The Fate of the Furious (2017)
PG-13 / 136 mins.
Action / Crime / Thriller
Starring: Vin Diesel, Jason Statham, Dwayne Johnson
Director: F. Gary Gray
Things are changing in the world of the Fast and the Furious.
Paul Walker has passed away due to a tragic car accident, meaning his character Brian is not returning in future installments. The stakes continue to rise as Dom and his crew get their selves wrapped up in global conflict. Dom has turned on his family!? Things are certainly changing as the street-racing-turned-blockbuster-action-franchise returns with its eighth installment, The Fate of the Furious. Even though Fate serves up a delightfully fun and silly experience its beginning to feel like there is an onset of series fatigue.
Of course, this is a natural for a series that has been around for sixteen years.
In the franchise’s eighth ride, directed for the first time by F. Gary Gray, Dom (Vin Diesel) is placed under the grasp of an international terrorist who goes by the name of Cipher (Charlize Theron). She meets up with the former street racer in Cuba and all it takes is a single photograph for Dom to change sides, supposedly betraying his “family” in the process. This is the narrative hook that has been captivating fans of the series up until its release. It is an outlandish premise, and at times unbelievable, but the reasons for his “betrayal” are satisfying and make sense. In fact, this is probably the most coherent plot the series has offered in a while. What is even more satisfying is the secret plan that Dom formulates while working for the other side and the way in which it all turns out in the end. It is a ton of fun and there is some fan service that will make any Fast fan giddy with excitement.
Charlize Theron’s Cipher is one of my favorite villains this franchise has seen. She is equal parts cunning and ruthless. She does some pretty messed up things during the movie’s run time and you will end up hating her by the end. Past villains in the series have been hit or miss, but I am confident when I say that Cipher cements herself at the top. Unfortunately, the worst part about her character is that we do not see enough of her in action. She spends the lion share of her time in the movie aboard her plane within the confines of her headquarters. She is rarely on the ground getting her hands dirty and we certainly never see her behind the wheel. Charlize Theron is an actress who is going to be starring in the action-thriller Atomic Blonde (who’s trailer we see before the movie) so it is quite a shame that she never throws a punch or swings a kick.
Despite Dom and Cipher being the centerpiece of this movie’s plot, it is the other characters that make this movie such a delight. Dwayne Johnson reprises his role as the super-cop Hobbs. He has a ton of great moments and this movie would not have been the movie it is without his presence. What is most entertaining is his relationship with Deckard Shaw, played by Jason Statham. The two despise each other (which is understandable) so when forced to work together, things get interesting. Jason Statham is one of my favorite parts about this movie. He is a fusion of humor and seriousness and he plays both parts amazingly. The fact that the team is totally cool with him despite his murder of Han in cold blood is a little weird, but the movie does a respectable job at making him a redeemable character, especially during a laugh-out-load scene involving a plane gunfight towards the end. Then there is Roman, Tyrese Gibson’s character. Did you think there was not enough Roman in previous installments? If you said yes, then you are in for a treat. Roman reprises his role as the comic relief and his character is constantly a joy. Every line he mutters made me laugh. Just wait for the Barents Sea scene…it is tough to not laugh.
The rest of the cast is fine. Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) is now happily back with Dom. Tej Parker (Ludacris) and Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel) are still the hackers of the group. Kurt Russell makes a return as Mr. Nobody, along with series newcomer Scott Eastwood, who plays the “little nobody.” His character did not do much for me. I am sure he is going to be in future movies, so good for him. He has some funny moments but he ultimately seems like a boring stand-in for Paul Walker’s character.
The action sequences in Fate come from the same brand of ridiculous that the Fast movies have become famous for, but they pale in comparison to previous movies. There are only so many things you can do with cars, which is the inevitable problem with a series like this running for so long. It is hard to top set-piece moments like the aircraft scene in Fast 6 and the skyscraper jumps from Furious 7, but Fate still has its fair share of crazy action moments. There is a zombie car sequence in New York which is essentially Day Z but with cars and the submarine chase that has been heavily featured in the trailers offers some insane excitement. Reality is constantly thrown out the window and the approach to some of these situations can be laughable, but that is what makes these movies so special. I am not here to question the physical plausibility of such scenes. I am here to eat popcorn, turn off my mind, and enjoy the blockbuster action in front of me. That is something these movies tackle perfectly.
Another complaint I have with the movie is its recycled gags and plot points that it comes to. Hobbs gives a stern speech in the beginning but it is revealed that he is giving said speech to a girls’ soccer team. Roman and Tej are still vying for the admiration of Ramsey. Those are just two examples. Of course, this is a symptom of series fatigue. The series’ writers are falling back on the same tricks that they have pulled in past movies, which is a little concerning. The movie switches things up by placing Dom on the villain’s side, but with two more movies left, the writers are starting to run out of places to go. The Fate of the Furious is a very familiar feeling movie, but maybe it is starting to become a little too familiar. This familiarity does not just stop at gags and plot points. The movie falls into a lot of similar tropes that have been common for the series. This is not necessarily a terrible thing considering how great the past three movies have been, but this sort of laziness is not going to fly for much longer.
Despite inklings of fatigue, The Fate of the Furious still manages to take viewers on a thrill ride, offering a lot of dumb, silly action. If you are coming into this series fresh without any knowledge of the previous movies, your mileage may vary with this movie but if you have been a ride-or-die fan since day 1, you will find a ton to love with this movie. With a ninth and tenth installment imminent, I am eager for this franchise’s future. I am hoping it sets up for a strong finish.