“The Fate of the Furious” (2017) is a Fun Entry in the Racing Saga

F. Gary Gray’s The Fate of the Furious (B-), the eighth film in the adrenaline-soaked automobiles and action series (and the reported first part of a three-film story arch of international espionage involving a cyberterrorism ring), logs a lot of miles to deliver its promised blockbuster goods. Heroes in hacking and hot-roding such as Dwayne Johnson, Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese Gibson and Chris “Ludacris” Bridges are in fine form as Vin Diesel’s character is co-opted into a diabolical plan versus his mates by a criminal mastermind played by Charlize Theron. As Cipher, the film’s most interesting character, Theron singlehandedly ups the game. Her dialogue delivery is cunning, and it’s a hoot to watch her weaponize driverless cars on the streets of New York as easily as she mobilizes Russian submarines to torpedo our heroes. There’s a funny bit involving Jason Statham and a baby and a lovely cameo with Dame Helen Mirren (yup). Part of the fun of these films is the wanderlust, but Gray guides this entry all over the place. The pre-title sequence in Havana, featuring a fiery photo finish of a road race, may be the most simple and satisfying auto stunt in the whole movie. Later as we slog from Berlin to Russia with every type of pile-up possible, it occasionally feels like 13 year olds are going wild with their matchbox cars. Still, there’s an undeniable alchemy at work here, with machismo humor, high caliber stunts and those spoilers polished like a thing of beauty that keep folks clamoring for more.

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