Director: F. Gary Gray Starring: Vin Diesel, Dwayne Johnson, Jason Statham, Michelle Rodriguez, Charlize Theron, Kurt Russell Synopsis: When a mysterious woman seduces Dom into the world of terrorism and a betrayal of those closest to him, the crew face trials that will test them as never before (source: IMDb). Rating: PG-13
What was once a niche street racing series has blown up into a billion-dollar blockbuster tent pole featuring increasingly absurd action. Naturally, this evolution necessitates a heightened suspension of disbelief and over the course of the last few Fast and Furious films, I had fun playing along. I reveled at the miraculous metamorphosis of Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) and his “family” from street-level grease monkeys in 2001 into seemingly indestructible super spies almost two decades later.
I wasn’t the only one either. Thus far each film in the franchise (with the exception of Tokyo Drift) has made more money than its predecessor (Box Office Mojo). The last film, Furious 7, ended its theatrical run with a worldwide haul north of $1.5 billion. Clearly audiences have adored the series’ crackpot changes.
Now with the eighth entry, aptly titled The Fate of the Furious, Producer-Star Vin Diesel and Director F. Gary Gray make even more changes to the popular program. These changes include revving the action way past the red and pitting Dom against his “family.” The unfortunate consequence is that ‘Fate’ feels too ludicrous and tonally out of sync with itself as well as the other movies.
The most obvious drawback of the increasingly insane car-centric action is the reliance upon mediocre, computer-generated special effects. To accommodate the impossible scale of its automobile stunts, ‘Fate’ mostly opts to go with sadly rendered exploits instead of practically choreographed ones. So instead of beholding fearless feats of real-life daredevils behind the wheel, we’re witnessing yet another bland wave of digital destruction. I found it tough to invest in what was going on because I was not convinced that any of it was real.
Fortunately this time around, the hand-to-hand combat feels more satisfying than ever. I couldn’t help but crack a smile whenever Dwayne Johnson’s ex-militia cop landed a bone-crunching blow or Jason Statham’s villain-turned-antihero smacked someone across the face with their own gun. Between the two, there is enough variation in technique to keep it from getting stale. It’s also worth mentioning that Statham steals the show in one of the most badass action sequences I’ve ever seen, which doubles as one of my favorite sequences so far this year, period.
The Fate of the Furious is also the darkest of the eight so far. As I’m sure you’ve gathered by now, Charlize Theron’s villainess entices Dom to fight for her and against the team that Dom’s assembled over the years. It’s an intriguing premise and at times the execution allows for an intimate character study of Dom and a career-highlighting performance for Diesel. And while Dom is more interesting than he’s ever been, both the original team and villain are less so.
As far as the original team goes, their chemistry largely lacks the loving spark that made them so much fun. The cast isn’t to blame, either. Everyone on board seems just as committed as ever. It’s that no matter how hard the team tries, they’re never able to best Dom. He is “the one thing” they can’t handle, as Cipher (Theron) points out. This puts a perpetual cloud over their scenes together and the sense of hopelessness is inescapable, even as they attempt to keep the classic banter alive.
Likewise, Cipher is a lackluster antagonist with uninspired aspirations for global domination. Thankfully, Theron’s performance saves the character from my ceaseless eye-rolling.
I also found the ending tough to swallow. Despite its turn down a darker road, this film so desperately wants us walking out of the theater feeling good about family that it completely overlooks the complications it set up for itself over the course of this film and the last.
What did you think of The Fate of the Furious? Where would you rank it among the other seven? Leave a comment and let us know!