The Fate of the Furious
Review by Paul Preston
I’d love to say, “Well, this franchise has finally gone over the top”, but I think they’ve been over the top for seven sequels now. But The Fate of the Furious really is an over the top we haven’t seen before. From way too much comedy to action sequences that are downright goofy, this is the least of the efforts since franchise-saver Dwayne Johnson came aboard.
Re-reading that last sentence, I swear I’ve written “downright goofy” about these films before…
The first Fast and Furious movie since Paul Walker’s death sorely misses him, but with Brian and Mia off pursuing non-driving activities, this film opens with Dom and Lettie on a honeymoon in Cuba. The fun and good times of Michelle Rodriguez smiling and looking adorable coupled with Vin Diesel growling is interrupted by Cypher, a cyber-terrorist played by Charlize Theron. Cypher blackmail’s Dom to betray his team of fast-driving ne’er-do-wells (who’ve actually done-well at least seven times previous) and join her in pursuit of nuclear weapons (yes, the street racing movie franchise now has set as its stakes “nuclear destruction”, making this the never-thought-we’d-get-here Jason X of the franchise.
Lettie, with Roman, Tej, Ramsey and The Rock’s Luke Hobbs set out to get to the bottom of Dom’s betrayal and stop Cypher. Along the way, other franchise faces show themselves. One of them is Furious 7 highlight Jason Statham as Deckard Shaw. Cypher has crossed Shaw’s path in the past, too, so he’s brought in to work with Hobbs and the crew. As before, Statham brings quick and fluid action sequences, I always enjoy watching him kick ass in his least-trashy efforts.
His comedic verbal sparring with Johnson is hit and miss, though. Johnson and Statham jaw at each other well, when it’s asked of him, Statham can be downright charming (see Spy), so it’s entertaining. But the idea of them being friends AT ALL negates some of the previous stakes of how deadly Shaw can be, and defies the logic behind what set up Shaw as such a bad guy to begin with. At the end of Fast and Furious 6, Shaw kills Han, a member of Dom’s street racing team and close friend of everyone in Dom’s crew. Why would you team up with someone that killed your friend? Of all the stunts and action sequences that defy logic in this franchise, that might be the biggest leap of all. The answer, of course, is just to have Jason Statham in your movie. Having Shaw in this film is a sales idea, not a plot-motivated one.
When Hobbs starts curling giant pieces of concrete wall, you’ll swear you’re in a Hot Shots movie, but Johnson is more comfortable than ever on screen, he’s officially melded with the at-home-ness he exhibited when he would entertain the millions (AND MILLIONS) of The Rock’s fans with nothing but a microphone in the middle of a WWE ring. But one of his early scenes is part of the “too much comedy” I mentioned earlier. There were lines Hobbs delivered to his daughter in the past that played well off the fact that the world’s biggest badass was also a sweet father. But devoting a whole scene to that with big comedy moments seemed out of character for the franchise. Also, Roman is dumber than usual. I need to see 2Fast 2Furious (must I?) to get re-introduced to Tyrese’s character ‘cause I think he’s gone over the top, too. In The Fate of the Furious, he’s such a goof he’s gotten downright ridiculous. I think that’s the equivalent of making Marcus Brody a dunderhead in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.
There’s more comedy with Scott Eastwood. When I heard he was joining the cast, I figured he’s a good looking addition to the crew with Paul Walker-esque traits. But he plays a subordinate to Kurt Russell’s returning Mr. Nobody character, and he’s inept, doing more goofy shit than the film requires. I know I’m beating it to death, but I remember these movies having a sense of humor, but not dipping into broad comedy as often as happens here.
Charlize Theron comes in and does that super-detached thing that villains do, while on the other side Kurt Russell is doing a similar super-detached thing. The only difference is Russell keeps a crisp pace with the dialogue while Theron speaks slow and deliberate as if her character has rehearsed the lines she’s telling people. I would like to have seen one of these characters in a desperate or compromised or uncomfortable situation ONCE.
One more thing I usually get out of a Fast and Furious movie is action the likes of which I haven’t seen before – the tank sequence of FF6, the bank vault scene of Fast Five, the vehicle sky dive of Furious 7 – and on that front, The Fate of the Furious delivers. One of Cypher’s dangerous weapons is the ability to control cars – any car. To start it drive it around, etc. There’s one scene where Cypher sends a ton of cars in the middle of New York after the Russian Minister of Defense and it’s pretty scary.
But the finale starts promising with a road chase on ice and a submarine, but ends with a physics-defying stunt that negates the effect of fire and an explosion. The kind of move I continue to razz the Jean-Claude Van Damme/Dennis Rodman movie Double Team about. Didn’t work then, doesn’t work now. Then the ultimate ending includes a baby-naming moment that makes no sense.
But what do I know? The movie is still doing boffo box office, according to Variety, so the fate of the franchise probably won’t be stalled by what I think is a misstep.
Directed by: F. Gary Gray
Release Date: April 14, 2017
Run Time: 136 Minutes
Distributor: Universal Pictures