Starring: Vin Diesel, Dwayne Johnson, Jason Statham, Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese Gibson, Chris “Ludacris” Bridges, Charlize Theron, Kurt Russell, Nathalie Emmanuel, Luke Evans, Elsa Pataky, Kristofer Hijvu, Scott Eastwood, Patrick St. Esprit, Janmarco Santiago, Luke Hawx. Tego Calderon, Don Omar.
Director: F. Gary Gray
Rating: PG-13 (for prolonged sequences of violence and destruction, suggestive content, and language.)
Running Time: 136 Minutes
Release Date: April 14, 2017
One Race Films, Original Film, and Universal Pictures.
Written by: Chris Morgan, based on characters created by Gary Scott Thompson.
With zero you-know-what’s to give, this eighth entry in the declining Fast and the Furious franchise, The Fate of the Furious, is little more than cinematic WWE. We’ve got a heel turn, a babyface turn, backstabbing of friends, twists and surprises for the sake of twists and surprises, and Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson executing a double-knee gutbuster on someone. (If you smell…what the Rock…is cooking…).
On the one hand, all of this is kind of awesome from a spectacle standpoint. On the other hand, this whole Furious thing is starting to feel like a gear is slipping, the carburetor is starting to fail, and the ideas are lacking. Maybe screenwriter Chris Morgan could bring in Vince McMahon to co-author the next installment?
In all seriousness, reviewing this film is pointless, because The Fate of the Furious will have probably grossed half a billion dollars by the time Friday night rolls around. These films make copious, outrageous amounts of money, and essentially director F. Gary Gray and screenwriter Chris Morgan are just playing with toys in a sandbox, making all of this stuff up as they go along.
The hook this time around is that a cyberterrorist known as Cipher (Charlize Theron) has convinced Dom (Vin Diesel) to go rogue and betray his “family” of race-car enthusiasts, hacktivists, and crimefighters, including new wife Letty (Michelle Rodriguez). We open in Havana, Cuba, where Dom and Letty are on their honeymoon and Dom stumbles on to Cipher’s path. Shown something on a cell phone, Dom suddenly agrees to turn on his team, take possession of an EMP generator, and complete step one in Cipher’s nefarious plot to secure a “nuclear football” from the Russians and force the world to acquiesce to her demands as she possesses the launch codes to nukes on a Siberian submarine.
Johnson plays Luke Hobbs, as you undoubtedly recall, a double agent sprung from jail this go ’round by a man known as Mr. Nobody (Kurt Russell). Nobody and a bumbling rookie colleague (Scott Eastwood) recruit Hobbs to defeat Cipher, bring down Dom, and save all mankind. Somehow Nobody convinces Dom’s team to work for him (sure, I’ll allow it…) and we are off.
Letty is heartbroken, Tej (Chris “Ludacris” Bridges) and Roman (Tyrese Gibson) are bickering and vying for the affections of computer hacker Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel), and everyone mocks the rookie, dubbing him Little Nobody.
Despite the fact that Dom’s turn was essentially used in Fast & The Furious 6, when Letty had taken up ranks with British bad guy Owen Shaw (Luke Evans), and that Mr. Nobody recruits former villain Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) to the effort, a man who killed a member of Dom’s “family”, everyone bands together to…
Well, wait. I’m not quite sure what the actual goal is. I mean, yes, they need to stop Cipher and end the threat of a nuclear World War III from breaking out. But are they killing Dom? Bringing him in? Trying to persuade him to turn good again? The movie never really commits.
The plot is essentially: “Dom now bad. We still good. Now hold my beer while I do something ridiculous.”
You know what? Let’s drop the empty-headed Morgan script and focus on the action. After all, that’s what sells tickets and puts butts in seats, right? On that front, Gray and Morgan have simply outdone themselves here, as each action sequence is more absurd than its predecessor and wildly entertaining.
One sequence takes place in Havana involving a broken down jalopy, a soda can pop top as a catalyst for a nitrous booster and a drag race going backwards and forwards. There’s the Siberian race across the ice. We also have a rather riveting set piece where Cipher and her team hack into IoT-ready smartcars, creating a zombie-like fleet of remotely controlled vehicles, hurtling at breakneck speed from ground and sky, as cars hurtle themselves out of a multi-floor parking garage down to the busy New York City streets below.
Yep. This movie is insane.
And while those sequences may have you checking your Fandango app to see when Fast 9 tickets go on sale, everything that fits in around those moments is rather pointless. At 136 minutes, action sequences only can do so much and there just is not much substance here whatsoever.
A subplot involving Dom’s past, not spoiled here, seemingly exists to try and make us sympathize with a plight that can only occur in a movie where we are dealing with Russians, nuclear codes, people turning bad, people turning good, incoherent dialogue, and senseless melodrama that lacks logic and common sense.
But as we still rejoice in the grandeur of all of this, let’s be honest – we are now eight movies deep with all of this. Diesel and Johnson reportedly hate each other so much that they never actually appear on screen together and couldn’t even show up to the premiere at the same time. About an hour in, we realize that Morgan, writing his sixth consecutive Furious movie, is regurgitating ideas, and Diesel, as Producer, is squarely focused on making this really all about Dom.
So, is there enough nitrous left in the tank for two…more…movies?
What is apparent here is that the tread is showing on the tires, the dents are more pronounced and the paint is chipping off under close inspection. Maybe for Fast and the Furious 9 (and please oh please call it “Fine”), we just get a 45-minute barrage of action sequences, Diesel mugging for the camera, and no actual story. Because honestly, that’s kind of where The Fate of the Furious has already taken us.
SHOULD I SEE IT?
- Let’s be honest…you already purchased your tickets.
- The action sequences are remarkable. No one can deny that. The sheer inventiveness on display in those moments should be celebrated.
- The first 30-40 minutes are some of the most entertaining in the franchise. Diesel won’t want to hear this, but Dwayne Johnson steals the first half, especially in his interactions with Jason Statham.
- We are back on the decline. In fact, these are barely movies anymore; rather, they are just action movies following the porn formula of meaningless dialogue as a means to simply get to the action.
- Man oh man does Vin Diesel love himself some Dominic Toretto.
- I get why people love these movies and I know people are going to point to the action sequences and think this movie is the greatest movie ever made. There’s like 40 minutes of action sequences here and the rest is nukes and Russians and cyber hacking and megalomaniacal villains and…I mean…this should really be better, right? Wait, that’s enough? You just want to break stuff. Oh, okay then…five stars!