No longer driving in the Fast lane
Fate of the Furious, also going by the abbreviation F8, is the eighth installment in the Fast & Furious franchise, starring Vin Diesel, Dwayne The Rock Johnson, Jason Statham, Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese Gibson, Chris Bridges, Kurt Russell, and Charlize Theron.
I would not have been overly upset if the Furious franchise had retired after Furious 7. The tribute to Paul Walker was easily the most touching moment in a franchise that isn't exactly known for pulling your heartstrings. Plus, Walker had been the face of the franchise for oh so many years, so I would've been perfectly understanding if the filmmakers told us that there would be no more Furious films because the franchise would not be the same without Walker, and that they wanted to honor his memory by closing up shop. But you know, Furious 7 made all the money, so the street racing must go on!
Anyway, what is everyone's favorite gang of street racing criminals up to this time? Dominic Toretto and Letty Ortiz (Diesel and Rodriguez, respectively) are now happily married, and are enjoying their honeymoon down in sunny Cuba. Brian O'Connor has retired from the game. Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) is looking after his daughter and coaching her soccer team, the Red Dragons. The other teams members are who knows where. Everything seems great, until Toretto comes across cyber-terrorist, Cipher (Charlize Theron), who has the means to strong-arm Toretto into working for her and turning his back on his former team. Let's just say that what she hopes to achieve involves an EMP and some nukes. Toretto's team joins forces once again, and not only must they find a way to stop Cipher, they must also uncover the reasoning behind why Dominic decided to go rogue and serve the bad guys. Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham), who was put away in prison at the end of Furious 7, is recruited to join Toretto's team, having a beef with Cipher over past affairs.
At this point, the Furious franchise knows exactly what it is: fun, action-filled spectacles that consistently deliver us flashy speeding cars, one liners, and a female buttocks-obsession, all with shameless glee. But now that the franchise has reached its post-Paul Walker stage, you would think that the franchise is trying to turn over a new leaf. Actually, I think it turned over a new leaf after Fast Five, which is when it became clear that gone are the days of watching pure street-racing and criminals pull off heists and run from the cops. Now these former street criminals are basically responsible for global security, because the nations of the world must rely on a small group of people who really know how to drive a racing car and throw a few good punches. If this wasn't clear after Furious 6 or 7, then F8 will really drive the point home. F8 is a mixed bag, but it's a mixed bag that you can accept and go home with, feeling relatively happy.
- Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham. These two take verbal jabs at one another throughout the film, and it is hilarious. Since his time in WWE, I find Dwayne Johnson to have effective comedic taste, which I cannot say for every mainstream action star today (*cough cough* Vin Diesel *cough cough*). Jason Statham, who is not exactly a comedy goldmine, is provided insulting dialogue towards Johnson that I thought he delivered quite effectively. The two also keep mentioning how much they want to meet in a closed location and duke it out while nobody else is around. You know, because one short fist fight between the two in Furious 7 wasn't enough? The best humor in the film came from Johnson and Statham, and I appreciated the two going at it mainly because the script doesn't overdo it. No, the script overdoes it by making Tyrese Gibson once again act as over-the-top as possible, because he's supposed to be the primary comedic relief.
- When I mentioned that the Furious franchise appears to be turning over a new leaf, that's because it seems that director F. Gary Gray and the screenwriters are trying to make everything darker and raise the stakes even more. At the same time, they're trying to hold on to the humorous edge that fans have come to know and love. This all amounts to a notable problem in F8, which is that the tone is incredibly erratic. In one scene, the team is discussing how to find Dom and Cipher using the God's Eye (that super-techno device from Furious 7), and Gibson is humorously mocking Mr. Nobody's (Kurt Russell) new recruit, who is trying to help in any way he can. Shortly afterwards, Dom and Cipher attack the facility that everyone is hiding in, and they steal the God's Eye. When this is happening, we get a supposedly dramatic moment in which Letty asks Dom, "You gonna turn your back on family?" which is followed by Cipher coming over and passionately kissing Dom.
There are a lot of other dramatic scenes, most of which involve Dom bursting out and shouting with anger, a rarity for a character that is always either preaching about family or mumbling words under his breath. I appreciate the film trying to provide a more emotional edge, but when everything beforehand has always been over-the-top, wacky fun, a serious-minded dramatic component is something that almost nobody is going to buy into. Stick with the formula that's worked for so many years now.
- There is a lot of nonsensical action in the franchise, but wow, does it reach a new low in this one. For the most part, the car chases, fist fights, and explosions are once again the eye-candy that we've come to know and love, but once too many, the action sequences have moments that are not acceptable by the franchise's own ludicrous standards. During a scene in New York, Cipher is able to hack into thousands of driver-less cars, and use them to hunt down a car containing nuclear codes that she wants. For starters, it seems that everyone in New York drives a nice-looking sports car. Also, Cipher just happens to have a computer program that is able to maneuver the thousands of said-cars with little to no trouble (okay, so she's intentionally making them crash, but so what?). I guess she was lucky that everyone in New York not only drives a fancy-looking car, but that they are all designed in a similar, advanced enough way for her to take control of all of them. Makes perfect sense, right?
It also amazes me how Dom's team, who always go about their business in regular street clothes, can get shot at and get involved in violent car wrecks without suffering any broken bones or significant injuries. Maybe they're all secretly ancestors of The Black Knight from Monty Python and the Holy Grail, because a flesh wound is probably no biggie to any of them.
I have no reason to deny that the Fate of the Furious will not be able to make bank, because it does succeed in delivering the treats that everyone has come to expect. Unfortunately, the uneven tone and sheer ridiculousness of some of its action may be early signs that this franchise's days are numbered. You can go into the film just wanting to turn your brain off for 2 hours, and no one will judge you wrong. After all, this franchise isn't built on making us smarter.
Recommend? I'd go check it out if you're a big fan of the franchise. If not, I wouldn't bother.
Here you'll find my reviews on just about any film you may have seen. I try to avoid major spoilers as much as possible. I structure my reviews in the following way: