As the Fast and the Furious franchise has steadily increased its absurdity and over-the-topness, it has also gained a loyal and adoring fanbase, welcomed into the fold of Dominic Toretto’s “family”.
But here in Fate of the Furious, the series seems to have some family issues, struggling to move on from the loss of younger-brother Paul Walker and spinning its wheels as it adapts to its new position as a Mission-Impossible-But-With-Cars-style global spy franchise. Fate of the Furious still has its highlights, but overall it marks a step backwards. While not necessarily bad, it still serves as a reminder that perhaps the films should have ended with the pitch-perfect tribute that is Furious 7.
This time around, Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) is yanked out of retirement by an international cyberterrorist named Cypher (Charlize Theron), who blackmails Toretto into turning against his crew and deliver unto her the capability to launch the world’s nuclear missiles. Rounding up the team to track down Dom down, government operative Mr. Nobody (Kurt Russell) brings in some backup in the form of the last film’s bad guy Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham). This is not pleasing to super-cop Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) or to Letty “Mrs Alpha” Toretto (Michelle Rodriguez), but the redemption arc is allowed to continue. Also, Scott Eastwood stumbles around as a government trainee because apparently there’s a studio requirement that a bland dorky white guy occupy screentime in all films.
Despite my firm objections to the series allowing a slot on the family roster for the man who killed Han (detailed masterfully here by Jen Yamato), it’s the changing dynamics which breathe life into the film at moments when it feels like it should have died off. The script finds more and more ways to escalate the banter between Hobbs and Shaw, meaning more opportunities for Dwayne Johnson to lift increasingly sillier and heavier objects. The inclusion of Eastwood as the new team punching bag changes the dynamic for Tyrese Gibson’s character, Roman, as he’s finally allowed to make fun of someone who can’t attack him back. On the flip side, the series’ new fascination with “cyber warfare” means a lot of action scenes are broken up by unimpressive shots of Charlize Theron or Team Family’s hacker Ramsey looking at screens and typing concernedly, uttering phrases like “oh she’s good” or “damn, the mainframe is blocked.” Theron herself is wasted as a villain, who gets not a single car chase or action scene to herself. She mostly serves to utter generic nonsensical evil-sounding anecdotes to Dom and look off-screen menacingly.
The action pieces themselves vary wildly in quality, as director F. Gary Grey can’t quite seem to handle the outlandish scale the script calls for. The smaller-level sequences are still a lot of fun and feel true to classic Fast style. Dominic Toretto street-races a jalopy on fire through the streets of Havana. Hobbs and Shaw escape from prison during a mass riot, wherein Dwayne Johnson treats swarms of guards the way the Kool-Aid man thinks of bricks. But the trajectory of the Fast and Furious franchise means that the action must go bigger, and unfortunately, “grander” in this case equates to “more incoherent.”
As the series has grown more and more profoundly outlandish, I’ve wondered at what point I would find its hallmark stupidity to be too stupid.
Turns out the answer is “an army of zombie cars attacking New York City, raining death from above in parking garages.” The film’s climactic sequence, involving a Russian submarine chasing the crew through a frozen tundra, is a sloppy, boring mess whose only redeeming qualities are the times they’re interrupted by Jason Statham aping Hard Boiled and shooting henchmen while holding a baby. (Don’t ask.)
Fate of the Furious isn’t fully bad, but it is a bizarre and probably unnecessary chapter in the franchise’s existence. Segregating Toretto from the Family for most of the film only serves to highlight that Vin Diesel is now dead weight in his own franchise. Without Brian and Mia to offer balance to his character, everything feels off-kilter. The Family is now secondary to the Fracas. (By the way, F8 dedicates an entire scene to explaining why the crew doesn’t just call Brian, and somehow calling attention to it just makes it worse.) In time, I think F8 will fall in the category of Tokyo Drift as one of the franchise’s dragging points. In future installments, the series would benefit from either retiring Diesel entirely and letting Johnson and his GI Joe crew take over, or refocusing to Dom and Letty in a small-scale back-to-basics film a la Logan. Hell, perhaps both. Given the box-office receipts from this weekend, though, it’s probably unfortunately safe to assume the real Fate of the Furious is more along these frustrating lines.
Liked This? Share It!