One of my favorite things about the Fast and the Furious franchise is how it seems to have supplanted the James Bond series as the premiere summer destination for globe-trotting adventures. High-tech gadgets, mysterious government agencies, and gratuitous explosions abound; just around the time that Daniel Craig’s Bond franchise was becoming unbearably grim, Vin Diesel’s Fast and the Furious franchise leaned into its retro Bond vibe, undoubtedly aided by a cohesion at the production level. With Diesel serving as series architect, Chris Morgan writing each movie, and Justin Lin the steady hand behind the camera, the movies promised and delivered some high-caliber action.
Fast and Furious franchise star Michelle Rodriguez made waves this week with her comment that the film series needs to “give more love” to its female characters, driving her point home with the faint threat of exiting the franchise. And while her diplomatically-phrased initial statement was hardly furious, the response to it has arrived in a manner I can describe only as… fast.
While most fans walked away from Universal’s Fate of the Furious impressed by the movie’s use of New York City, it was the film’s use of Cuba that really opened the eyes of American audiences. Back in April, Variety sat down with Fate of the Furious director F. Gary Gray and discussed what it was like to be one of the first major studio films to be shot on location in Cuba. Gray recalled several logistical challenges — hotel rooms, location shoots, and the like — while also complimenting the people they had met on their trip. By all accounts, Fate of the Furious was to be the film that opened up the Cuban film market to the broader Hollywood community.
In The Fate of the Furious, the eighth installment in the car-jacking, street racing franchise, Vin Diesel’s Dom Toretto does the worst thing a man of his values can do: He turns his back on family. That six letter, three syllable mantra is the sentimental thread that holds the Fast and Furious crew together, and what adds heart to an action series suffused with cars and criminals. One would assume there must be good reason to plot an entire film around something so antithetical to the spirit of the series. But that reveal winds up being the silliest and most left-field twist since the time the movies explained Letty’s (Michelle Rodriguez) return with amnesia.
Up until last week, I was a proud resident of New York City, which meant — like most New Yorkers — I avoided Times Square like the plague. Even transferring between trains at Times Square could be a frustrating exercise in crowd management; when it comes to actually getting behind the wheel myself, I would gladly drive around the entire island of Manhattan twice before I would risk driving anywhere between Union Square and Central Park. That makes the New York setting of The Fate of the Furious an exercise in wish fulfillment for me. Forget street racing and international espionage; I just want to experience what it’s like to drive through Times Square at more than five miles an hour.
Back when he was doing press rounds for 2015’s Furious 7, Vin Diesel made some pretty bold statements about the movie deserving to be nominated for an Academy Award (and let’s be real, the only thing more emotional last year than the final minutes of Furious 7 was, maybe, Carol). It, of course, wasn’t, which should come as no surprise, even though it was a critical and box office success, but that hasn’t stopped our buddy Vin, who is now saying that the next film in the franchise, Fast 8, should be Oscar-worthy.