Now that Dom (Vin Diesel) and Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) are married and Brian and Mia have retired from the game—and the rest of the crew has been exonerated—the globetrotting team has found a semblance of a normal life. But when a mysterious woman (Oscar-winner, Charlize Theron) seduces Dom into the world of crime he can’t seem to escape and a betrayal of those closest to him, they will face trials that will test them as never before. From the shores of Cuba and the streets of New York City to the icy plains off the arctic Barents Sea, our elite force will crisscross the globe to stop an anarchist from unleashing chaos on the world’s stage…and to bring home the man who made them a family. Also starring Dwayne Johnson, Jason Statham, Tyrese Gibson, Chris “Ludacris” Bridges, and Kurt Russell.
After seven movies spanning over fifteen years and the tragic loss of one its central stars, it's only natural to expect The Fast & Furious franchise to be chugging along on nothing but fumes or at least, being pushed off the side of the road by its designers. But as The Fate of the Furious demonstrates, the fuel running this engine is far from spent and there is still plenty more to burn in the tank. Admittedly, much like the characters in each movie, the filmmakers are good at renovating a familiar body (formula) while detailing it with the same theme of family. Dom (Vin Diesel reprising the role he's arguably best known for) and his crew are caught in another espionage conspiracy involving a highly-talented criminal that only they can defeat because of some casual plot convenience. But as every entry in the series continues to prove, the creators top each successive installment by upping the danger and drama to absurdly over-the-top heights. And in this eighth episode to the massively popular action series about cars and outlaws, the crew garishly and proudly revs a new souped-up engine with a fresh tank of NOS for an extra boost of silly melodramatic fun.
The script by Chris Morgan, who's been penning each story since Tokyo Drift, opens only a short time after the events of the previous film in Cuba where Dom and Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) are honeymooning and doing what they do best. A drag race through the streets of Havana serves little purpose than to remind viewers that our hero remains the best driver in the world while putting audiences in the proper mindset for enjoying the high-performance vehicular onslaught about to erupt for the next couple hours. And director F. Gary Gray (Straight Outta Compton), taking the wheel after James Wan and Justin Lin, does splendidly driving this production around tight corners and avoiding obstacles, demonstrating he's the right person for the job and making the preposterously comical nonsense as equally laughable as it is mesmerizingly exciting. And it's a good thing he does in these opening moments because the silliness quickly ratchets up another notch when Charlize Theron shows up as cyberterrorist Cipher, sporting bleach-blonde dreadlocks and ensnaring Dom into her elaborate evil plan that would put Ultron to shame. In fact, I would even go a step further and point out Cipher makes a better malevolent foil for the Avengers than James Spader.
What she has on Dom — what convinces him to turn against the love of his life and his family — is made a mystery that further fuels a production already jam-packed with so many visual goodies. Nonsensically daft and eye-rolling bad as it is — but will not be spoiled here nonetheless — the twist is rather entertaining. In the franchise's own logic and mythology, the whole entangled mess weirdly makes sense. And the filmmakers use it to their advantage for establishing this entry's central emotional core. In one very brief conversation, Letty brings up the next step in the couple's marriage. In the states, agent Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) is rediscovering his true passion in life when fearlessly annoyed by his superior interrupting him while coaching his daughter's championship soccer game. Mr. Nobody (Kurt Russell) also returns to chase after Dom and Cipher with the added responsibility of playing a tough father figure to Little Nobody (Scott Eastwood). All the while, Chris "Ludacris" Bridges and Tyrese Gibson continue to compete for the affections of hacktivist Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel), as in the hopes of making a family of their own.
In the end, what really makes The Fate of the Furious such a surprising, check-your-brain-at-the-door delight — other than the exhilarating and outrageous action, that is — is how the filmmakers link all five previous stories into a larger cohesive whole, allowing Gray and Morgan to finally and unapologetically embrace the franchise for what it truly is. The Furious series is ultimately a daytime melodrama that just happens to feature a well-choreographed demolition derby that plays like a symphony of grinding metal and thunderous explosions. And like any good televised drama, betrayals are in abundance, there is a fair amount of infighting for keeping tensions high and characters suddenly return from the dead (No, I'm not referring to Walker). It would seem the weight of all that is carried on the shoulders of Jason Statham's Deckard Shaw and his dear old mum. But before things go a bit too wacky and histrionically dull, Gray injects the seriousness with plenty of laughs and a zaniness that keeps the action light even at its most absurdly spectacular, making this entry surprisingly fun with very obvious hints of yet another installment already in the works.
Vital Disc Stats: The Ultra HD Blu-ray
Universal Studios Home Entertainment brings The Fate of the Furious to 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray as a two-disc combo pack with an UltraViolet Digital Copy code. When redeeming said code via UPHE.com and VUDU, it includes the SD, HDX (1080p), and UHD with Dolby Vision for both the Theatrical Cut and Extended Director's Cut, which adds another 13 minutes to the runtime but is only available as a digital copy. At this time, I have not had the opportunity to watch and compare the difference between the two versions. The dual-layered UHD66 disc sits comfortably opposite a Region Free, BD50 disc inside a black, eco-cutout case with a glossy, embossed slipcover. At startup, the disc goes straight to a menu screen with full-motion clips and music playing in the background.
Thanks to a couple modifications under the hood, the eighth installment in the massively popular franchise screeches through the streets of Ultra HD with a stunningly gorgeous, demo-worthy HEVC H.265 encode in Dolby Vision, which defaults to HDR10 for those not yet equipped for the newer format.
Shot with a trio of cameras ranging from 3.4K up to 6K resolution quality, the freshly-minted transfer appears slightly more detailed than the Blu-ray, showing razor-sharp lines in the various cars, the buildings of several locales and the inside of Cipher's plane. The lettering in signs, windows and cars are also a bit more legible and clear, even as the camera zooms by, and the smallest object in the distance is plainly visible at all times. More astute viewers can even make out the most negligible imperfection in the vehicles, and fragments from collisions and rowdy wreckage remain extraordinarily detailed during the most vulgar of action sequences. The faces of the cast are also more revealing, exposing the tiniest pores, blemishes and individual beads of sweat while maintaining healthy, lifelike complexions for the most part.
Compared to its HDR10 counterpart, the Dolby Vision version, once again, wins the race, but only by a slight margin. The overall palette comes with a bit more of pop and intensity, especially the reds and blues of the various vehicles throughout. The scenes in Havana and New York are fantastic examples for showing the differences between the two formats. The screen just lights up with a kaleidoscope of colors that energize the action and animates the ridiculousness of the stunts to another level of absurdity and excitement. Secondary hues also receive a noticeable boost, making those scenes in Havana a tad more colorful and flamboyant due to the wide array of pastels in the clothing and some of the buildings. Interestingly, while both HDR versions look utterly amazing, the Dolby Vision comes with a slight red push, occasionally giving the characters an almost sunburnt look. It's not too terrible, as it sometimes makes their faces appear a bit more lifelike. However, the digitally-added fires and explosions tend to look too red and near cartoonish whereas, in HDR10, those same blazes are more realistic. It's a tiny difference, but nonetheless noteworthy.
Presented in a 2.39:1 aspect ratio, the 4K presentation also rides with pitch-perfect contrast, providing the overall picture with a vivid, almost looking-through-a-window punch. From the clothing and computer monitors to the cars and buildings, the whole screen screams with a brilliantly crisp, crunchy displays of whites everywhere. And here, both the Dolby Vision and HDR10 versions find a happy middle ground. However, in Dolby Vision, specular highlights come with just a bit more pop, giving the metal and chrome edges of cars a realistic sparkle when driving through the streets of a sunny New York City. The ice crystals in the snow of the Russian Arctic are a tad punchier, and the fluffy clouds in the sky are a hair puffier with a bit more detailing and realism. Blacks are also slightly richer and velvety in Dolby Vision, but in either version, brightness levels are absolutely exceptional — a massive jump compared to the SDR Blu-ray. The finer details within the darkest shadows remain plainly visible at all times, providing the image with an appreciable three-dimensional quality and a beautiful cinematic appeal.
Engines roar with intimidating fierceness and cars careen in every direction with the same highly-satisfying DTS:X soundtrack heard on the Blu-ray, sure to give your sound system a great workout.
From the opening drag race sequence, listeners are welcomed to this world of muscle cars, double-crosses and espionage outlaws as Dom races through the streets of Havana in a fiery blaze. With superb balance and separation, vehicles fluidly speed between all three front channels, noises convincingly move in the background and engines echo across the entire screen. Much of that activity also spreads into the front heights, generating an awesomely engaging half-dome wall of sound. The surrounds and back speakers are also often employed, expanding the over-the-top insanity into the entire room and plunging the viewers right smack in the middle of the action. Sometimes, cars fly through the air and a helicopter towards the end circles a trapped Dom, utilizing the overheads with excellent effectiveness.
Through all the vehicular carnage and destructive mayhem, the mid-range remains crystal clear with superb distinction and clarity between the various noises, providing the crunch and grind of metal against metal with astounding precision. Every conversation and interaction is discreet and unmistakable, never overwhelmed by the ear-piercing loudness of the rest of the action. The low-end also packs a terrific wallop in every crash and explosion while also providing a weighty rumbling boom to the rev of engines, giving each of them a cool realistic feel. Best of all, for those with the subwoofers that can handle it, the sound design comes with a pair of separate bass sweeps that reach as low as 22Hz and nicely give the room a hardy shake (bass chart).
Audio Commentary: Director F. Gary Gray drives solo on this decently interesting commentary track where the filmmaker addresses many of the challenges, his thinking process when shooting some of the craziest action and share his thoughts on character motivation, which, at times, comes off more like narration.
The Cuban Spirit (HD, 8 min): After a brief intro by Michelle Rodriguez, the piece take viewers on a tour of Havana, featuring cast & crew interviews and tons of BTS footage of some of the camerawork.
In the Family (HD): Four-part featurette discussing the characters, motivations and specific plot points.
Betraying the Family: Cipher and Dom (7 min)
Leaderless: A Family Lost (5 min)
Shaw Family Values (4 min)
Meet the Nobodys (6 min)
Car Culture (HD): Three-part piece on the various cars and their importance to the characters and plot.
The Hero Cars of Fast (10 min)
Zombie Cars (6 min)
The Ripsaw (5 min)
All about the Stunts (HD): Another three-piece featurette looking at the practical effects and stunt work.
Malecón Street Race (6 min)
Iceland Stunt Diaries (7 min)
The Streets of New York (5 min)
Extended Fight Scenes (HD, 5 min): Just the title suggests, but focused on two specific scenes.
Extended Prison Fight
Extended Plane Fight
In spite of expecting the franchise to be running on fumes by now, The Fate of the Furious demonstrates the fuel running this engine is far from spent and there is still plenty more to burn in the tank. Sporting a familiar plot, the eight installment of the massively popular franchise roars onto the screen souped-up with even more melodramatic silliness and vehicular carnage, but director F. Gary Gray drives this vehicle with a NOS tank filled with fun, action-packed excitement and loads of humor, keeping things light and entertaining. The Ultra HD Blu-ray screeches through the streets with a souped-up, stunningly gorgeous 4K presentation in Dolby Vision HDR and an awesomely satisfying DTS:X soundtrack revving the engine. The same body of supplements are ported over, but the overall package for HDR junkies is sure to give the best and craziest ride ever.
Portions of this review also appear in our coverage of Dunkirk on Blu-ray. This post features unique Vital Disc Stats, Video, and Final Thoughts sections.