No F8 but what we M8. Wait, that doesn't work...
Has any film series switched genres as much as The Fast and the Furious? Over the course of 16 years, this seemingly unstoppable behemoth has morphed from a Point Break wannabe to a heist film to an international espionage caper--all the while growing its audience to become one of the biggest ongoing franchises in cinema. Imagine if Harry Potter and his Hogwarts pals went from preteen wizards to street-racing rebels before switching to battling aliens with steampunk technology. It's an evolution that's hard to imagine.
But The Fast and the Furious films work precisely because of how much they change. Its velocity--both the speed of genre swapping and the amount of boom and shock each subsequent film delivers--works in its favor. Who has time to think when Vin Diesel propels himself 200 feet in the air to save Michelle Rodriguez from a crashing tank, or when Dwayne Johnson just flexes his outrageously huge biceps to break a cast? Certainly not me.
There will come a time when inertia won't be enough for audiences, but this latest Fast movie isn't it. The Fate of the Furious is the eighth film in the series, and I imagine it took quite a lot of restraint from the makers of this film to not spell that title "F8 of the Furious." Fate, like the last few installments, is an exercise in ever-increasing momentum. Each action sequence in this film is louder, more explosive, and more ridiculous than the one that preceded it. It starts off, curiously enough, with a callback to the origins of the franchise: a street race. But by the end of that opening sequence, Vin Diesel's Dominic Toretto is driving backward through the streets of Havana while his car is engulfed in flames. Restraint isn't a hallmark of the series at this point.
And neither, really, is logic. As the set pieces get bigger in The Fate of the Furious, the mental gymnastics required to tie in character and plot with action become increasingly strained. Why, exactly, does the film's big bad Cipher (played by Charlize Theron) need to control hundreds of cars in New York, sending dozens of them flying out of a multistory parking structure alone, to stop a single armored limousine? How, exactly, does Toretto outwit the world's most elusive cyber-criminal, one that no government agency in the world can seem to track down? Why does Dwayne Johnson's Luke Hobbs need to get out of a moving car and redirect the path of a torpedo with his bare hands?
The answer, as Johnson's wrestling persona “The Rock” would yell: It doesn't matter what we think. Thinking isn't what anyone is here for. All that matters is that the action in a Fast and the Furious movie--loud and illogical as it might be--is exciting, and Fate's many action beats are dizzying. From a brutal prison fight to the aforementioned excessive New York car chase to a set piece where Diesel plays chicken with a nuclear submarine on a glacier, Fate director F. Gary Gray (Straight Outta Compton, The Italian Job) keeps the action clear, even if the film has an over-reliance on close cuts in fight scenes.
Then there are, of course, the things that happen in between explosions, sometimes known as the "plot." As the trailers for Fate show, Vin Diesel's Toretto--who spends, from memory, 45 minutes in each Fast and the Furious film monologuing about "family"--gives the big FU to his onscreen one here, turning against them and siding with hacker extraordinaire Cipher instead. To Fate's credit, the explanation as to why Dom goes rogue isn't drawn out. It's explained relatively early, which allows the movie to go back to the broad emotional strokes for which the series is known. The Fast and the Furious films have always had the nuance of a soap opera, and Fate doesn't deviate.
Thankfully, the outsized charisma of Fate's cast is enough to gloss over any narrative bumps. Toretto's extended family--Johnson, Rodriguez, Tyrese Gibson, Ludacris, Nathalie Emmanuel--are still just broad caricatures, but they're appealing, attractive ones. Their banter isn't exactly Sorkin-esque, but there's enough fizz and humor in their interplay that makes the scenes where explosions aren't happening fly by. Especially good is Johnson and new series regular Jason Statham's (as reformed baddie Deckard) fractious relationship. I didn't think the overtly masculine, aggressively juvenile banter of two huge, bald men would make for interesting cinema. Now all I want is a spin-off where The Rock and Jason Statham bust heads in slow motion while continually bickering about which of them would win in a fistfight.
The Fate of the Furious delivers exactly what it promises--and it probably delivers more. It's fun, funny, thrilling, and ultimately exhausting. It's like standing too close to the track at a car race. Your ears will ring, and you'll probably do some damage to your brain cells, but man, what an exciting view.
|The Good||The Bad|
|Big dumb, loud fun|
The plot is nonsensical
|Funny character moments|
|The Rock is so great he even makes |
wearing a leather vest seem cool
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