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The Bock’s Office: ‘Furious’ franchise refuses to slow down

High speeds and heavy flames are business as usual for racer Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) in "The Fate of the Furious." The eighth movie in the series about highly skilled drivers sees them take on a global cyber-terrorist.

High speeds and heavy flames are business as usual for racer Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) in "The Fate of the Furious." The eighth movie in the series about highly skilled drivers sees them take on a global cyber-terrorist.

In a series that knows no limits, logic dictates that land, air and sea be conquered as the world proves too small when you live your life one quarter-mile at a time. And, if you’re familiar with what led up to “The Fate of the Furious,” you know there’s no doing things halfhearted.

If you go...

“The Fate of the Furious,” rated PG-13

Rating: 2.5 out of 4 stars

Running time: 136 minutes

Starring: Vin Diesel, Dwayne Johnson, Jason Statham and Charlize Theron

Now playing at Wildhorse Stadium Cinemas and Craig’s West Theatre.

Andy Bockelman

Andy Bockelman is a member of the Denver Film Critics Society, and his movie reviews appear in Explore Steamboat and the Craig Daily Press. Contact him at 970-875-1793 or abockelman@CraigDailyPress.com.

Find more columns by Bockelman here.

The team is back together. At the bequest of DSS Agent Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson), the crew of Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) is in the midst of a heist in Berlin, the kind of specialty mission that only a collection of racers and technical experts could manage.

But, what should be a simple job takes a left turn when Dom suddenly betrays his closest friends and takes off with some valuable and dangerous cargo, resulting in Hobbs being imprisoned and the rest of the gang in the dark.

They soon learn that Dom isn’t acting alone but has allied himself with a mysterious cyber-terrorist known as Cipher (Charlize Theron), whose reach is even greater than they comprehend.

It will take all of their resources to catch up with Cipher and her associates as they enact their master plan, though more important is finding out why Dom has turned his back on the people he considers family.

By now, Diesel is almost synonymous with the role that brought him to prominence, but rather than coast, he continues to let Dom grow, the staunchly loyal leader put in an impossible position as the unwilling pawn in a worldwide criminal plot. If you thought he was a force to be reckoned with when he was driving purely for the good guys, all bets are off when he’s behind the wheel for the baddies.

Michelle Rodriguez remains just as tough as his longtime love and — finally — wife, Letty, who’s certain there’s something more to her spouse’s new allegiance.

Though he hasn’t been around as long, Johnson’s performance as Hobbs is starting to border on the ridiculous as a man-mountain who goes full blast punching the cement walls of his prison cell to stay sharp, the most plausible feat of strength for someone portrayed as nigh invincible.

But, if anyone can take on The Rock here, it’s Jason Statham as former enemy Deckard Shaw, roped into helping out the same folks that put him behind bars, sneering all the way.

At this point, Tyrese Gibson and Chris “Ludacris” Bridges could form a vaudeville act as Roman Pearce and Tej Parker, bickering over the affections of their newest teammate, hacker Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel), while somehow managing to keep their attention on their high-octane exploits.

Kurt Russell is enjoyable as the bunch’s government hook-up, here referred to as Mr. Nobody, though Scott Eastwood is harder to take as his junior partner, who barely warrants a name.

Little Nobody seems appropriate.

As for Theron as the sultry, cold-blooded mastermind behind all of this, it’s a testament to her talents that she can take such a broadly drawn, generic villain and make her watchable if not much more than a sociopathic sexpot who can work a keyboard.

As if it needed to be further stated, anyone wearing blonde dreadlocks is at least a little evil.

Characterization has never been the strong suit of this franchise, but there’s no way you went into the theater thinking otherwise. The attempt to top the previous movies is the name of the game, and without the need for an elegy for Paul Walker this time, there are so many possibilities.

Like Cipher, director F. Gary Gray aims big in crafting quite a distraction, notably in a New York-set scene that sees the streets of Manhattan overtaken by hundreds of remotely-accessed vehicles. If you thought traffic in the Big Apple was bad, you haven’t yet seen cars dropping by the dozen from the highest floors of parking garages.

Then there’s the matter of a Russian nuclear submarine that our heroes find themselves responsible for, if for no other reason than there was nothing else big enough or dangerous enough to use at this point.

Yes, it gets more outlandish by the minute, and yes, the more you think about it, the less you’re likely to accept it, but “The Fate of the Furious” — Hey, fate rhymes with eight! — is exactly the reason why people love action movies. The sheer audacity and skillfulness of such stunts proves there’s still tread on the tires, and combined with a core group you can’t help but love, you’ve got the full package.

And yes, it appears you can insert Helen Mirren in any movie and make it better.

Contact Andy Bockelman at 970-875-1793 or abockelman@CraigDailyPress.com or follow him on Twitter @TheBocksOffice.

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