Film Review – The Fate of the Furious
The Fate of the Furious
By now we’ve seen cars do pretty much everything a car can and cannot do on screen. Progressively from street car racing to launching sideways out of a moving train, to falling with parachutes out of skies and landing on four wheels. We have even seen cars directly save people’s lives after being flung into a void. When it comes to the Fast & Furious franchise, the imagination knows little limits in terms of the evolution of vehicular stunts. Now in their eighth outing, the members of the Fast & Furious crew are faced with a whole new challenge, pushing the limits of vehicular spectacle while squaring off against one of their own.
Picking up in the wake of the events of Furious 7, Dom (Vin Diesel) and Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) are enjoying their honeymoon in Cuba when Dom is approached with a job offer from a cyber-terrorist known as Cipher (Charlize Theron). Dom wants no part in the job but quickly learns that Cipher is holding an ace up her sleeve that will force Dom’s hand to betray his team and family to help her acquire a nuclear-armed submarine. If the franchise wasn’t already heading into James Bond territory by now, it’s certainly solidifying it this go round.
The sad part to that is, while seemingly aiming to go bigger and more over-the-top than its predecessors, The Fate of the Furious is in many ways more lackluster. There are two things to state though: 1. this is just as much ridiculous fun as the previous movies 2. there is still a whole lot of craziness going on. What isn’t going though is the same hungry, reckless energy that breathed life back into the franchise in Fast Five and Fast & Furious 6. It’s hard though to completely divorce the tragedy of star Paul Walker’s death while filming Furious 7 from a certain amount of direction the franchise is now taking.
Helming directing responsibilities for this one is veteran F. Gary Gray, who recently gave us Straight Outta Compton and has previously proven his action chops with films like A Man Apart and Set it Off. Gray is clearly changing the tone with less bass-thumping, ass-shaking dance music, in favor of a more standard score. He’s also firmly moving the franchise even further away from its street racing roots and more into a high-tech, espionage environment where the heroic team of spies used to be from the streets, so they bring that attitude; and they happen to know how to drive cars better than everybody else.
As is usually the case with one of these, there’s a new team member, this time in the form of a new agent nick-named Little Nobody (Scott Eastwood). Little, as he’ll be referred to, is presented as a dolt who is over enthusiastic and somewhat incompetent. But he’s learning, so it’s kinda cool. Also, in a franchise trend, one-time villain Deckard (Jason Statham) is now being coerced by Mr. Nobody (Kurt Russell) to assist the Fast & Furious team and is now an anti-hero. It’s Deckard though who steals the show though while during the climax filmmakers homage the now-classic Hong-Kong action film Hard-Boiled by placing Deckard as a child caretaker during a gunfight.
If the shark hadn’t already been jumped in the first movie, it’s surely jumped several times over by now. Which is part of the problem, the shark might be getting a little tired. While featuring new insane car action like the seriously inspired idea to hack computer operated vehicles and use them as weapons of destruction and a submarine chase over ice, the moments in between are more drawn out and comprise of a repetition of everyone sitting around a room, either in front of lap tops or pacing while discussing at great lengths what’s going on and how are they going to stop Dom and Cipher. Mayhem might be getting progressed, but characters certainly are not. Stuck in the quagmire of competition for the affection of Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel), Roman (Tyrese Gibson) and Tej (Chris “Ludacris” Bridges) are given little to do but argue, until Roman get his obligatory moment in the action sun. And Ramsey even less, until she asks them both what her last name is, which is supposed to be progressive but by this point seems a little late to the party.
There’s less speeches about family but a lot of pontificating about the motivations of people’s actions from just about every moment Theron is on screen, chewing her way through a scene. It starts funny, perhaps intentionally, but quickly becomes bothersome. These things would’ve been alleviated if this featured more, smaller action sequences instead of a couple really big ones, especially given the movie’s 2 hours and 16 minutes running time. The situation of Dom going rogue would also have more weight if the secret reveal to his motivations wasn’t exposed as early in the movie as it is, removing a good deal of suspense with it. Still, even with its by-the-numbers attitude there’s a lot more formally going for this than a good deal of other franchise fare these days. Treated like a classic blockbuster, there’s little handheld action and not a zoom shot to be seen, removing this from the made-for-cable feel that plagues the superhero world.
For a series eight films in and going, and not an extended universe spin-off insight, that’s an achievement in itself. Fun, but not the best the series has had to offer.