By Jack Dignan
Back in 2001, when the original Fast and the Furious movie hit theaters, selling itself as a Point Break rip off, never would anyone have guessed that the franchise would still be going sixteen years later. And not only that, but the franchise has escalated to the point where Dwayne Johnson altering the trajectory of a fired missile with his bare hands is an acceptable and reasonable thing for this franchise to do. Plus, it’s eighth film (yes, you read that right. There are eight of these things now with three more on the way) managed to out-gross Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Jurassic World for biggest opening weekend box office worldwide. Would the creators of that original film have ever guessed this would happen? I’m going to presume that the answer to that is a resounding no.
The Fate of the Furious, a film you’ve almost certainly already seen by now (I’ve been overseas the last two weeks and have a bunch of reviews I need to catch up on), continues the never-ending story of Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel). We last caught up with Dom driving away to a Whiz Khalifa song in the tear-jerking finale of Furious 7. Presumably not too long after that, Dom and Letty (Michelle Rodriquez) are on their honeymoon (I think? But also don’t remember them ever getting married in this series?), and it’s here where a mysterious woman approaches Dom. Her name, hilariously and unfortunately, is Cipher (Charlize Theron), and using a video we never once see throughout the entirety of this movie, she coerces Dom into working for her, forcing him to turn on his family.
Her goal? I have absolutely no fucking idea. But what ensures is a 136-minute action throw down that carries with it very little resemblance of what some people like to call a ‘plot.’ The whole story revolves around something to do with a big missile hidden in the ice, and a neat scene in which a bunch of cars get hacked into for… hacking purposes, but that’s about all this film is able to offer throughout its bloated runtime. And yeah, it feels as long as it sounds. For better and for worse, Dom’s whole gang are thrown back into the middle of things, an aspect of the film that should’ve provided a larger sense of the impact his betrayal has. Alas, it doesn’t, for they’re all brought back merely to engage in flirtatious entanglements and corny one-liners.
Rarely is Dom’s betrayal able to hit the same emotional heights present in the last installment, and that is, I feel, this film’s weakest aspect. His betrayal isn’t necessarily a betrayal, more so a task he’s blackmailed into doing, and because we’re told that right from the get go, nothing ever has as much depth to it as I would’ve liked. We’re supposed to care for Dom and root for him as he… he… Well, I don’t really know what he was trying to do. Or what anyone was trying to do. Or why they had to have a car chase on ice with missiles and a submarine, but damn that was cool. I guess it goes to show the state upon which this franchise is in. The fans aren’t in it for the plot, they never have been. They’re in it for fast cars, over the top action and Dwayne Johnson’s baby oiled body, so with that in mind, The Fate of the Furious delivers in every way it can.
There’s never been an awful lot to these movies, outside of their ludicrous plotlines and overbearing messages about family. The franchise started out low, the first few films almost unbearably bad, but recent installments have managed to turn things around, replacing the drab seriousness with a 10km runway and cars driving out of planes. Boredom is something they’ve managed to stray far away from. That is until The Fate of the Furious comes along, a film that constantly teases the fun that can be had, only to rip it away moments later and bog it down with endless nothingness. When a film opens with a car racing backwards while on fire, you know you’re in for a good time, but alas, that is not the case, for every time this film’s able to deliver on its promised thrills, an endless snooze fest inevitably follows.
However, credit’s due where credit is due, and everyone seems to be giving it their all. Vin Diesel’s best roles are typically those that don’t require too much acting capabilities, but Fate of the Furious switches things up. Instead of being a mindless muscle head with a car infatuation and love for family, a lot is required of Diesel, and shockingly, he delivers. This may just be the best performance of his career, and while the screenplay feels undercooked, Diesel shines. Sharing a lot of his screen time is Theron, and it saddens me to say she’s given little to do outside of staring at a screen and yelling things. Expectedly however, it’s The Rock who comes to save the day, able to redeem almost every insufferable aspect of this movie. Every line, every punch and every scene he’s in is just pure perfection, and his chemistry with Jason Statham steals the show in the most surprising of ways.
It took a long time for me to come to terms with whether of not I enjoyed this movie. For the most part, it’s trash. It’s idiotic, two-dimensional, boring as fuck trash. But flowing up from within the trash comes greatness. Explosive, over the top, Helen Mirren-fueled greatness, but the good fails to outweigh the bad. This is far from the worst Fast and the Furious movie, but unfortunately it’s far from the last, too. I have just one piece of advice for future installments… and that is to bring back Helen Mirren. Whoever came up with the idea of getting her to say “the devil’s bum hole” deserves an endless round of applause.
2 1/2 Stars
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