“The Fate of the Furious” (2016)
Running Time: 136 minutes
Written by: Chris Morgan
Directed by: F. Gary Gray
Featuring: Vin Diesel, Dwayne Johnson, Jason Statham, Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese Gibson, Chris Bridges, Nathalie Emmanuel, Kurt Russell, Scott Eastwood, Charlize Theron and Helen Mirren
Roman Pearce: “Why are they shooting at me?”
Tej Parker: “I don’t know. Maybe because you’re in a orange Lamborghini.“
Roman Pearce: “Shut up, Tej!”
This film franchise has been on the precipice twice, once after the third entry was released “Fast and Furious: Tokyo Drift” (2005), secondly after the sudden death of star Paul Walker, when “Furious 7” (2015) was still in production. But now against all odds the billion dollar franchise returns with its eighth installment, “The Fate of the Furious” (2017), apparently the start of a new trilogy for that old warhorse Vin Diesel, who has proved over the past few years that this is all he has to offer audiences. Such a shame for an actor that proved he was more than a muscle bound actor in such films as “Saving Private Ryan” (1998), the timeless “The Iron Giant” (1999) and the memorable “Boiler Room” (2000). The franchise that began as a cautionary tale about street racing has re-invented itself at least twice, once as a heist series and now as some kind of hybrid franchise, balancing a few time honoured genres.
This movies plot, if you could call it that, begins with Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) and Letty Ortiz (Michelle Rodriguez) are enjoying their honeymoon in Cuba when Dom is approached by elusive cyberterrorist Cipher (Charlize Theron), who has kidnapped Dom’s ex-girlfriend Elena Neves and their son, whom Dom didn’t know about, to force Dom to collaborate with her. Dom and his crew, comprised of Letty, Roman Pearce, Tej Parker and Ramsey, are then recruited by DSS agent Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) to help him retrieve an EMP device from a military outpost in Berlin. During the getaway, Dom goes rogue, forcing Hobbs off the road and stealing the device on Cipher’s behalf, while Hobbs is arrested by the local authorities and locked up alongside an old enemy, international assassin Deckard Shaw. They are later extracted from prison by intelligence operative Tom Petty (Kurt Russell) and his new partner, Eric Reisner (Scott Eastwood), who recruit Shaw (Jason Statham) to help Hobbs and the crew find Dom and capture Cipher.
That’s just the opening of the movie that sees the set up pay off over the next few hours of screen time. This film stands as the most over the top installment yet, I say that in a good way as the action film genre has recently suffered from either unoriginal ideas, aging stars or hacky directors – this franchise is just warming up. This movie travels the globe leaving carnage in its wake, as well as picking up and dropping off characters like they were as disposable as the car’s themselves.
The Fast and Furious films have now made themselves a cross between Mission Impossible and any comic book film around. The questions remain – How long will people keep coming back? What is there to reinvent themselves as next? Can anything follow up the billion dollar previous film? The answer of course is we will see, but with the reintroduction of Kurt Russell and the introduction of his sidekick Scott Eastwood, there has been an attempt to make an IMF like agency out of Vin’s crew as well as maybe having a Paul Walker like replacement in Eastwood. Someone like Eastwood I found quite welcoming as he can be quite clueless which is a nice juxtaposition to the all knowing crew.
This film directed by newcomer to the franchise F. Gary Gray is not only an experienced action film director but also has done a sterling job on dramas and comedies which can only help with this new challenge. Gray was chosen for his previous work as well as a relationship he has with Diesel who has control over the franchise. The director is coming off a career high with the film “Straight Outta Compton” (2015), which was not only a critical hit but also generated over US$200 million dollars worldwide, so he is here rewarded with a going concern that could help him in the future for any of his own projects he may want to get off the ground.
Once again the cast of this film is huge adding Helen Mirren and Charlize Theron to the mix as protagonist and antagonists to the main cast. When you have nowhere else to go in a franchise sometimes the best thing to do is to trade up and include some prestige actors, giving them a chance to create over the top characters in an already over the top film. They have done that in spades, whilst the Theron character, the super hacker Cipher, is just that, she has very little to do physically, just stand, around look pouty, making quips to monitors as others do her bidding. Mirren shows up twice but acts crazy enough to feel like she has been there the entire time. My favorite character is the wise cracking Tyrese who steals every scene he is in, which is good because he also asks “WTF?” every time something insane happens or is mooted, which is great because as the audience you will be doing exactly the same thing.
The rest of the cast including, Dwayne Johnson, Jason Statham, Michelle Rodriguez, Chris Bridges and Nathalie Emmanuel all do what has been expected of them in the previous movies but they all seem to have either been given convenient twists on their back stories or given super human abilities, Dwayne Johnson, now has a daughter and coaches soccer, Michelle Rodriguez, just looks intense and angry in every scene, Chris Bridges and Nathalie Emmanuel, are now hacker geniuses as well as an authority on almost everything. They all do their jobs very well especially Johnson and Statham who seem to be auditioning for their own buddy action comedy movie – bring it on I say.
This story involves family, of course, as well as new revelations from new characters as well as old – and it would not be a ‘Furious’ film without the endless supply of action and fighting scenes between the goodies and the baddies – it’s a over two hour fun ride that never stops. At film number eight it was only a matter of time before a baby was dragged into the franchise, so it goes, are we going to see Dom quit his life of action? I don’t think so, and judging from how the baby is incorporated with his Uncle Dex (Statham) this is a kid in for the ride of his life.
I have to admit to seeing some early reviews which have not been positive, and once the film had ended I really could not understand why. This movie fits in perfectly with the rest in the series, not only that it does actually progress some of the characters further along some kind of life, which is more than some film series do – I am looking at you DC/Warner Bros. – in fact we are seeing the re-drawing of old enemies into allies as well as a new comedic bent from the like of Statham, Johnson and now Helen Mirren. This film I believe does something unique for its type as well as having permission to do it from audiences, that is to set up a sequel like it is no big deal, or even a stretch to ask for this indulgence. There are very few franchises that could do this, one is the MCU, with that only happening after a few failures, however here we see a new story set up with a villain that will obviously return, as well as retconning her origins so it appears she has been around for some time – something this franchise does continuously.
This movie will not win any awards but it is great PG fun that will have you on the edge of your seat, laughing and probably laughing some more. I originally watched this in a cinema, having a lot of fun, but as a in home experience it comes off as too much static, it seemed to be good as something in the background but with other distractions felt it too hard to engage meaningfully. This would be worth a watch on a streaming service but it adds no real value to anyones library.
“The Fate of the Furious” (2017) is out on DVD & Blu-ray on 2nd August 2017.