The Fate of the Furious

Release: Friday, April 14, 2017

[Theater]

Written by: Chris Morgan

Directed by: F. Gary Gray

Sometimes I find myself asking how we have managed to get to the point where women and children are being threatened by cyber terrorists in a franchise built around car racing. I find myself wondering if things have gotten a little too out-of-hand. Of course, with each passing installment it has become increasingly clear this isn’t car porn anymore. Sadly, the narrative can no longer concern itself with the thawing of a once bitter rivalry between a street racer and an undercover cop either.

Out of necessity The Fast and the Furious have had to evolve, and though they have definitely become less furious they haven’t become any less fun to watch as each new chapter has placed them in some situation more ridiculously physics-defying than the last. And The Fate of the Furious is absolutely the most far-fetched demonstration of their newfound collective purpose yet. I suppose how we have arrived here isn’t that much of a mystery. They say formulaic writing can only get you so far, but it actually has netted Universal at least eight films and well over $5 billion.

The — let’s call it natural, even though that’s stretching the term — evolution of the family and Dom Toretto in particular finds us wading into legitimately dramatic territory in The Fate of the Furious. F. Gary Gray’s first time behind the wheel steers the story in an altogether more somber direction, pitting the star with a type of gasoline as a last name against his loyal compadres after being manipulated by cunning cyber terrorist Cipher, played with true menace by Charlize Theron.

For better and for worse, Chris Morgan’s screenplay remains as knowingly outrageous (and clunky) as those he has penned before. That this ragtag bunch of car enthusiasts could be the difference between World War III happening or not happening is pushing it, even for this franchise. Though Dom’s relatively unique trajectory is going to generate most of the post-viewing discussion, the specifics of the plot are as reliant as ever upon his crew’s mutually beneficial relationship with Kurt Russell‘s government agent Mr. Nobody. (And on that note, can someone please enlighten me as to why we needed Scott Eastwood’s Little Nobody? Also: how someone born of Eastwood blood can be so bad at acting.)

Fate succeeds in cementing its familial themes by way of finding redemption for characters hitherto on the periphery. In the wake of Dom’s theft of an EMP device at the behest of Cipher, Special Agent Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) finds himself having to set aside past differences with Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) as they work to take down a common enemy. After what happened to his brother, Deckard is eager to settle the score, even if that means working alongside a team who had once pooled their resources into eliminating him.

Gray’s film finds plenty of surprises along the way, like Dame Helen Mirren making a brief appearance as matriarch Magdalene Shaw, clad in leather jacket and brass knuckles (well, those are more or less implied). The character may be more plot device than person but Mirren’s quietly simmering intensity doesn’t allow her to be quite as dispensable as the script would like her to be. There’s also something vaguely amusing about seeing an actor of her stature in a film like this. (Ditto that the first time Kurt Russell appeared.)

With the integration of more Shaw’s into the narrative, you can think of Fate as one big, bullet-riddled family reunion. With nuclear submarines and Game of Thrones-sized enemies thrown in for good measure. Given the situation, you would think forgiveness would be a particularly high virtue to which these characters aspire, especially in a movie where the bonds of family are being “tested as never before.” It’s disappointing that that aspect is more convincingly framed through Hobbs’ and Deckard’s banter than it is through the evolution of Dom and Letty’s relationship.

While it’s heartwarming to see former enemies arrive at a place of mutual respect — after all, maturity is one of those tenets this multi-billion-dollar franchise has been built on — the lack of weight attached to the final, obligatorily dinner-table-set scene proves a major step backward for a film that otherwise was able to convince me that this was indeed the most serious situation our exonerated heroes have yet faced.

Recommendation: The Fate of the Furious offers more of the same. A lot more. Two-plus-hours more. In the absence of Paul Walker, it’s a testament to the comfort we have with the others that not much feels “different,” although certainly his absence is noted. Fate succeeds far more in elevating the action stakes than the emotional ones. 

Rated: PG-13

Running Time: 136 mins.

Quoted: “. . .it’s neon orange. The International Space Station will see it coming.”

All content originally published and the reproduction elsewhere without the expressed written consent of the blog owner is prohibited.

Photo credits: http://www.impawards.com; http://www.imdb.com 

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15 thoughts on “The Fate of the Furious

    • Ooh yes, and you’ll have to find a few hours to set aside! Eight movies to catch up with! Frikkin’ eight!!!

  1. Pingback: Month in Review: April ’17 | Thomas J

  2. 2017 has been a difficult year for movies so far. There has been very little that I feel the need to recommend. This is actually (by default) one of the more enjoyable films. I liked it, but it’s a step down from episodes 5-7.

  3. And one of my absolute favourite franchises returns. Oh yes! There will come a point when these films will feature more actors than an Altman flick, but until that point we have the Diesel, the Rock *and* the Stath to enjoy! What more do you want!!

    • Well, what I’d want is less drama behind the scenes. This whole Vin Diesel/The Rock b/s is getting a little stale! Talk of a spin-off film with The Rock but NOT the Diesel, but The Stath, as you say 😉 , which is just . . . like . . . why.

  4. I really can’t comment- I haven’t seen a single one of these films. Utterly mystifies me. Fast cars, explosions, 8 films of it. Its like something from some other planet. Might be an astonishing boxset one day.

    • I don’t know if it’s worth looking for the logic in these sorts of films. Pure popcorn entertainment. I wouldn’t say at its finest, either, but there’s a lot of appeal in the cast and the formula they’ve found circa Fast Five.

  5. After a 2nd watch yesterday, three things stand out:

    1. Dom wearing that black supervillian suit and throwing up the shield to stop bullets (for some odd reason that moment really stood out to me that this franchise is no longer the small-ish franchise concerned with street racing, or even the in retrospect scaled back plots of Fast & Furious 2009 and Fast Five, despite the trajectory being changed for a while now)
    2. Hobbs and Deckard. As much as these films have gotten out of the natural chemistry the Dom crews has, Brian/Walker was glue. Things don’t feel the same. It would never happen (I think Diesel’s ego is too big), but how about making Fast 9 the Johnson/Statham show? These two are the real stars of the franchise now.
    3. The end dinner scene. I was irked by it at the end during the first watch, and I think I hate it more now. I guess I can “stomach” it (you make a good point about forgiveness, and I suppose the script gives enough to show that people were just pawns in a bigger game), but there’s something that irks me about everyone more or less being hunky-dorey after the end events of Furious 7.

    I’m usually geeked to buy the next installment on Blu Ray cause I want to watch them again in my home, but, buying F8 would only be to complete the collection. Don’t think I care to see again.

    • I can understand your frustration with it. The ending scene really didn’t do anything for me at all. It was totally, 100% predictable they’d name the baby Brian.

      But Fast 8 doesn’t really do much different than movies of the past. The only thing that has “changed” is Dom’s relationship with the crew, and that was largely my issue with it. That aspect was being so played up in the marketing, and so that’s how I found the ending/final shot so underwhelming. There was a massive failure to attach the same emotional weight to Dom’s betrayal as there was clearly in watching Hobbs and Deckard get over their personal differences. One felt like it had closure to it the other just didn’t at all.

      • I’m not mad they named the baby Brian (though to be a little more touching, they could have named it Paul, however that would have required a massive 4th wall break without some deft writing). That was very predictable. But the other dinner scenes in the franchise felt way more natural, and this one, doesn’t. I never thought I’d care so much for a F&F movie ending, ha, but this one was just felt very odd and unearned.

        You’re ultimately right. I do think that this is more of the same overall, only difference is the stumbles in writing which bring it down. Not saying the others were written impeccably, just less messiness. Whatever, this still has enough of a fun aspect to it. I’m done talking about this LOL, it’s good enough.

        • I think we’re in agreement. The series is getting to a point where it’s begging to be evaluated as something more than it perhaps is. There’s legitimate drama surfacing in recent installments and that always causes red flags because the writing, by and large, hasn’t been a strong point for the franchise.So the deeper we wade into this world the more questions are going to be raised, unfair or not.

    • Fortunately these movies still are highly aware of how ludicrous (Ludacris?) they are. If it weren’t for that aspect, I’d say these movies would be downright unwatchable. F&F 8 is very much more of the same. It succeeds in that regard.

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