The Fate of the Furious

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The Fate of the Furious  (2017)    Universal/Action    RT: 136 minutes    Rated PG-13 (prolonged sequences of violence and destruction, suggestive content, language)    Director: F. Gary Gray    Screenplay: Chris Morgan    Music: Brian Tyler    Cinematography: Stephen F. Windon    Release date: April 14, 2017 (US)    Cast: Vin Diesel, Dwayne Johnson, Jason Statham, Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese Gibson, Chris “Ludacris” Bridges, Charlize Theron, Nathalie Emmanuel, Kurt Russell, Scott Eastwood, Kristofer Hivju, Elsa Pataky, Celestino Cornielle, Luke Evans, Helen Mirren.

 

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 Who could have foreseen back in 2001 that Dominic Toretto, the tough-guy street racer first introduced in the surprise summer hit The Fast and the Furious, would someday be part of a chase involving a Russian nuclear submarine? Probably nobody yet that’s exactly where he ends up in the climax of The Fate of the Furious, the eighth installment in a series that shows no signs of running out of gas any time soon. I’ll be the first to admit that the F&F movies are pure junk. The plots get more and more ridiculous with each entry. There’s little to nothing in the way of character development. What the actors do in these movies can hardly be considered acting. They’re too busy kicking ass and driving like maniacs to bother with trivial matters like creating believable characters. Let me ask you this. Do you think the F&F fans really care? Normally, I lambast movies like this but I’m going to give The Fate of the Furious a pass. Why? I too am a fan and I’m not ashamed to admit it.

the-fate-of-furious One of the key elements of a F&F movie is its high degree of bad-assery. In The Fate of the Furious you get Vin Diesel, Dwayne Johnson, Jason Statham, Michelle Rodriguez, Kurt Russell, Charlize Theron, Scott Eastwood (Clint’s son) and Helen Mirren. Yes, that Helen Mirren! The same one that won an Oscar for playing Queen Elizabeth II in 2006’s The Queen. Hey, if Judy Dench can play M in a few James Bond movie, why can’t Mirren have some fun too? Besides, didn’t she also kick some serious ass in the two RED movies? Welcome to Dom’s ever-growing family, Ms. Mirren.

 The Fate of the Furious plays a lot like a James Bond with a supervillain, cyber-terrorist Cipher (Theron, Mad Max: Fury Road), bent on world domination. She confronts Dom (Diesel) while he’s honeymooning with Letty (Rodriguez, Resident Evil) in Havana and tells him that he has no choice but to work with her or else. In the process, he’s forced to betray his family. Foe-turned-friend Hobbs (Johnson, Central Intelligence) ends up in the same super-max prison in which he dumped Deckard Shaw (Statham, The Transporter) at the end of the last movie. The rest of the team- Letty, motormouth Roman (singer Gibson), tech geek Tej (rapper Ludacris) and sexy hacker Ramsey (Emmanuel, the second Maze Runner movie)- are at a loss.

 They’re all brought together by shadowy government agent Mr. Nobody (Russell, Escape from New York) who needs their combined special sets of skills to bring down Cipher before she achieves her goal of world domination. It involves a plan too convoluted to explain but can’t the same be said of similar plans hatched by any given Bond villain? Of course, 007 never had to deal with all the self-driving cars in New York City being hacked by the bad guy. Oh, the mayhem that ensues! For their part, the team wants to bring Dom back into the fold. Failing that, if he must also be brought down…. well, nobody wants that.

 Also along for the ride is Scott Eastwood (The Longest Ride) as “Little Nobody”, the straight-laced assistant-in-training who’s supposed to be the one calling the shots in Nobody’s absence. You can guess how that goes, right? Norwegian actor Kristofer Hivju (Game of Thrones) plays Cipher’s main henchman. I won’t say who Mirren plays or what connection (if any) she has with other characters. Oh yeah, there’s also a baby thrown into the mix. No, he’s NOT voiced by Alec Baldwin.

 The Fate of the Furious is a hell of a lot of fun. It’s dumb, convoluted and completely ludicrous. The F&F franchise has veered way off-course from its humble beginnings as a cops-and-illegal street racers action flick that inexplicably made a ton of money. Now here we are, 16 years later and it’s going as strong as ever. To date, the series has made $4 billion worldwide and this one should add another billion or so. I like the crazy directions the series has taken. If nothing else, it keeps the fans on their toes.

 Ben Franklin once said that only two things in life are certain- death and taxes. In the F&F movies, there are also a few certainties. Dom will talk a lot about “family”. Hobbs will act macho to the point of self-parody. Letty will glare and glower at people she doesn’t like (and some she does like). The heroes will drive VERY fast, perform wild stunts that defy every science known to mankind and leave a huge path of destruction in their wake. Old adversaries will become allies. SPOILER ALERT! I had the feeling that Statham wouldn’t stay a bad guy for long.

 Also, it doesn’t really matter what object they’re after. That’s what is commonly referred to as the “MacGuffin”. In the last movie, it was a device called “God’s Eye” (it makes a return appearance here). This time, it’s three things including a briefcase containing….. oh, it doesn’t matter. These objects of desire are merely plot devices to set the action in motion. And there’s plenty of it in The Fate of the Furious. There are at least three awesome set-pieces including the bit in frozen Russia with the nuclear sub.

 As the villain of the piece, Theron does a pretty good job. She’s a total cold-hearted psycho bitch who works out of a high-tech plane that serves as her secret lair. Rarely does she do any of her own dirty work; she dispatches Dom and her other minions (not the cute little yellow kind) to do it for her. To be honest, I expected more from the actress who was the real hero of Fury Road. I never said The Fate of the Furious is perfect. It sputters a bit here and there. Director F. Gary Gray (Straight Outta Compton), taking over for Justin Lin (parts 3, 4, 5 and 6) and James Wan (part 7), does a respectable job. There is a small but noticeable decline in overall quality. It feels like it runs a bit too long. Oh, but who cares? The action and thrills are as high-octane as ever. It has fast cars, crazy stunts and hot babes. It’s slick, exciting and ultimately satisfying. It’s a lot better than most of the mega-budget action spectacles that pull in and out of multiplexes. The Fate of the Furious doesn’t have a single brain in its head and knows it. What’s more, it wears this distinction like a badge of honor. How can you dislike a movie that openly admits what it is? 

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