Movie Review - The Fate of the Furious

The eighth film in The Fast and the Furious franchise is again all about family. That's why the opening shots are all low-angle swooshes looking up the rear-ends of scantily clad women. The following sequence that precedes the title is all about hetero-normative masculinity and machismo. It's been done in every single entry in the franchise, but, for some reason, this time around, it felt like the chicken run in Rebel Without a Cause (1955) but instead of commenting on the pointlessness of such expressions of machismo and how juvenile it is, this movie wraps itself in that pointlessness.

Chris Morgan who wrote the last five entries in this franchise comes up with screenplays by basically throwing darts at various cities on a map and then handing it over to his director, in this case F. Gary Gray (Straight Outta Compton and The Italian Job), to find ways to speed through downtown streets smashing up as many automobiles as possible. His craft also involves stitching together plot threads from all his previous scripts to establish a coherent story. This one doesn't really hold together, but that would make it no different from most of the others.

Vin Diesel stars as Dominic "Dom" Turetto, a car and driving expert-turned-criminal-turned undercover hero for the government. He seems like he's resigned to a nice, semi-quiet life until he's turned back into a criminal.

The question is why. Why would he become a criminal? Why would he betray the woman he loves, Letty, played by Michelle Rodriguez, as well as his former team? Why would become the lackey to an international terrorist named Cipher, played by Charlize Theron (Mad Max: Fury Road and Prometheus)?

The answer to that is simple, so simple that it's boring. The way that this movie and all of them going back to the first have played with the idea of a cop-becoming-a-criminal or a good-guy-becoming-a-bad-guy would make one assume that Morgan's screenplay would concoct a bit more clever reason for why Dom would swing back to the dark side. Maybe it would be due to some ideological or political stance, but no, the movie makes it as black-and-white as it could possibly be.

These movies have effectively ripped off so many others. From Point Break, Ocean's Eleven, Mission: Impossible and even The Avengers, it makes sense this franchise would hit up another movie blockbuster series. This time, it's James Bond. Theron, for example, is clearly auditioning to be the next Bond villain. In fact, in some moments, she feels like Blofeld from Spectre (2015). Yet, the real question this movie fails in its answer is why does Cipher even need or want Dom.

Action films have a tendency to link personally the protagonist with the antagonist. There's always some personal connection that keeps the two at odds for the whole movie. The connection here is the flimsiest of flimsy reasons. Cipher basically blackmails Dom into helping her, but the film makes clear that she doesn't need him. In fact, her involvement of him leads to her own defeat. For someone as cold and as calculating as Cipher, her involvement with Dom for her reasons was just stupidity in the highest order.

There's only one good action sequence and that's the chase through the streets of Manhattan in broad daylight, culminating in what looked like CGI cars cascading from the air like a waterfall where the water is replaced by metallic vehicles. The same Manhattan sequence features a great moment where Dom's Plymouth GTX battles six other cars in a game of tug-of-war.

The climactic set-piece on the ice with a submarine felt like that Hollywood maxim that the sequel has to have something bigger. The largest flying vehicle, a Spruce Goose-like airplane was used in the second-to-last film, so for this one it had to be amped up to a large, nuclear submarine. The next film will probably feature a rocket ship headed to space. Nonetheless, that climactic set-piece was essentially a repeat of the ending of Fast & Furious 6, minus the emotional heavy-hitter.

Some action sequences felt like a real waste of time. Namely a prison riot scene was completely unnecessary and present in the film only to allow Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham to flex their biceps. The comedic jabs between them fell rather flat. For the most part, Tyrese Gibson as Roman maintained his role as the comic relief. Roman's main target was a fellow, government agent nicknamed "Little Nobody," played by Scott Eastwood (The Longest Ride and Snowden) who seems to be filling the space formerly occupied by Paul Walker.

There was a sequence with Statham who plays Deckard Shaw and a baby that would have been cool if I hadn't seen a similar one with Clive Davis in Shoot 'Em Up (2007). There is a surprising appearance of Helen Mirren who has the funniest moment in the whole film with the line, "Devil's bumhole."

Rated PG-13 for violence, destruction, suggestive content and language.
Running Time: 2 hrs. and 16 mins.


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