The Fate of the Furious
Are You Not Entertained?

To attempt to write a critical review of a Fast and the Furious movie is something of a fool’s errand.  Perhaps there is no more critic-proof franchise in the history of movies.  Like Russell Crowe yelling out in Gladiator, the only real way to judge these movies is to ask, “Are you not entertained?”  And they are often very successful at being that.  A franchise that seemed to have run its course after the first three movies suddenly found new life with the fourth entry and has since continued to get bigger and louder with each entry trying to outdo the last when it comes to large, elaborate, and unbelievable action-set pieces, while at the same time focusing on the bond of its central “family.”  The latest entry, The Fate of the Furious, does all of that, but by this point the formula is really beginning to feel as if it has run its course.

After having recently married Letty, Dom’s Cuban honeymoon is interrupted by a cyber-terrorist called Cipher, played by series newcomer Charlize Theron.  Despite Dom’s constant refrain about never turning your back on family, what Cipher has on him causes him to betray his entire team and steal a powerful EMP device.  Now his team must work together with one of their greatest foes—Jason Statham’s Deckard—in order to track down Dom and stop him and Cipher from using the EMP to secure themselves something even more dangerous, like nuclear weapons.

Vin Diesel as Dom in Fate of the FuriousThe plot is only the thread that loosely ties together the movie’s major action set-pieces, of which there are three… all of which will be familiar to anyone who has seen at least one of the movie’s trailers.  The highlight is the centerpiece of the film: a New York-set chase scene that has Cipher remotely controlling thousands of vehicles, not only in the streets of Manhattan, but soaring out of the skyscrapers as well.  This sequence and the climactic submarine chase occupy a large chunk of the movie’s runtime and because they are so action-packed and entertaining, they make the movie’s two hour and twenty minute runtime fly by seemingly faster than most ninety-minute films.  Despite the film’s length, when it reaches its epilogue, it still feels as if we should have another hour to go.

That is a positive in that it is nice that the lengthy movie is so quickly paced, but it is also a negative because the movie ends feeling as if not all of its plot threads have been tied up.  Whereas the previous film ended with what felt like a good note to go out on thanks to the tribute to the late Paul Walker, this one ends like a blatant attempt to set up another sequel.  In fact, it seems almost a guarantee that the next film will have this film’s villain back on the good guys’ side, just like it did with Jason Statham here.

Charlize Theron feels wasted here.  She is the main villain, but despite her having shown a talent for action scenes in the past, she does not get much to do here but stare at a computer screen, punch things in on a tablet or keyboard, and act intimidating.  Her villain is not even that original, but rather essentially a copy of the character played by Timothy Olyphant in Live Free or Die Hard.  Just when it seems like the movie might finally give her an actual action scene, the moment goes right out the window.

The idea of this installment in the series being directed by F. Gary Gray was instantly intriguing.  Hot off of Straight Outta Compton and having already directed both Charlize Theron and Jason Statham in one of the best car chase movies of the new millennium, The Italian Job, Gray seemed a good choice.  But this franchise has started to become redundant and possibly director-proof, as this movie feels exactly the same as the past three.  The movie is entertaining and fun, for sure, but the whole shtick is beginning to feel old and tired.  The franchise has driven the “never turn your back on family” thing into the ground and every time someone said something about family in this movie, a part of me wanted to walk out.

The absolute definition of a popcorn movie, The Fate of the Furious is certainly never boring and is even consistently entertaining, even if a lot of the entertainment value comes in how utterly ridiculous it gets.  But the franchise really feels as if it has begun to run its course and if the inevitable ninth movie in the franchise is just more of the same, they may find that the audience numbers will begin dwindling.

The Fate of the Furious is rated PG-13 for “prolonged sequences of violence and destruction, suggestive content, and language.”  Lots and lots of people die in this movie, but the fact that most of these deaths are off-screen and the blood is minimal, the movie stays just on this side of R territory.

Courtesy of a local publicist, Jeff attended a promotional screening of The Fate of the Furious.