“You know it doesn’t matter what’s under the hood. The only thing that matters is who’s behind the wheel.” Dominic Toretto makes this statement right before entering a street-race, where he’s racing against the ‘fastest car in Cuba’ with the ‘slowest car in Cuba.’ However, this adage also proves true for Fast and Furious as a franchise: the series may differ from entry to entry, but the only real change is in the cast of characters. In this, the eighth installment of the series, a key character is missing.
Brian O’Conner (Paul Walker) has taken a step away from the Fast and Furious lifestyle and is enjoying his family life. A question many have for this film: without Brian, will the franchise continue to be Fast and Furious?
After a street-race, a staple in the series that helps get the audience back in the groove of things at the onset of the film, the movie whisks viewers from locale to locale, including New York City (a never-before-seen location for the series that provides an interesting array of car based escapades), Berlin, and a Russian submarine base.
New York City hosts a particularly interesting car chase that shakes things up for the franchise, and the Russian submarine (while heavily featured in trailers) still provides a good surprise that should have the audience feeling suspense and laughter. Character moments sprinkle the actions scenes, the movie blends the moments into action packed set pieces.
Without Brian, and with Dominic Toretto’s (Vin Diesel) disappearance the crew finds itself without two main characters. This gives other cast members a chance to step into the spotlight.
Luke Hobbs (Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson), a former federal agent, uses this spotlight to continue being a walking mass of muscle, leading the crew in Brian and Dom’s absence.
Letty Ortiz (Michelle Rodriguez) acts as the new lead driver, and as a reminder of Dom’s absence. Tej Parker (Ludacris) and Roman Pearce (Tyrese Gibson) both provide comedic relief in a movie that brings a new gravity to the series. The only person who does not take full advantage of the new space for the once side characters is newcomer Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel), who continues acting mostly as the resident hacking expert and not much else.
This cast of characters gives the movie a good team to believe in and root for as they fight a new antagonist.
The main plot in this movie involves a new villain named Cipher (Charlize Theron), who wants a weapon strong enough to garner the attention of world leaders. Overall, Cipher provides a threat to the crew and has just as many surprises as they do, and uses them to her advantage.
The eighth installment of the Fast and Furious series shows how far the crew has come from small street races in Los Angeles, but one thing the series hasn’t lost over its decade and a half run is a central heart for relationships amidst the action. Throughout the movie, the theme of family is repeatedly emphasized; something that dedicated fans will appreciate and newcomers to the series will embrace.
The movie is a reminder of the fast cars, furious action, and family that the series has come exemplify.