HOLLYWOOD—In cinematic turns, it’s very and I mean very rare for a franchise to have eight chapters or more, when that happens, you’re likely a member of the horror genre, and let’s be honest; there is only three franchises in the horror pantheon that has accomplished that feat. However, “The Fast and the Furious” franchise has proven to be a mega-hit with audiences. The first chapter in 2001 was unlike anything seen before, the second chapter was flat, I liked the third installment slightly, but it was “Fast and Furious” in 2009 that rebooted the franchise and made it a consistent crowd-pleaser.

“The Fate of the Furious,” the latest installment, I would argue is one of my favorites in the franchise. Yes, I still hold a special torch for “Fast and Furious 6,” but this sequel is damn fun and there is reason for it: great balance. This time around Dom (Vin Diesel) has gone wrong and left members of his team questioning his loyalty and venture to the dark side, courtesy of cyber hacker Cipher (Charlize Theron).

Now, Theron has played villain before in “Snow White and the Huntsman” and the prequel “Prometheus.” So the actress knows how to play bad so good. I mean her villainous turn in this movie, will make you love, and I mean love to hate her. It’s a testament to the subtlest facial cues and movements that pack an epic punch. She is so good it’s virtually impossible for viewers to take their eyes off of her, and that’s always a good sign in the narrative as it leaves you wondering what this mastermind will do next.

This chapter, while not a fresh approach on storytelling finds our anti-heroes now chasing down one of their own, who is working for a cyber genius who even Tej (Ludacris) and Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel) have difficulty gaining an edge on. When Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) discovers that Dom has gone rogue he vows revenge. No, there is a bit of a birdie out there that Johnson and Diesel didn’t get along too well on set, and it becomes apparent, as if you take a close look, these two don’t share that much screen time together; they might be in a scene together, but it’s more in the forefront and not actual dialogue. Hobbs finds himself behind bars, where he encounters a former foe in Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham), in a prison break sequence that is full of theatrics. Other players joining the mix include Scott Eastwood, as ‘Little Nobody,’ a novice under Kurt Russell’s character who does deliver a few laughs throughout the movie.

That is the one element I must acknowledge, “The Fate of the Furious” surely knows how to deliver the funny people. I mean Tyrese Gibson’s character has always delivered the comic relief, but this time around Eastwood and Statham also provide comic relief when the audience least expects it and it works so well. It naturally weaves itself seamlessly into the narrative.

Director F. Gary Gray, who helmed the dramatic “Straight Outta Compton” proves his skills behind the camera are top-notch. I mean this is the guy who delivered a phenomenal remake of “The Italian Job” and that epic car chase sequence. The opening sequence in Havana, Cuba provides beautiful scenery and sets the stage for the amazing car stunts and action sequences that the movie makes no apologies for. Are they a bit over-the-top? Yes, I mean that stunning sequence in New York City involving self-driving cars was phenomenal, but when the crew travels to Russia, that entire ice sequence is a bit exaggerated, but it is everything a fan of an action-movie could ask for.

“The Fate of the Furious” proves that giving the audience what they have come to expect from the franchise will always work. While the stunts do indeed seem far-fetched, the series hasn’t dived too far into the realm of unrealistic narrative that leaves one questioning if what is being viewed as plausible. Expect chapters 9 and 10 in the coming years, as both have already been given the greenlight.

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