious?
In the eighth installment of the series, the gang goes up against one of their own: Dom Toretto (Vin Diesel) breaks bad to abet a criminal hacker (Charlize Theron) in mass genocide, and only Dom’s makeshift family of gearheads and misfits can save the day.
(If you need to review how Dom’s crew went from outlaw street racers to extralegal super-spies over the last 15 years, there’s Wikipedia—or there’s the fact that it doesn’t make sense and it doesn’t matter, you’ve either bought into these movies by now or you haven’t.)
To help take down Dom, the gang has to work together with a former foe, Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham). It’s not an original twist, but the chemistry between Statham and Dwayne Johnson is the most pitch-perfect sendup of action movie homoeroticism since Hot Fuzz—maybe more so, given how truly gifted the two men are at contrasting their action figure physiques with deadpan comedy.
If the film has one glaring weak spot besides a wanton disregard for physics, it’s that Cipher is a too-aptly-named villain. Charlize Theron does her best to inject some genuine fear and malice into the character, but all the effort in the world can’t change a flimsy backstory and the fact that she’s basically just there as the catalyst for Dom vs. Everyone Else.
When the film sticks to that hook, director F. Gary Gray (Straight Outta Compton. The Italian Job) delightfully serves up the best and worst of the franchise. There’s more excess, more teenage boy wish fulfillment, more glib treatment of women, more stereotypical wisecracking—and since more is more, there’s over two hours of it.
Which brings up the question: has the series gone too far? The Fate of the Furious without a doubt sacrifices some of the franchise’s ramshackle charm in order to deliver a smorgasbord of winking action comedy.
But it would be unwise to accuse this franchise of jumping the shark. Really, it would be unwise to mention sharks anywhere near these movies. If the crew ever does come across a shark, they’re just as likely to punch it in the face, strap sticks of dynamite to it, launch it at some larger, angrier target and keep moving without missing a beat. Isn’t it comforting to have a family you can rely on?