The Fate of the Furious is bloated, crazy and incredibly dumb. It does not stray from the tone and blueprint of one of the more improbable franchises in Hollywood, giving fans exactly what they want. It is the epitome of mindless summer blockbuster entertainment.
And it is incredibly fun.
While this is not the best of the “Fast Franchise,” lacking the the traditional heists of the more successful outings, it is still stupidly and entertainingly crazy. The cast is solid as usual, with newcomer Charlize Theron particularly standing out as new villain Cipher. Over its somewhat bloated two hour plus run time, it gives you a fast food meal of action that satisfies the moment you consume it, but leaves a strange feeling of emptiness as you think about the thread bare plot later.
This time around, the “family” of glorified stunt drivers is betrayed by the least likely culprit: Dom Toretto (Vin Diesel). Allying himself with Theron’s Cipher, Dom embarks on an international caper involving nuclear weapons, muscle cars and submarines that is as silly as it sounds. Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson), Letty (Michelle Rodriguez), Roman (Tyrese Gibson), Parker (Chris “Ludacris” Bridges) and Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel) must take on their former leader and brother. Along the way, the team is aided by the mysterious Mr. Nobody (Kurt Russell) and former enemy Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) as the fate of the world (?!?!?) hangs in the balance.
The plot is simply an excuse to see fast cars, big explosions and crazy stunts. Action film fans love their spectacle and there is no shortage of that in this film. This is a James Bond car chase on steroids if those steroids also injected HGH. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.
Stunts A Plenty
As with any of the Fast and Furious movies, the highlight of The Fate of the Furious is its stunts. While there are the standard car chases, there are a couple that stand out for a different reasons.
In the more traditional “Ohh explodey things!” category, there is an absurdly crazy chase on the streets of New York City. Involving hundreds of hacked cars chasing a Russian diplomat (Who has a handy minigun attached to his limo’s sun roof), you cannot help but giggle deliriously at the sequence. It is the epitome of the “Let’s add even more stuff!” mentality of blockbuster sequels, but it so fun it is hard to complain about it…I mean, cars literally rain down onto a New York City street at one point!
The other stand out scene is its opening race, but not necessarily because of its excitement. The sequence actually does a great job of establishing the kind of man Diesel’s Dom truly is. I will not spoil it, but it is a surprisingly nice bit of cinematic story telling in a franchise that loves ham handed messaging.
Dwayne Johnson’s Hobbs is an action sequence himself. He is ridiculously overpowered here, to the point where he can change the course of a torpedo with his hand. But Hobbs’ strength is played with a wink and a nod by Johnson, and his charm just makes it work. There is also cool contrast between Hobbs’ muscle bound ways and Deckard’s fast and agile approach.
Director F. Gary Gray does a good job staging all of these action sequences. There is a bit of shaky cam and slow motion, but thankfully, he allows most of the sequences to play out in plain view. People want to see those muscle cars fly through the air. Unfortunately, the final set piece is surprisingly tame in comparison to the ludicrous (Pun slightly intended) heights of the previous conclusions.
Family and Foes
The “family” that has formed over the past films of the franchise return in The Fate of the Furious, though if you are looking for deep characterizations, you will be disappointed. That said, there is not a bad performance in the film. Some are surprisingly good.
Vin Diesel is his usual gruff tough guy with a heart of gold here, creating a solid center for the film. The reasons behind his turn are revealed pretty early and actually add some emotional weight to Dom. Fear not, stupid plot twist haters…the the reason has nothing to do with hypnotism or amnesia.
The rest of the cast have their moments as well. The aforementioned Johnson continues to charm as Hobbs and has some fun moments with Jason Statham’s Deckard. It would be fun to see a spin off with those two characters. Tyrese Gibson and Chris “Ludacris” Bridges are great as the comic relief in the film. Kurt Russell’s Mr. Nobody is a fun character and he looks like he is having a ball playing him. The biggest surprise among the returning cast is Michelle Rodriguez. She has some brief, but pretty impressively acted emotional scenes in the film.
By far, the best of the new arrivals to the cast is Charlize Theron. Big name actors usually relish a chance to play the over the top heavy in the blockbuster action flicks (Helen Mirren does that with her scenes in this movie), but Theron seemingly resists the temptation. Her performance is actually very subtle and it makes her character’s increasingly ridiculous plan (More on that later) tolerable. She is a villain first and foremost and she gives us a pretty odious one worthy of our hatred. She does not chew the scenery…she slithers through it. This performance is further proof of the versatility that Theron is capable of.
Cipher’s plan is the excuse for the crazy proceedings of The Fate of the Furious, but the plan does not hold up under even cursory examination. Without spoiling it, the ever escalating stakes and revelations of Cipher’s abilities makes you wonder just how much she really needs Dom’s help. She can hack just about anything…why does she need a stunt driver?
On the other side, why does a clandestine government agency rely on a small group of former thieves? The stakes are raised to possible World War III implications and all that stands in the way are a group of wise cracking criminals led by the Rock. At some point, you would think Mr. Nobody would call in the cavalry.
The final act also takes some surprising but confusing twists that are explained poorly. It is never very clear where our heroes’ contingency plans go into effect and those plans rely on a lot of luck. This also adds to a running time that should be at least twenty minutes shorter. That said, when the plans come to fruition, it is satisfying.
Fun vs. Logic
Every summer action blockbuster requires some suspension of disbelief, but there are limits. The Fate of the Furious has a few moments where the level of ridiculousness over reaches, but it is so confident in its approach that it never quite does that. This film is disposable, much like a fast food meal, but you enjoy it so much while taking it in that the gaps in logic do not register until much later when you have really digested it. Sometimes that fleeting moment in the theater, when that blockbuster is satisfying you, is all you need.
SCORE: 7 OUT OF 10