When the Fast and the Furious film franchise began, audiences were guaranteed to see incredible action sequences featuring fast cars and heart-pounding stunts. With each successive sequel, the ante has been upped to a point where to top what’s come before, The Fate of the Furious had to throw in stolen nuclear weapons and Charlize Theron as a gorgeous outlaw hacker named Cipher who takes over control of cars via a few keystrokes and turns them into a remote-controlled army. Cipher also remotely takes command of a submarine that winds up chasing down our F&F heroes over miles of ice, with the submarine chase sequence easily topping the ludicrousness of all past Fast and the Furious action sequences.
The box office success of the franchise has very little to do with the actual plots of each of the films. With this eighth film of the series it appears any attempts at pulling together a coherent plot were tossed aside for one of the most bizarre and mind-numbingly dumb twists of the whole franchise. Has coming up with the twists and turns for an F&F film come down to darts thrown at random ideas? It certainly feels that way once the audience learns why Vin Diesel’s Dom Toretto, who has spent the franchise pounding home loyalty and love for family, turns his back on his family in the blink of an eye without any hesitation. Family is the heart and soul of the F&F films and when Dom does something so antithetical to what his character stands for, there has to be a compelling (and convincing) reason behind his leap to the dark side. It’s possible to forgive nearly any absurd twist in a big, dumb action movie, but The Fate of the Furious screenwriter Chris Morgan’s work was met with derisive laughs at the pre-release screening when the reason behind the Dom-turns-traitor twist was revealed.
The Fate of the Furious never addresses the key question of why the government would turn to a bunch of car enthusiasts to save the world from a nuclear weapon. (You’d think there would be much more qualified people with particular sets of skills available for that job.) The Fast and the Furious franchise has strayed so far from the armrest-gripping, edge-of-your-seat fun of watching a team of drivers negotiate the streets at top speeds that we’ve come to a point where, with this eighth film, the fun is largely drained as the stunts have gotten bigger but not better. F&F fans will likely gobble it all up, but they’re not getting the quality product they deserve after all these years of dedication to the series.
Hopes for a worthy F&F villain were high once Charlize Theron signed on, however the Oscar winner was given nothing to do other than look menacing, flirt, and pound a keyboard. Theron doesn’t add anything interesting to the character and the performance is surprisingly dull and lifeless.
Amid the crazy stunts and ridiculous plotline involving Dom’s lightning-fast 180 turn to villainy, The Fate of the Furious does squeeze in a few entertaining moments reminiscent of the earlier films of the franchise. Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham deserve their own spin-off, and the fight scene on a plane involving Statham protecting a character who won’t be named here is easily the film’s funniest sequence. In fact, The Fate of the Furious is really at its best when it shifts the focus off Vin Diesel and Charlize Theron and places it on the core of the F&F team: Chris ‘Ludacris’ Bridges, Tyrese Gibson, Michelle Rodriguez, Dwayne Johnson, and Nathalie Emmanuel.
Furious 7 would have been a fitting send-off to not only Paul Walker but the Fast and the Furious series. The franchise has simply run out of gas (and original ideas) and The Fate of the Furious is one of the weakest offerings of the series.
Directed By: F Gary Gray
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for prolonged sequences of violence and destruction, suggestive content, and language
Release Date: April 14, 2017
Running Time: 137 minutes