There’s a wonderful scene in The Fate of the Furious (also known as Fast & Furious 8, and in some markets, Brian Furious’ Big Day Out), in which an evil hacker takes control of every self-driving car in Manhattan, turning them into an unstoppable tsunami of automobiles. “Hack every microchip with a zero-day exploit within a mile radius,” she techno-babbles as robo-cars begin to tumble and swarm through the streets.
It’s an unexpectedly good set piece, deftly marrying an emerging technophobia with the sight of a few hundred cars smashing into one another over and over again and making a giant mess. The Fate of the Furious is a live-action Hotwheels cartoon, a gratuitous series of skids and explosions starring Vin Diesel as Dom, the sonorous leader of a group of car racing super-friends. Notable among them is largest man alive, Dwayne Johnson, the beat-cop-turned-underground-racer whose ability to fit into a driver’s seat repeatedly stuns a disbelieving audience. Jason Statham returns as a brawling anti-hero, whose stunt work and fight sequences act as a palate cleanser for all the car business.
Charlize Theron is the aforementioned villain of the piece, a puppet-string pulling international cyber terrorist who blackmails Dom into turning on his buddies, forcing him to collect the many assorted MacGuffins that fuel the movie’s ridiculously overblown action sequences. Michelle Rodriguez is back too, though her role has been severely reduced. She spends most of the film driving alongside Vin and looking betrayed. There’s also an inexplicable – but totally welcome – moment when Helen Mirren shows up to gift us with her very worst Peggy Mitchell impression.
Consistently self-aware direction means that all this speaking and acting is rarely allowed to continue for longer than the time it takes you to forget what an explosion sounds like. We’re soon delivered back into the warm bosom of punch-ups, gunfights and crashing cars. The Fate of the Furious is a fun ball pit for the brain.