Fate of the Furious, The (United States, 2017)

April 13, 2017
A movie review by James Berardinelli
Fate of the Furious, The Poster

What has been true for the past few Fast and Furious outings is even more true for this one: the films have devolved from street racing-centered action/crime thrillers into live action cartoons. Plot and character development are irrelevant. Acting isn’t a requirement (in fact, it could be considered a detriment). The Fate of the Furious has a less credible story than the average Scooby Doo episode, as much sentiment as one might find in a Road Runner short, and intelligent dialogue to match the animated Pink Panther. “Dumbing down” was coined for productions like this: big, splashy, testosterone-fueled monstrosities whose sole purpose is to give a studio box office bragging rights for a few weeks.

Understanding what the movie intends leads to appropriate expectations and there’s no questioning that The Fate of the Furious meets those. You know what you’re getting before you go, and you get it. As much as the first installment of the franchise may have had quasi-serious underpinnings, those have long since been jettisoned. It’s pointless complaining about what the movie doesn’t do because, for the most part, it doesn’t care about those things and the people sitting in the audience don’t either. This is a “turn the brain off” experience, intended only to offer copious amounts of repetitive action (much of it involving vehicles) while an amped-up soundtrack assaults the ears. Director F. Gary Gray should direct a video game (if he hasn’t already) – The Fate of the Furious unfolds like one.

Those who see this movie shouldn’t be overly concerned with the story, which brings back a dead character with a minimal, incoherent explanation; kills off at least one recurring, supporting figure; invites another past bad guy to join the team; and gives Helen Mirren her stated desire to appear in one of these films. Little of what happens in The Fate of the Furious makes sense but that’s not the point. The point is finding a way to get us to the scene where a group of tricked out cars, a monstrous snow plow, and a tank are being chased across a frozen section of the artic by a submarine under the control of a “ghost plane.” No, I didn’t make that up. It’s even in the trailers.

The action begins on a more sedate note with Dom (Vin Diesel) and Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) in Cuba following their wedding. After winning a street race, Dom is “recruited” by the mysterious Cipher (Charlize Theron) to work for her – and she has an offer he can’t refuse. Soon after, while on a mission with Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) and the rest of the team, Dom appears to go rogue. His betrayal stings everyone and lands Hobbs in prison, where he is reunited with old enemy Deckard (Jason Statham). Eventually, the two sides sort themselves out, with Cipher and Dom going up against everyone else, and we learn what Cipher’s trump card is – the one thing that gets Dom to betray his friends and colleagues and put the safety of the world at risk.

The vibe is a little like that of the Roger Moore Bonds – so utterly ridiculous that you either go with the flow or don’t bother going at all. The movie is self-aware and never tries to play it straight – whether it’s in the quasi-comedic banter among some of the characters or the cheekily choreographed shootout in which Statham juggles a baby bassinet and his guns. Also like the ‘70s and ‘80s 007 adventures, the running time is too long. The Fate of the Furious wears out its welcome at least a half hour before the end credits arrive. (PSA: there are no post-credits scenes and therefore no need to sit through the 2,000 names that take about seven minutes to scroll by.) One unfortunate byproduct of tension-free action is that it gets old quickly.

Although the stars of the movie are the special effects (a combination of practical and CGI) and the pyrotechnics, there are a host of human beings running around to remind us that this is supposed to be a movie not a show reel.  Vin Diesel returns for his sixth Fast and Furious outing (seventh if you count his cameo in installment #3) but he appears out-of-sorts. Maybe it’s Paul Walker’s absence but his performance is zombie-like and he navigates the film almost as if he has a hangover. Second billing goes to The Rock, whose banter with Jason Statham is one of The Fate of the Furious’ high points. As this episode’s villain, Charlize Theron does a solid job channeling Alan Rickman’s “I have a devilishly clever plan” Die Hard persona.

Even though two more Fast and Furious movies have already been ordered, this one doesn’t end with a cliffhanger (although there are a few loose ends that need tying up). So if the entire movie-going public suffers a sudden attack of good taste, there’s no reason to go back to Fast 9 to learn how things turn out. Like fast food, The Fate of the Furious offers ingredients that have an addictive taste during the consumption but have the potential to lead to post-screening indigestion and a sure-to-broken promise of “never again.”

Fate of the Furious, The (United States, 2017)

Director: F. Gary Gray
Cast: Vin Diesel, Kristofer Hivju, Nathalie Emmanuel, Ludacris, Tyrese Gibson, Scott Eastwood, Kurt Russell, Jason Statham, Michelle Rodriguez, Charlize Theron, Dwayne Johnson, Helen Mirren
Home Release Date: 2017-07-11
Screenplay: Chris Morgan
Cinematography: Stephen F. Windon
Music: Brian Tyler
U.S. Distributor: Universal Pictures
Run Time: 2:16
U.S. Release Date: 2017-04-14
MPAA Rating: "PG-13" (Violence, Profanity, Sexual Content)
Genre: Action/Thriller
Subtitles: none
Theatrical Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1