A consistent addition to the Fast and Furious series, somehow upping the ante for Dominic and the crew.
“The Fate of the Furious” knows what it is. Perhaps the greatest strength the series has going for it is self-awareness. It doesn’t pretend to be something greater than the sum of its parts, because it doesn’t have to be. Take for example, the overarching theme, family. Instead of dropping it for something else here, they double down on the idea. (I feel like Dom has Family Over Everything tattooed somewhere on his body.) Family is so central, even though you don’t completely know the motivation of the antagonist, you know she disdains the idea of family. The writers know what this film is about: one part fan service, one part heist movie and a hundred percent ridiculous.
Ridiculous can be meant as a negative, and some people will call it that. A car coming from behind in a street race, while in reverse is ridiculous. A shit ton of cars driven remotely in unison down tight city streets is ridiculous. The idea that a country could lose a nuclear weapons depot to rebels is crazy enough, but to seemingly not really be dealing with it is insane. But you know what? F*** it. It doesn’t matter because you’ll have an exchange about a muscle car that goes something like this (and I paraphrase): “He has 1,000 horsepower.” “No, 2,000” “5,000.” Now, I don’t know too much about cars, but that seems like a slight exaggeration. It’s delivered completely dead pan, as if a car that size can pack that kind of punch. Not that the film is devoid of comedy. Quite the opposite. There is plenty of humor to chew on for Dwayne Johnson, Jason Stathem, Helen Mirren (in a fun cameo) and especially between Chris ‘Ludacris’ Bridges and Tyrese Gibson. What’s great is all these actors seem to be having fun. Even Charlize Theron as Cipher, a super-hacker who plays the big bad in the film’s story line that turns out to be rooted in previous movies in the series, has fun chewing the scenery as an evil but weirdly charismatic character.
Vin Diesel‘s Dominic is notably devoid of humor. It is perhaps the most dramatic movie for Dominic. He is forced to choose between his wife Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) and his crew, or someone he is perhaps even closer to. No, they smartly shied away from any Paul Walker CGI-manikin, as Brian is only mentioned in passing. (He is apparently alive but they’re keeping him out of the fray.) Unfortunately, I think the emotional highs and lows for Dominic push Vin Diesel a little past his acting capabilities. Then again, this movie doesn’t need anything special from Diesel.
What it does need, is to take things further. Somehow, it does. Like Frank and Claire duking it out in season 4 of “House of Cards,” Dom turns on the crew and becomes their worst nightmare. Even having Deckard Shaw join the good guys (a trope used in the Spy Kids series) isn’t enough to stop him. The combined might of Cipher and Dominic lead to some very over-the-top scenes. Let’s just say, the New York sequence puts the term ‘raining cats and dogs’ to shame.
Having a dose of fan service really helps as well. One great example of this is Tej and his tank. To fully appreciate this, you first need to go to back to “Fast & Furious 6,” where a tank plays a notable role in the climax. In “Furious 7,” Tej makes a point to say they could use a tank. Tej is finally introduced to a tank, but the writers wait for a real pay off to this multi-film
Really, it comes down to what you expect. If you are a fan of movies 5 through 7 of the series, you will like the 8th installment. If you liked John Wick 2, you will enjoy this film. If you prefer the works of say, Mike Leigh and Kenneth Lonergan, I don’t know, maybe it isn’t the film for you.
FROM THE NOTEPAD
- As of writing this, there was no post-credit scene
- Mr. Nobody is kind of a ridiculous name
- Remember the days when James Bond was played by Pierce Brosnan and Roger Moore? It seems like the FF series may be going in that direction
- I know I shouldn’t get caught up in details, but why does the Russian Minister of Defense have a nuclear football and why would he bring it to New York?
- There was no reference to Mad Max, which is ashame given Charlize Theron’s role
- The crew do not kill Americans, but they kill a heck of a lot of foreigners
- The sound mixing was odd at times. Maybe it was just the theater I was in…
- Cinematography, cooreography, editing and CGI won’t win any awards but they work well in concert with one another
- In terms of pure action films this year, “John Wick: Chapter 2” gets the slight edge for me, but this will crush in the box office. Probably get more in the opening weekend than Wick, and top a billion when it’s all said and done