The Fate of the Furious (2017)

Directed by F. Gary Gray
Written by Chris Morgan

The Fast and the Furious has finally “jumped the shark”. I’m not surprised, honestly. I knew this day would come at some point as each movie is tasked with one-upping the previous installment, and we have less and less of a reason for the Toretto crew to keep going instead of settling down to enjoy their lives with all their money and family. But the extreme drop-off from 7 to 8, coinciding with the passing of Paul Walker, is a little startling. This is the final film of the main saga that is currently released, so it’ll be at least a year before I find out where the series goes with 9 and subsequently 10 to close out the series, but I hope that with the return of Justin Lin to the director’s chair, he has the vision to work with Chris Morgan and put a pretty bow on this incredible franchise. But as it stands, The Fate of the Furious is going to leave a bad taste in my mouth until F9 next year.

While living the life in Cuba with Letty (Michelle Rodriguez), Dom (Vin Diesel) is confronted by cyber terrorist Cipher (Charlize Theron), and made an offer he can’t refuse, leaving everything behind to betray his team (Tyrese Gibson, Ludacris, Dwayne Johnson) for Cipher’s plans, which include stealing an EMP, Russian nuclear launch codes, and eventually a Russian nuclear submarine. But Mr. Nobody (Kurt Russell) returns to reassemble Dom’s crew to hunt him down, bringing on Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) to help, pitting the family we’ve come to know and love against one another for reasons unknown.

Obviously the reasons are eventually revealed, but for sake of spoilers I will avoid those reasons, but needless to say, I think they’re a little flimsy. But, Dom does eventually redeem himself and it comes to light he had a “plan” all along. But let’s be honest, it feels icky to watch 3/4 of the movie with Dom being one of the bad guys. It just feels like a desperate ploy to bring intrigue to a movie that doesn’t need to happen. It stretches the narrative arc of the franchise just a little too much for my liking. Another element that is missing is Paul Walker’s presence, which is truly felt here. Especially so when they attempt to introduce Scott Eastwood as Mr Nobody’s minion to replace him as the cool, handsome white guy in the group. It doesn’t work. At all. Eastwood has no charisma and his character is really poor and annoying.

The most egregious error of the movie, above the narrative faults which might be worse here, but have always been present within the franchise, is the lack of sensible, well directed, well choreographed action scenes. We get three or four main action scenes, and none of the them stick with me as being very impressive, and in fact they just might be both too over the top and too forgettable for the series, if that is possible. An army of hacked cars mob the streets of New York (wat?), the team fights a submarine on a sheet of ice, and they use a huge wrecking ball to take out their pursuits? F. Gary Gray’s sensibilities lie outside the strengths of this franchise, and ultimately I think the director is a mismatch for the product promised on screen. Even James Wan, a horror director, was largely able to deliver, but the sense of pacing, action and even cast chemistry is surprisingly lacking this time around.

Coming off of arguably 4 great movies in the series, I can see a few potential reasons why my love for the series may be waning. One is simply that The Fate of the Furious was too far a stretch and essentially a failure within the series. With this theory, the return of Justin Lin and his abilities and ideas can save the franchise and bring it back atop the action movie mountain. The alternative is simply that the storyline has run its course and there’s not enough room left in the franchise to tell a compelling car/action movie story. This is extremely possible given the fatigue I felt throughout this movie. Charlize Theron as the villain should have worked. She didn’t. A motive involving a threat to the family should have worked. It didn’t. And why did the reunion at the end happen on a rooftop in New York City? This is a west coast, Los Angeles based crew. It just felt weird.

★★☆☆☆ – DIDN’T LIKE IT

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