Friday, April 14, 2017

The Fate of the Furious

How did this franchise manage eight films? When The Fast and the Furious was released in 2001 to mixed reviews I doubt anyone foresaw the series generating seven sequels. Following in the path of the previous films, The Fate of the Furious is a pretty dumb film that provides entertainment mostly through the more ridiculous pieces of its plot (and let's be honest, it's all ridiculous).

When the series began there was a focus on racing, real stunt work, and fast cars. Over the recent entries the series has devolved a bit into a live action cartoon making it impossible to take anything seriously. Remember the last (almost completely forgettable) movie had a tank and cars jumping through buildings? Well this on has a submarine!

Playing on the themes of friendship and family, the latest entry pits Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) against the team he put together when the world's best hacker known as Cipher (Charlize Theron) blackmails him into joining a crew that actually doesn't need his help (seriously, every piece of Cipher's plan is only made harder by Dom's involvement, as it brings in his team to stop them).

Mr. Nobody (Kurt Russell) rallies the troops, including their recent enemy Deckard (Jason Statham), and sends Hobbs (Dwayne "It's Okay to Call Me The Rock Again" Johnson) after Dominic, who earlier in the film screws over Hobbs and steals an EMP device for Cipher. Luckily for everyone involved, the writers of this film don't really know what an EMP is or how its supposed to be used. With Nobody backing the team, there's plenty of fast cars on display, although (with the exception of the early race scene in Cuba) the action scenes focus far more on destruction than driving.

The first film to not feature Paul Walker (or a virtual stand-in), the set-up allows the series to reuses the plot of the best movie of the series by having Diesel and The Rock on opposite sides of the action. While I don't remember much about the previous film, Statham's character sure seems less homicidal the second time around. Surprisingly, he steps in to provide the funniest moment of the film (which I won't ruin here) along with arguably the best stunt sequence (involving Deckard and Hobbs' reunion in prison).

Other characters return including Nathalie Emmanuel as a character I'm guessing I should recognize (but don't), Tyrese Gibson as the loudmouth no one cares about who has become little more than a walking punchline at this point, and Ludacris and Michelle Rodriguez as the lesser annoying members of Hobbs' little group. After killing off the best members of the team in previous films, this apparently is all we're left with. A few other familiar faces will pop-up in cameos as well. However, with the film so heavily focused on Dom's actions, the team is really only here for window-dressing and does little more than react to the action around them.

The plot, such as it is, is exactly what you would expect from the franchise: big, loud, dumb, and with plotholes large enough to drive a tank (or this time a submarine) through. The stunt work is impressive in pieces, but there's far too much shaky-cam in the fight sequences and the cars (with one or two exceptions) aren't showcased all that well. Theron gets stuck with the cliché villain role, although she seems to be enjoying herself. We also get a twist that is impossible not to see coming, and a bizarre final racing scene which, yes, features a submarine. It may be more memorable than the previous entry, but I'm not sure it's any better than either of the previous two films.

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