Blu-ray Review: The Fate of the Furious

Very few franchises can boast that they’re only getting more popular upon releasing their eighth entry into the series. Hell, most franchises don’t reach near eight films, let alone break a billion dollars at the box office back to back while doing so – and yet, that silly little street racing movie that came out way back in 2001 can do just that. Yes, The Fate of the Furious (or The F8 of the Furious if you like to use numbers to finish words in the title of a sequel) is now out on Blu-ray, and Vin Diesel and his crew have driven home a winner once again.

Now I’ve enjoyed this franchise greatly over the years, but when Paul Walker died while Furious 7 was still filming it hit me pretty hard. So much so that I actually haven’t watched a F&F film in theaters since it happened, and didn’t watch Furious 7 until the day before I watched The Fate of the Furious on Blu-ray to review. I’d been a fan of Walker’s for a large portion of his career, and while that was the case, I can’t explain why his death triggered something in me that made me think about my own mortality, and that of those around me that I care about. I guess you can’t really predict when or what may trigger those thoughts – especially if you’re like me and like to bottle them up nice and healthy-like – but it did, and I chose to take a break from the franchise, not really certain as to how it could go on without Brian O’Conner at the wheel beside his brother at arms, Dom.

I’d heard they’d done the character of Brian justice in Furious 7, and the other night when I finally sat down and watched it, I saw that it was true, and Brian and Mia would live happily ever after with their kids, away from any danger that future sequels may bring. I’ll be damned if that final race between Brian and Dom on the empty mountain roads didn’t open up every bottle of suppressed feelings in my being once again, but I suppose it’s best to let them flow every once and a while.

So, written therapy session and this film’s predecessor aside, The Fate of the Furious continues on without Brian, and the transition is eased by the return of Jason Statham’s character Deckard Shaw to the mix – this time, as one of the crew. Brian is mentioned briefly fairly early on, but the idea of involving him in the crew’s latest problem is quickly nixed, bringing up the point that the team has mutually decided that Brian’s place is with Mia and his family. While it’s over and done with in just a few lines, it’s nice that the mention was included, as it’d be odd for a group as tight as this to not bring Brian up with something so big going down.

That big thing is Dom (Vin Diesel) going rogue, turning on his crew to work with a cyber-terrorist named Cipher (Charlize Theron) for reasons unknown. So with Dom working for the other side, it’s up to Mr. Nobody (Kurt Russell) and his new apprentice, Little Nobody (Scott Eastwood) to bring together the team of Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson), Letty (Michelle Rodriguez), Roman (Tyrese Gibson), Tej (Ludacris), Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel) and as mentioned earlier, the villain of Furious 7, Deckard Shaw (Statham) to track down Dom and stop him and Cipher from completing whatever dastardly thing it is that they’ve set out to do.

Now the Fast & Furious franchise has a trend of upping the ante when it comes to action sequences each time out, and for a series that’s spanned 16 years and done just about every insane stunt you could imagine doing inside a speeding car, that’s no small feat. Yet, here we are in the eighth installment and once again they’ve gone above and beyond the realms of reality for the sake of sheer entertainment. I mean, let’s face it, reality was tossed out the windows many sequels ago, and the franchise has openly embraced a heavy popcorn flick feel that fans have come to expect. I still can’t help but laugh when thinking about a hospitalized Hobbs in Furious 7, flexing his arm to break out of a cast he has on so that he can go kick some ass. If that’s not the franchise saying “Hell yeah we’re cheesy, but you know you love it,” then I’m not sure what is.

Director F. Gary Gray handles all this action incredibly well. There are a lot of insane stunts taking place, and yet the shots used and edits made aren’t erratic and shaky to make things look crazier than they are. No, the action sequences are handled incredibly well so the viewer really gets to enjoy the action unfolding on the screen without worrying about having a seizure while doing so.

The story itself looks to tie together the past few films to give their stories a sense of unity over simply being viewed as separate missions that the crew keeps getting pulled into. It works fairly well, but even though the idea used to bring them all together clearly wasn’t planned years ago, it’s forgivable, as Theron is cold, calculating and an overall bad-ass antagonist that proves to be a worthy advisory to our tried and true heroes.

A little more confusing is Deckard being brought in as a new member of the crew. After killing Han (Sung Kang) during the post-credit scene of Fast & Furious 6 (or technically, near the end of Fast & Furious: Tokyo Drift), Dom, Brian and the gang spent Furious 7 vowing to kill Deckard for what he’d done. That film ends with Deckard landing behind bars in a secret prison, and yet, this time out all seems to be forgiven. The reason is simply because Deckard also has a score to settle with Cipher, who we actually learn was behind the manipulation of his brother Owen (Luke Evans) getting involved in the business that got him laid up in a hospital by Dom and the team in Fast & Furious 6.

Yeah, that’s kind of a lot to take in, as is the sort of implied explanation that what Deckard does is all for family, much like the F&F squad we all love, and that deep down, he’s got a heart that’s done the right thing in the past. Forget all the people he murdered in Furious 7…that’s all in the past. Now it’s all jokes and smiles! Seriously, he and Hobbs have a bromance of sorts throughout that’s fun…yet, somewhat odd considering how the two tried to kill one another the last time they met.

That being said, Jason Statham is awesome, and he actually fits in quite well with everyone that he previously wanted dead, so if they can look past it, why can’t we, right? I mean, this is the eighth movie in a franchise that saw cars parachute from a plane and land perfectly on the road in unison, tires already blazing, so it’s a bit late to start worrying about adding logic into the equation.

The Fate of the Furious delivers exactly what fans of the franchise have come to expect, and it does so in grandiose fashion. There aren’t any post-credit scenes this time out, but Diesel has already mentioned that they’re looking to take the series all the way to 10 (not sure how they’ll fit the numbers into that title. Maybe something like, The Fast & The Furious: Fas10 Your Seatbelts…okay, likely not) so there’s still plenty of joyriding left to come. And if The Fate of the Furious proves one thing, it’s that this series still has plenty left in the tank when it comes to delivering action-packed thrills.

The film transfer is spectacular, with beautiful visuals really popping from all over the world. The visuals look vibrant and crisp, and the darks are rich with no muddy residue distracting from what’s happening on the screen. The audio transfer is also top tier, with the soundtrack, score, dialogue and sound effects all mixing together beautifully, with audio never being an issue at any point.

The special features are broken down into quite a few featurettes aside from the commentary.

I will note that there’s an Extended Director’s Cut available ONLY in digital form. I’m not really sure why the studio chose to go this route, as it’s rather silly not to include both versions on the Blu-ray format.

Apparently 13-minutes were added, with action, humour and a bit more character development, but I can’t go into much more detail, as I watched the theatrical version on the Blu-ray. I’m not a fan of digital content when it comes to movies, so I’m hoping this doesn’t become a habit for future Blu-ray extended releases.

Audio Commentary – Director F. Gary Gray delivers the only commentary track this time out, which is interesting if you’re in the mood to hear it. There are some decent tidbits hidden throughout, though it’s not the most entertaining of commentaries overall.

The Cuban Spirit – This featurette is 8 minutes long and features cast and crew interviews, as well as a tour of Havana, and behind the scenes work of the scenes shot there. While not overly deep, it’s fun and fast and worth a watch.

In the Family – This is a four-part feature that touches on a few of the characters and themes of the film:

1) Betraying the Family: Cipher and Dom – This is a seven minute featurette that touches on the relationship between Cipher and Dom, how it affects the story, and how it all came to be.

2) Leaderless: A Family Lost – This five minute featurette focuses on the F&F crew heading out on this mission without Dom leading the way.

3) Shaw Family Values – This four minute featurette talks about the return of the Shaw brothers, as well as their mother being introduced, who is played by Dame Helen Mirren.

4) Meet the Nobodys – The final featurette lands at roughly six minutes and focuses on Russell’s returning secret agent character, as well as Scott Eastwood’s character, Little Nobody.

Car Culture – This is a three-part feature that focuses on, well, the cars of the film. It’s just over 20-minutes as a whole and focuses on the hero cars of the movie, the zombie cars scene that dismantles New York, as well as the Ripsaw seen in the later half of the film.

All About the Stunts – This is another three-part featurette that comes in at just under 20-minutes in length. This is a fun watch, as it touches on some of the bigger scenes in the film. While it would’ve been cool to get a much deeper look into both Iceland and New York, it’s fun to see the challenges that the cast and crew faced while filming. I wasn’t aware just how crazy it was to film in New York when it comes to restrictions! It’s fairly clear now why Toronto is so often dressed up to look like the Big Apple.

Extended Fight Scenes – There’s an extended Prison Fight and extended Plane fight here. Nothing really of note, as I feel both scenes were quite nicely paced in the theatrical version of the film.

Universal Pictures Presents The Fate of the Furious. Directed by: F. Gary Gray. Written by: Chris Morgan. Starring: Vin Diesel, Dwayne Johnson, Jason Statham, Michelle Rodriguez, Charlize Theron, Ludacris, Tyrese Gibson, Kurt Russell, Scott Eastwood, Nathalie Emmanuel. Running time: 134 Minutes. Rating: PG-13. Released on Blu-ray: July 11, 2017.

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