Hot Take: This cash cow should have been called The Predictable and the Tedious.
As much as I am not a fan of this franchise, damn if it isn’t highly successful. Knowing the entire movie slate was cleared for the 8th installment of The Fast and the Furious franchise, I finally buckled in for a full fledged start to finish watching of my very first full taste of the franchise with The Fate of the Furious. Having seen bits and pieces of many of the other installments in the series, I knew there would be at least one spectacular chase or race scene I would enjoy. I was right. There was one. Unfortunately, it was the opening race sequence when Dom (Vin Diesel) races a Cuban street racer for his ride in Havana to come to the defense of his cousin. This is all while Dom is on his honeymoon with Letty (Michelle Rodríguez). After a somewhat entertaining race which (SPOILER ALERT!!!) Dom wins, it’s all downhill from there.
I’m sure this hits all the right notes for fans of The Fast and the Furious franchise. There’s plenty of fan service from what I know about the history of the previous movies. Souped up, shiny sports cars are plentiful even though the movie feels a little lighter on action than I’d be happy with. There’s too much time spent explaining everything and I’m someone who hasn’t seen any of the previous movies in their entirety. You get the feeling writer Chris Morgan and director F. Gary Gray aren’t confident the audience is intelligent enough to keep up.
If you’re curious about the plot and didn’t bother with the trailer which gives enough details for you to figure out 90% of what is going to unfold, in Cuba, Dom meets Cipher (Charlize Theron) who shows him something on a phone and tells him he’s coming to work for her. At the same time, Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) is given a super secret mission (one of those off the books missions where when, not if, it fails, the government will deny knowledge of the incident) and, of course, reaches out to Dom and his team. They must steal an EMP from a military outpost in Berlin. They do but Dom goes rogue, turns on Hobbs, steals the EMP and disappears. Hobbs goes to prison where he’s propositioned by Mr. Nobody (Kurt Russell) and his underling (Scott Eastwood). Hobbs refused their help and then finds out it is the same prison where Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) is being held. What feels like a few minutes later, both Hobbs and Shaw escape in superheroic fashion (Did you know The Rock is impervious to tasers and rubber bullets?) and are brought in along with the rest of Dom’s team. The team is then told they must track down Dom to clear their name and get off the Most Wanted list.
Maybe this is great stuff for those who have fell in love with the franchise. However, as a movie, The Fate of the Furious is a little dull which is deadly for an action flick. During the two biggest action sequences, I am fairly certain I dozed off and this was for a 4:20pm showtime. The only reason I’m unsure is due to the fact that I never felt like I missed anything. Plus, in case you missed something, the filmmakers make sure to go back and explain everything a few times. And lest not forget the schmaltzy message of how important family is.
It’s hard to criticize a franchise that just had the biggest global opening (Bigger than Star Wars: The Force Awakens) of all-time. Why wouldn’t they focus on fan service and exposition for the rare new viewer who might get a little lost? However, just because it works for the franchise doesn’t make it a good movie. The Fate of the Furious is not a good movie.
“Spoiler Free” Pros
- Gorgeous Globetrotting Visuals
From Havana to Berlin to New York City to Russia, the visuals sparkle. The cars are nice and shiny except on the rare occasion when they aren’t supposed to be and the action sequences are nicely shot.
- Fans of Dwayne Johnson When He Was The Rock Shall Enjoyeth What Hobbs is Laying Down!
It felt like director F. Gary Gray pulled Johnson aside and said, “Remember your in ring personae? Can we get a little bit of that here?” Johnson might also set a record for the amount of times anyone has said, “Sumbitch!” on screen. While this feels like it belongs in the cons the way it is worded, it’s actually one of the more entertaining aspects of the movie.
“Spoiler Free” Cons
- Not Enough Action But Too Much at the Same Time
As mentioned before, there’s a lot of exposition. So, between the big action sequences, there’s a lot of talking, posturing and flexing between the characters. When the movie finally gets to the scenes you’re craving, they drag themselves out for much longer than they need to be.
- If You Aren’t Part of the “Family”, You’re in Trouble
Like an uncredited member of the Star Trek Away Team, if you are not part of Dom’s team, it’s unlikely you’ll survive any car-to-car combat scene.
- Exposition and Revelations
The combination of an overly revealing trailer and exposition ad nauseam makes a mediocre sequel even more difficult to enjoy. Stereotypically, I think of action fans as someone whose intellectual tank might not be half full. These filmmakers think it’s running on empty.
- Charlize Theron
Theron has proven she’s a supreme talent. Unfortunately, The Fate of the Furious tosses her best talents in the discard pile and the actress who blew us away as Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road bores us to tears as Cipher. It’s not her fault as the filmmakers don’t seem to know how to capitalize on her talent. Hell, they don’t even put her behind the wheel at least once. Is that a spoiler? Oops!