The Fate of the Furious (2017)
Directed by: F. Gary Gray
Premise: The eighth film in the Fast and the Furious series. A terrorist (Charlize Theron) blackmails Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) into betraying his friends and family and assisting her in a plot to seize nuclear weapons.
What Works: Moviegoers buy tickets for Fast and the Furious movies to see outrageous action set pieces and the eighth installment has its share. Most of the chases and shootouts are on par with anything else in the franchise and the film provides the kinetic thrills that fans of this series enjoy. During the production of Furious 7 actor Paul Walker, who had been one of the key actors, was killed. The 2015 movie retired the character and the series successfully goes on without him. The Fate of the Furious is dominated by the performances of Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham. Both actors show a willingness to poke fun at themselves and their public image the way Johnson did in Moana and Statham did in Spy. Their charisma and over the top machismo inject the movie with a self-aware sense of fun.
What Doesn’t: With The Fate of the Furious, the series reaches a crisis point in its evolution. The first few Fast and the Furious movies were street films about a group of outlaws and the code of honor that held them together. With Fast Five, the series began to tilt toward blockbuster entertainment; each subsequent installment took the characters around the globe in increasingly extravagant adventures. The latest sequel no longer resembles the 2001 film or even the later installments. The Fate of the Furious completes the series transformation into a James Bond knockoff. It resembles the 007 series in a number of ways, not the least of which being the heavy played by Charlize Theron. But the Bond comparison goes further; The Fate of the Furious is this series’ equivalent of Moonraker, the 007 movie that sent James Bond into space, and it fouls up the key appeals of this franchise. Two qualities distinguished the Fast and the Furious series. The first was the automotive action. The eighth installment doesn’t really have that. There is a requisite car chase in the opening but the gearhead appeals are gone and replaced by blockbuster set pieces that are so over the top that they lose any credibility. The other major appeal of the Fast and the Furious was its core cast and the familial bond between these people. The very premise of The Fate of the Furious cuts against the themes of family allegiance that held the series together. Just as critically, this movie fails its core cast. The Fate of the Furious doesn’t do anything with these people and the banter between them is a weak reiteration of the same old beats. The overwhelming number of returning characters results in a cluttered cast and most of them are overshadowed by Johnson and Statham who are better and more interesting actors. The Fate of the Furious also sabotages itself by its utter refusal to make any sense. There’s some obvious questions that are never answered like who is paying for Charlize Theron to fly her airplane all over the world and where she gets her endless supply of henchmen. But even chalking those issues up to action movie contrivances, there’s a lot in The Fate of the Furious that violates the internal logic of the story world. The film arbitrarily revises the history of the series and brings back characters who had disappeared or were presumed dead. This is most obvious in the way Dekkard (Jason Statham), who spent all of the last movie trying to kill Dominic and his crew, is now a part of the team. The disregard for continuity is reminiscent of soap opera writing and The Fate of the Furious comes across as a desperate attempt to manufacture surprises in a series that is creatively bankrupt.
Bottom Line: With The Fate of the Furious this series finally arrives at unintentional self-parody. The eighth installment is a bloated corporate product that’s no longer germane to the original idea.
Episode: #644 (April 23, 2017)