Review: “The Fate Of The Furious” Revs Up The Action In Fun Sequel
There’s just no popping the breaks on the “Fast & Furious” franchise.
This series survived a move to Tokyo, a semi-reboot, a genre change to heist film, and even the untimely passing of one of the franchises’ main stars, Paul Walker, yet somehow keeps on getting better and better.
“Fast Five” director, Justin Lin, hit a hot streak that was continued by his own sequel and then taken to the next level with James Wan’s series best “Furious 7”. Now that new director F. Gary Gray (“Straight Outta Compton”) has entered the fray, will the series finally spin out or will the eighth entry be the new bar to reach?
Well, while it doesn’t quite reach the peak of “Furious 7”, the hilariously-named “The Fate of the Furious” comes damn close, adding another fun entry into America’s favorite guilty pleasure franchise.
On their own, the two hooks of this film would make for a decent flick. Put together, they set the stage for a truly bonkers action movie.
The first plot line does the unthinkable by turning the patriarch of the “Fast” crew’s de-facto family into a villain; Dom Torretto (Vin Diesel) has gone rogue, working with the hacker Cypher (Charlize Theron) to hijack stockpiles of nuclear weapons to keep the world in check.
The second goes even further, by having the team, made of familiar faces like Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Michelle Rodriguez, Chris “Ludacris” Bridges, and Tyrese Gibson, team up with their nemesis Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) to stop Dom and figure out just what made him betray the people closest to him.
As you may gather, the storyline is a total blast in this one, and that’s in no small part due to the script by Chris Morgan. Yes, we’re praising the script in a “Fast & Furious” movie, and for good reason!
“The Fate of the Furious” pushes the franchise into spy/espionage territory, which allows for a lot of opportunities to put our protagonists in fish-out-of-water scenarios. This gives way to a lot of really, really hilarious dialogue- the best in one of these movies yet. The Rock and Tyrese Gibson, in particular, get some one-liners that are borderline legendary, which leads to my next point: everyone is having the time of their lives here!
Vin Diesel, Michelle Rodriguez, and company are all reliably great, while Charlize Theron makes for an intimidating new type of adversary for this series. When it comes to Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Tyrese Gibson, and Jason Statham, though, that’s where it gets really good.
Gibson takes each scene he’s in by hostage, providing funny moment after funny moment (someone please give Roman a spin-off) as Johnson puts his typical charm into top gear. His rapport with Jason Statham is the highlight of the whole film, mostly because Statham has significantly evolved his character from one-note baddie to wise-cracking criminal genius with a secret heart-of-gold.
Which brings us back to the script. Aside from just putting our heroes in new situations, we breach new thematic territory: what happens when a family is torn apart. Seeing such a family, or “familia”, man as Dom Torretto go rogue opens up the question, what could make this man betray his family, and the answer is not only satisfying but unexpected.
Speaking of unexpected, possibly the most interesting aspect of this film is the expansion of Deckard Shaw’s character. With cameos by two high-profile actors that I won’t spoil here, although the audience at my screening roared in applause at them, the Shaw family gets explored in depth and their dynamics lay the groundwork for what should be an awesome story arc in future films.
I know what you’re thinking- this is a “Fast & Furious” movie, why aren’t you talking about the action scenes? Well, it’s because they’re a bit of a mixed bag. Hold on, put down your pitchforks, most of them are spectacular.
Starting with the good, we kick off with a street race, a rare commodity in this franchise these days- where Dom races a man in Cuba using the slowest car imaginable, that’s an effective way to set the tone for the flick. Then, following a great heist in Berlin, we get an absolutely outstanding sequence, a true showstopper- an extremely well-choreographed prison break that makes use of both The Rock and Statham’s borderline absurd physicalities.
Then, the climax of the film (pictured above) is yet another great “Fast & Furious” third-act, combining wing-suits, airplanes, a submarine, ice, and missiles for an explosive (pun definitely intended) finish. That’s when we come to the negative- the New York chase.
I get the idea here: in the age of technology, self-driving cars exist, but when we come to the point where Cypher hijacks seemingly hundreds of self-driving cars to plow through the city streets, it feels like we’ve well and truly jumped the shark. The sequence is problematic for the film in many other ways, such as the fact that our team barrels into pedestrians seemingly knowing they’ll get out the way, while cars fall out of buildings in shots that are just stupid even for this franchise.
It doesn’t help that F. Gary Gray and cinematographer Stephen F. Windon just don’t have as great of a handle on the action as Justin Lin and especially James Wan did. Unsurprisingly, this one action misstep in the film doesn’t do much to distract from the insane levels of fun to be had.
Ever since “Fast Five” came out, this has been the premiere leave-your-brain-at-the-door-and-watch-cool-shit franchise, a proud position that the latest upholds. Admittedly, it may not be as good as the previous entry, but that doesn’t stop it from pushing the series into fun new territory that gets me giddy for the future.
“The Fate of The Furious” proves there’s more than enough gas left in this series’s tank.