I unabashedly enjoy the Fast and the Furious franchise. Little did I know that the movie I loved in middle school would spawn seven sequels and fifteen years of story for Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) and company. The filmmakers dealt with the untimely death of major player Paul Walker in the previous film, Furious 7, and begin a new chapter in this eighth film, The Fate of the Furious. F. Gary Gray (Straight Outta Compton) assumes the director's chair as James Wan departs. Series favorites Dwayne Johnson, Jason Statham, Michelle Rodriguez, Ludacris, Tyrese Gibson and Kurt Russell return, alongside Scott Eastwood and Charlize Theron, who plays villain Cipher. Fate is not as narratively satisfying as previous entries, but there is plenty of action and globetrotting to pass the time.
In the ridiculous opening sequence, Dom enters a street race in Havana, Cuba, that ends with his car literally exploding. So that's how this is going to go. This sequence is disappointing in its CGI overkill, but things improve from there. Cyberterrorist Cipher approaches an unsuspecting Dom on the street, and shows him something on her phone that causes him concern. Soon after, Dom abandons wife Letty (Rodriguez), Roman Pearce (Gibson), Tej Parker (Ludacris) and Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel) by going rogue during a mission to retrieve an EMP device from a stronghold in Berlin. His Diplomatic Security Service handler, Luke Hobbs (Johnson), is arrested and imprisoned alongside Deckard Shaw (Statham) and Owen Shaw (Luke Evans). Hobbs escapes, and is recruited by Mr. Nobody (Russell) and Little Nobody (Eastwood) to find Dom and figure out what the hell is going on. Aboard Cipher's jet, it is revealed that she has Elena Neves (Elsa Pataky) and Dom's young son held captive.
Bigger is not always better, and The Fate of the Furious struggles with grand ambitions to one-up the previous films. The characters and practical action sequences are highlights of this franchise, and this is the first time I felt too much computer-driven imagery creeping into these stunts. An extended sequence in which Cipher commandeers hundreds of self-driving cars (apparently this is set in the future?) is entertaining but completely unrealistic, and it takes you out of the movie. The much-promoted ice chase between a submarine and several cars is also fun, but, again, feels totally digital. I know the franchise has long passed the street races and drifting of previous films, but I miss those humble, simpler thrills.
I have seen a lot of criticism of Theron's performance here, but I kind of like her laconic, deadly hacker. She certainly does not detract from the film, and the series regulars are in fine form. The interplay between Russell and Eastwood is entertaining, even if Eastwood is not given much character to run with. The stakes are very high here, and Fate is surprisingly violent. There is unexpected loss, and Cipher has the ability to wreck cities from 35,000 feet. Her character arc is left open-ended, and Fate promises continued adventures for the family. The "betrayal" undercurrent is effective given the relationships built over eight films. Even if you predict where this is going, it is still an entertaining ride. I hope the next installment will scale things back a bit. I will not dare ask for a character-driven Fast and Furious drama, but it is time to bring these folks home.
This 2.40:1/1080p/AVC-encoded image from Universal is superb. From the bright, high-contrast opening sequence in Cuba to the cool, snowy ice chase that ends the film, the image is top-notch throughout. Fine-object detail is abundant, texture is off the charts and wide shots are miles deep. Colors are bold and perfectly saturated, black levels are strong, and skin tones appear natural. Contrast, clarity and saturation are all excellent, and I noticed no technical issues at all.
The disc offers a DTS:X soundtrack (the company's answer to Dolby Atmos), which I sampled as a 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio mix. The track is bonkers, of course, and completely immersive. As expected, there are lots of rap and pop songs to thump the subwoofer. Dialogue is crisp and clear. Ambient and action effects make good use of the surrounds, and there are frequent sound pans with perfect spatial effects. The disc also includes a DTS Headphone:X mix and 5.1 DTS Spanish and French dubs. English SDH, French and Spanish subtitles are included.
PACKAGING AND EXTRAS:
This two-disc "combo pack" includes the Blu-ray, a DVD and both iTunes and UltraViolet HD digital copies. The discs are packed in standard case that is wrapped in a glossy slipcover that replicates the unimpressive cover artwork. Proudly toted on the packaging is an extended version exclusive to digital. As a physical media loyalist, this annoyed me enough to ensure I skipped checking out that version. Unlike the bonus content for previous films, the featurettes here are quite boring and close to EPK style, which is disappointing. The In the Family subsection includes four featurettes: Betraying the Family: Cipher and Dom (6:35/HD); Leaderless: A Family Lost (5:00/HD); Shaw Family Values (3:56/HD); and Meet the Nobodys (5:45/HD). Under Car Culture you find The Hero Cars of Fast (10:24/HD); Zombie Cars (5:35/HD); and The Ripsaw (5:22/HD). Next is All About the Stunts. There, you get Malecon Street Race (6:15/HD); Iceland Stunt Diaries (6:45/HD); and The Streets of New York (5:27/HD). There are two Extended Fight Sequences: Prison FightPlane Fight (2:00/HD). Things wrap up with a Commentary by Director F. Gary Gray.
Although this eighth entry in the Fast and Furious series is not quite as effective as several predecessors, it maintains the entertaining mix of family drama, action and globetrotting fans expect. The Blu-ray offers excellent A/V specs but the bonus features are a bust. Still, this is Recommended.