The Fate of the Furious (2017) / Action-Thriller

MPAA Rated: PG-13 for prolonged sequences of violence and destruction, suggestive content, and language
Running Time: 136 min.

Cast: Vin Diesel, Dwayne Johnson, Michelle Rodriguez, Charlize Theron, Jason Statham, Kurt Russell, Scott Eastwood, Tyrese Gibson, Chris 'Ludacris' Bridges, Kristofer Hivju, Nathalie Emmanuel, Elsa Pataky, Luke Evans
Director: F. Gary Gray
Screenplay: Chris Morgan
Review published April 17, 2017

As the Fast and Furious movies have continued, they've gotten progressively bigger, better in some cases, but also a whole lot sillier as well.  The Fate of the Furious, the eighth film in the lucrative franchise, is perhaps the most absurd of them all thus far.  Without the touching goodbye to franchise favorite Paul Walker to add extra dimension and weight to a series that had been sorely lacking in that area, the makers of F8 double down on the CG-infused set pieces, figuring that if they can't warm our hearts with tearful goodbyes, they can at least numb our minds with jacked-up and explosive demolition derbies.

In this entry, we open with Dominic Toretto (Diesel, Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk) on honeymoon with his beloved Letty (Rodriguez, Machete Kills) in Havana, Cuba, where, of course, he gets into a bit of racing for pink slips on the never-too-crowded city streets. Dom finds his stay not entirely blissful when he is confronted and blackmailed by a strange woman called Cipher (Theron, Kubo and the Two Strings), who reveals herself to have something on him so powerful that would make him turn away from all he holds dear -- his newfangled family of car jocks -- in order to go rogue and perform a top secret mission for the cyber-terrorism organization she heads.  Now it's up to the rest of Dom's crew to figure out what's making their buddy turn bad guy, joining forces with government goon Mr. Nobody (Russell, Deepwater Horizon) and his by-the-book assistant (Eastwood, Suicide Squad) to throw a wrench in Cipher's plans to upend the world order she's threatening thanks to Dominic's success at the nefarious missions she gives him.

No one goes into a Fast & Furious film for the plot, because if they do, they will be shocked at the amount of liberties taken in terms of physics, plausibility and erroneous understanding of how government agencies around the world work.  F. Gary Gray (Straight Outta Compton) takes over the directorial duties from one-and-done Furious 7 director James Wan and he fits right in with the aesthetic and vibe we've come to know and expect from the series, even bringing along one of the stars of his own attempt to start a car-dominated franchise with The Italian Job, Charlize Theron, whose character concocts a scheme to gain power rare to find outside of a madman in a James Bond flick.

No one really watches these films for their acting performance either, but that doesn't stop them from casting respectable actors like Theron and an uncredited Helen Mirren (Trumbo), then proceeding to give them roles that anyone with screen presence and similar name recognition could do.  In this way, the Fast & Furious films really have become not much different than superhero franchises which seek to do the same by continuing to build their ensemble of likeable actors with various skills trying to save the world from destruction from maniacal baddies seeking ultimate power.  The biggest difference here is that there's virtually no sense of remorse for the countless amounts of nameless and faceless cops and innocent bystanders that they may maim, kill, or severely jeopardize the lives of along the way of fulfilling their mission.  A prison break sequence likely results in the deaths of several cops, but pales to the amounts murdered through a wrecking-ball trap the crew unleashes in another crazy sequence.

The film clocks in at a very lengthy (for such a thinly plotted endeavor) 136 minutes, but it's unlikely that series fanatics will mind, given that they're tuning in for massive set pieces involving all manner of fast-moving vehicular destruction.  Logical sense be damned (the intro sequence features a car that drives faster in reverse than forward), even though self-driving cars are not much out in the real world as of yet, that doesn't stop the film from using the idea anyway, when Cipher orders all within a certain area to be hacked and used as zombies to chase and destroy our heroes, even "making them rain" down from New York City parking garages that seem to have put up no safety impediments other than glass windows to keep cars from potentially killing careless drivers and their passengers.  The climax of the film has the chutzpah to have drivers speeding over icy tundra, which is preposterous enough without also adding the insane idea of having them try to take out a nuclear submarine.

The Fate of the Furious is very much in keeping with the meathead formula of the series, which means that regulars will leave satisfied, but those hoping that newcomer F. Gary Gray might explore areas we've not seen before will be sorely disappointed in the missed opportunity, though, to be fair, he is saddled with perhaps the worst script out of any of the F&F films to date.  Yet, even substandard elements are necessary to avoid scrutiny for those just looking for lots of cartoonish action sequences, eye-candy destruction, and a few low-grade yuks. As such, it's a critic-proof franchise that is about as hard to destroy with negative reviews as any muscle car speeding down a city street with Dominic Torreto behind the wheel.

Qwipster's rating:

2017 Vince Leo