Review - The Fate of the Furious
The first movie that came to my mind as I walked out of The Fate of the Furious was Die Another Day. You might remember that film as the final James Bond film starring Pierce Brosnan. That movie was filled to the brim with so many ridiculous stunts and "jump-the-shark" moments that I could never take it seriously. There's a key difference between that terrible film and The Fate of the Furious, though. Unlike 007, The Fast and the Furious franchise has never aspired to be anything more than dumb fun, and if dumb fun is all that you're looking for, The Fate of the Furious is very dumb, and pretty fun.
The Fate of the Furious sees longtime team leader, Dominic Torretto (Vin Diesel) switching sides to work with Cipher, a cyber terrorist who is hell-bent on controlling the world through nuclear fear. The remaining members of the team must side with one of their enemies, Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham), to take down Cipher and Dom, and get to the bottom of why Dom has so abruptly turned coat.
For me, this is about as good as an eighth entry in a car-centric action franchise has any right to be, and in the end, I do think people should see it. However, this recommendation comes with caveats and asterisks..a ton of them. First off, you can sort of follow along with what is happening in the story, but I recommend going in with some prior knowledge of the franchise. You should probably at least have seen entries five through seven to know who everyone is and why they keep mentioning "family" like the word is going out of style. Secondly, you should go in knowing that what your about to see could potentially eradicate brain-cells. This movie is somehow even more implausible than Furious 7, and that film had a supercar jumping from skyscraper to skyscraper. Finally, be prepared for some very cheesy dialogue that somehow works within the confines of the film.
F. Gary Gray is in the directors chair for this one, taking over directing duties from James Wan. Gray does a decent job of picking up the torch and running with it, though I don't think Fate reaches the madcap heights of Furious 7. I mean, it's kind of hard to top a sequence where cars are dropped from planes onto a mountain-side road that immediately erupts into bombastic car chase. He does his best, though, and there are certainly some memorable set-pieces to witness in Fate; one involving a Russian submarine and another a zombie-car sequence in the streets of New York. There are also some pretty great hand-to-hand scraps, particularly a prison break sequence involving The Rock and Jason Statham.
The film begins to falter a bit with its cast. I actually really like the characters and the team dynamic in these movies, but I in Fate of the Furious, not too many of them get meaningful characters arcs. I would say Vin Diesel actually has a pretty interesting story here and the twist as to why he is bad isn't believable, but it's still engaging. I also think the absence of Paul Walker is definitely felt here. I never thought he contributed all that much to the films, but now that he's gone I realize just how much of the heart of the franchise that he was. That is not to say that Fate has no heart, it certainly still has an emotional core, it's just not as emphasized here.
The only other notable characters for me are of course Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson and Jason Statham. These two are forced to team up and the rapport between them is pretty great. They also get the lions-share of quotable one-liners. Also worth noting is Charlize Theron as the villain, Cipher. I wasn't convinced by her performance at first and felt that she was phoning it in a bit, but she gets better and as the film went on her character commits some pretty despicable acts that firmly established her as a formidable villain worth despising.
It should also be noted that this film's plot barely holds together and it is almost hilarious to try and follow along with it. There are times where it works in the film's favor, but there are also times where things happens that make literally no sense at all, and that kind of bothered me. Fortunately, the film fully embraces its absurdity, but there are still some moments that are less absurd and more just lazily written.
In the end, The Fate of the Furious is a journey worth experiencing, so long as you know exactly what you're getting yourself into. The action is insane, the characters are ridiculous and the plot is absolutely mad, but it all somehow works, if only just barely this time.