THE FATE OF THE FURIOUS
By Nathan Evans
Often in my reviews you'll find complaints about plot holes in films. Somewhere along the line 'The Fast and the Furious' franchise found a way to circumvent these complaints. It turns out that you can't complain about plot holes when there is no plot at all. The latest addition, the 8th installment of the franchise, 'The Fate of the Furious', has utilized this concept to produce a film that, not only makes no damn sense in its own right, but makes no damn sense in relation to the films that came before it in the series. And you know what-- I loved every ridiculous, hilarious moment of it.
Vin Diesel and most of the cast of the recent installments of the franchise return this time around. I believe the film takes place not long after the events of ‘Furious 7’ (I say believe because as a casual fan there’s no way for me to be sure. For a brain dead film series, the plot that is there is surprisingly impenetrable). It finds Diesel’s Dominic Toretto on a honeymoon with his love interest from the original film, Letty (Michelle Rodriguez, who, following the events of the last film, is no longer an amnesiac mercenary). Following a deadly car race that happens because of reasons, Dom is approached by a mysterious female known only as Cipher (Charlize Theron) who persuades him to abandon the team of outlaws he’s worked with for the past seven films to work for her.
Cipher’s request comes just in time, as she’s after an EMP generator Dwayne Johnson’s Hobbs is after as well. As the head officer of a mysterious federal organization (which one I couldn’t tell you) Hobbs naturally turns to Dom and his team to help him recover it. Dom seizes his opportunity and steals the generator out from under the ones he’s (repeatedly) called family. From there it’s a chase as Dom’s team, led by Hobbs and Letty, attempt to get to the bottom of Dom’s betrayal and stop Cipher’s ultimate plan (I’m not going to ruin it here. I’m not sure I understand it myself anyway).
'Straight Outta Compton' director F. Gary Gray takes the helm this time around. Despite having a problematic filmic background (his remake of 'The Italian Job' being entirely forgettable and 'Law Abiding Citizen' being outright awful), he fits in the director's chair quite nicely following the departure of the director of the last installment, ‘Saw’s’ James Wan. Though his camera isn’t quite as athletic or stylistic as Wan’s, it’s clear that Gray knows how to shoot action. He does nothing revolutionary, but his method never feels lazy or uninspired. At no point does he fall back on the tried and true shaky cam technique we’ve come to expect from every c-list action director, nor does he drain his film of all life and color in favor of the wan, grey green filter every creatively bankrupt auteur falls back on when they’re stretching for some semblance of depth (*cough* Zack Snyder *cough*). Gray allows us to see what’s happening onscreen, establishing where our characters are in relation to each other even as they’re racing at ludicrous speed and executing aerial stunts.
The stunts in question are impressive. Part of the ‘Furious’ formula is that if we’re going to go along with the convoluted, nonsensical plot, it’s going to have to be padded out with real people performing impossible stunts. ‘The Fate of the Furious’ doesn’t disappoint in this regard either. Sure the film doesn’t shy away from a CGI assist here and there, but, much like ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’ before it, it relies on actual stunt work for the most part. An extended scene that takes place during a prison riot stands out particularly well.
Surprisingly, action isn’t the only thing the film has to offer. Though the performers that round out the cast aren’t particularly, um… gifted, there’s no denying that they aren’t fun to watch. Diesel owns the role of Dominic Toretto. While the actor’s attempts to realize his ancillary character in the ‘xXx’ films fall flat, he fits Toretto like a glove; constantly speaking in a low rasp when he isn’t exploding in fits of violent rage.
The supporting cast that surrounds him are a lot of fun too. Johnson’s Hobbs steals the show in every scene he’s in, and he strikes a hilarious chemistry with villain turned anti-hero Deckard Shaw; the hospital bombing terrorist from the last film portrayed by the always self-aware Jason Statham. Though I can’t stand him in almost every other aspect of his media presence, I’d be lying if I said that Tyrese Gibson’s wisecracking character Roman wasn’t eminently watchable every time he’s onscreen as well.
In fact, newcomer to the franchise, Scott Eastwood, is the only member of the cast that falls flat. While he doesn’t do anything particularly egregious, he’s never entertaining enough to justify the amount of screen time he’s allotted within the film. Luckily, Theron is there to pick up the slack. It goes without saying that her role doesn’t exactly require the depths of her considerable talent, but she brings them to the table anyway, crafting a truly despicable villain. Maybe even a little too despicable, as her character provides the film with one of its only incongruous moments: a lurid bit involving the endangerment of a child that doesn’t exactly mesh with the campy tone of the rest of the film.
In spite of one off moment, ’The Fate of the Furious’ is yet another entry in a franchise that has no business running as long as it has, yet shouldn’t stop anytime soon. It’s mindless entertainment, executed at the highest degree, that knows exactly what it is. The series’ constant reminder of the importance of family, and the subsequent nods to the series’ fallen cast member, Paul Walker, provide a surprising amount of heart for a blockbuster studio release. It’s a film series that knows exactly what it is and is intent on topping itself with each entry. So far they’ve been successful. Personally, I hope they go on for another eight installments (as long as one of them takes place in space).
RATING: 4.5 OUT OF 5
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