The Fast and the Furious franchise is one I loved from the start.  It made true stars out of Vin Diesel and Paul Walker (even though they sometimes couldn’t bring that success to films outside the franchise).  As time went on the films got more and more ridiculous which was absolutely fine.  They moved from street racing films to heist films to films where the cast of characters were working for the government!??!!?  It didn’t actually matter because, for the most part, I enjoyed every film in the franchise.

I was excited for the last film Furious 7 but the end result, for me, was quite awful.  I’m sure if you wanted to point fingers some of the blame could be with the studio deciding to not scrap the film after Paul Walker’s death and just starting anew.  They decided to keep filming with body doubles, Walker’s brothers as stand-ins, and a shit ton of CGI.  They sidelined Dwayne Johnson who wasn’t in a majority of the movie.  And they had a plot which made no sense (they work with the government to do a job so the government will help them track down Deckard Shaw…which would be fine except Deckard Shaw literally pops up EVERYWHERE THEY GO).  There are some action sequences which, while possibly looking good on paper, just come off stupid on screen.  I’ve watched all of these movies multiple times and there are just some action scenes in them that are idiotic – but I still enjoyed them.  But Furious 7 had cars falling from a jet, deploying parachutes, and (nearly) all the cars landing with pinpoint precision on the road one after another.  Fine…whatever.  But in a separate sequence that takes place in a high rise tower where the characters get into a car, some how accelerate, crash through a window, fly through the air, and then land perfectly into another tower.  It really puzzled me on why these sequences bothered me so much.  I should be used to these idiotic scenes in these movies.

Was it the sequences themselves?  Am I growing surly in my old age and not enjoying the same stupidness I enjoyed five to ten years ago?  I don’t think so.  Are the filmmakers trying to outdo themselves because they feel they consistently have to be bigger and better then what they did with the last film?  Probably.

Overall I thought the whole film was a mess.  There’s two reasons I chalk this up to.  #1 is having Paul Walker die and having to then rewrite the script to try and make a film.  #2 is James Wan taking over for director Justin Lin who had directed Fast 3-6.  Lin proved that he was the MAN making these films and I really felt that he was able to bring something special to this franchise he basically helped reshape, reform, and become the juggernaut they are today.

For the first time since the original film I was not looking forward to a Fast sequel and when I saw the trailer for Fate I was even more disappointed.  While I was happy that Dwayne Johnson has a bigger starring role this time around the plot…well….

Dominick Toretto goes against his crew and turns “bad”?  Deckard Shaw joins the team and becomes “a good guy”?  It really feels like Popeye Doyle suddenly running drugs while Tony Montana joins the police academy.  Would everything end up being explained in the actual plot of the film and explained well?  Let’s dive in…

The film starts of with Dom (Vin Diesel) and Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) on their honeymoon in Cuba.  Dom ends up in a race with a local and, of course, comes up victorious. Least the movie that used to have racing has at least one sequence of racing in it.

Walking back to his place one morning Dom is stopped by a woman whose car won’t start.  He attempts to help her out until it quickly comes to his attention that this woman is not a damsel in distress but Cypher (Charlize Theron) a cyber-terrorist out to rule the world (yes…she reminds me of Cobra Commander…but hotterer).  Cypher tells Dom that she wants him to work for her.  Dom says no.  Cypher gives Dom a phone and he instantaneously goes to work for her.

What’s on the video?  We don’t know.  Is it something to do with Brian (Paul Walker) and Mia (Jordana Brewster)?  Did they once again recreate Walker with CGI?  Is it something else?  We do learn eventually what it is and why Dom continues to do work for Cypher but that comes in a bit and I won’t spoil what exactly it is.

Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) is asked by the government to do a black ops mission to retrieve an EMP and Hobbs grabs Dom, Letty, Roman (Tyrese Gibson), Tej (Ludacris), and Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel) to help him.  They, of course, are able to retrieve the EMP no problem and set up some incredibly stupid obstacles to help take out those chasing them.  How did they set these things up?  How did no one see them setting this up?  It started to bother me and then I just told myself…

DUDE CHECK YOUR BRAIN AT THE DOOR AND ENJOY YOURSELF.  THIS IS THE EIGHTH FAST AND THE FURIOUS MOVIE.  YOU WANT IT TO START MAKING SENSE NOW!??!?!!?  JUST ENJOY THE RIDE.

I checked my brain, stopped thinking about things, and was able to enjoy myself after this point.  As long as I didn’t think too hard I was fine.  Start thinking about things and shit completely doesn’t make sense.

Anyway the team breaks off and, suddenly, Dom takes out Hobbs.  Hobbs’ car flips and he gets stuck as the steering column comes down on his legs.  Dom grabs the EMP and takes off.  Being on a black ops mission Hobbs is actually arrested and taken to prison.  “Government agent” Mr. Nobody (Kurt Russell) shows up right in front of the prison and offers Hobbs a deal.  Plead guilty, no prison time, and Hobbs comes to work for him.  He says no.  Pretty boy Little Nobody (Scott Eastwood) makes some remarks to Hobbs that almost gets him killed.  Mr. Nobody laughs at Dobbs nearly killing his new protege in front of a prison in front of a bunch of cops.

Hobbs is brought inside to prison where he has a cell right across from Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) the asshole who beat the crap out of Hobbs and terrorized Dom and his crew in the last movie.

Anywho it now becomes a race against time as the team tries to hunt down Dom and Cypher.  Dobbs and Shaw both get out of jail and everyone is forced to work together for a common goal: get Cypher.  Of course no one can figure out what is driving Dom to continue to lash out against them as he has always been about “family.”

I’ll admit that I hadn’t figured out what the plot twist was.  I had come up with several different scenarios in my head but none were close to what they actually put onscreen.

So what happens next?  If you’ve seen any of these movies you know exactly what happens.  It’s action sequence after action sequence usually involving cars somehow.  This time around there are tanks, orange Lamborghinis, and submarines with nuclear missiles.  There’s lots of crap that doesn’t make sense but the action is great and the acting is top notch.  The film definitely does not feel as disjointed as the last film which really makes me believe that Walker’s death was the huge reason for that film feeling the way it did.  It might be James Wan as well.  Wan is ONE HELL OF A DIRECTOR.  He’s great.  But maybe he’s great with his Insidious, Saw, and Conjuring films – not a $200 million dollar film.  I’m not sure I truly believe that and simply think it is possible that it was a bad script cobbled together from what was once a decent script.  Let’s face it – these Fast movies don’t have amazing scripts as it is.

This time around director F. Gary Gray was onboard.  I love Gray’s films.  He’s done great action flicks like Set It Off, The Italian Club, and, a personal favorite of mine, The Negotiator.  The action sequences here are outstanding especially the New York set piece with the cars racing through the streets of Manhattan.  There is one sequence where a bunch of cars go on autopilot thanks to Cypher and I have no clue how they did it.  Great stunt driving?  CGI?  Both.  Whatever it was the driving was fantastic.

I had some preconceptions around Shaw “joining” the crew but it was actually done decently.  Some of the back and forth between Statham and Johnson was funny but felt very scripted.  Like they always had a list of quips ready to fly back at each other.  I was ready for the two to stop the B.S.ing and go into a corner to start making out.

Scott Eastwood joins the crew as the government agent Little Nobody and his character…didn’t like him. Not at all.  He has the pretty boy looks like Paul Walker but the dude was a chump.  I’m not sure why his character is there and I really, really, really hope they don’t make the next two sequels with this dude as a member of “the team.”  That also brings me back to why they don’t bring back Lucas Black’s Sean Boswell character from Tokyo Drift OR Leon (Johnny Strong) from the original Fast and the Furious movie.  They have these characters that they can bring back and use but yet they bring in Eastwood’s not very bright, not very fun character to be a part of the team.  I guess he can be easy on the eyes…but definitely not as easy on the eyes as Charlize Theron.

I will say that Theron looked great in this movie with her kinda-dreadlocks going on.  Her eyes are stunning.  She was dead sexy.  She could blackmail me into working for her any day.  I’m there for you Cypher.  Want to blow up the world together?  Just call me.

Everyone in these movies can talk to each other.  They are in separate cars but I guess they are all on speaker phone?  At the same time?  They aren’t talking INTO phones or radios.  They are just talking and everyone hears each other.  It’s like the Avengers movies where they are all separated but can talk to one another.  You assume they have some sort of earpiece or something but its never explained.  Guess what?  Not explained here either.

Which brings me back to a simple thought and why it is easy for me to let things go with this franchise.  It is because while this may have started as a street racing franchise it has shifted mid-gear and become a superhero franchise.  It has.  Except they don’t dress in costumes or fly around in armored suits.  They just get in cars, drive really fast, and are capable of doing ANYTHING.  Remember that Tej was a guy who just owned a garage?  Roman was just an ex-con who could drive good?  Now they are sophisticated secret agents who can hack any computer or camera within an instant.  Guns?  Sure…in this movie Roman and Letty are killing like they are the damn police.  No remorse.  Nothing.  They just shoot everyone.  And guess what?  They are goddamn Crazy Harry and Chris Kyle rolled into one.  They don’t miss.  Superheroes.  Jump out of cars?  No problem.  Flip 278 times in a car?  No problem.  Fly through the air on jetpacks?  No problem.  Universal doesn’t need to make another Incredible Hulk film…they have a superhero series.

Hmmm….what else was good?  Tego Calderone and Don Omar are back ever so briefly.  It was good to see them back even if they aren’t given much to do.  Kristofer Hivju from Game of Thrones plays one of the badass bad guys from Cypher’s crew and he’s pretty cool.  He’s a dick on Game of Thrones and he’s pretty much a dick here.

After the massive disappointment of Furious 7 I’m very happy that I went to theater with such low expectations and came out as happy as I was.  I do believe this series may have peaked with 6…but this was one fun experience that kept me thrilled as it sped through its over two hour runtime.

RANK: B+