The Fate of the Furious review: A Shakespearean epic (no, not really)
In some ways, this might be the easiest review I’ve ever written. There have been seven previous Fast and Furious movies. If you haven’t seen any of them before this, Fate and Furious isn’t really a good starting point. On the other hand, if you’ve seen the other films and enjoy the series that frequently and regularly gives the finger to physics and then squirts lemon juice in its eye, well, good news.
The latest in the increasingly episodic Fast and Furious series has a steep learning curve for franchise noobs, and yet it doesn’t take much to understand what’s going on. There is a team of people that are essentially superheroes, they have a nearly god-like power to control all types of vehicles, and they face off against people that have a magical ability to mess shit up. Seriously, the bad guys in these films would bewilder the Avengers.
At this point the series has a formula: remind the audience that the series used to be about cars through an insane race of some kind, introduce a supervillain with a vaguely defined motivation that somehow intersects with the heroes, then blow up things. Blow up a lot of things. Blow up all the things. Sometimes entire cities. Add in some incredibly attractive people and mix. The Fate of the Furious is no different.
The latest film picks up shortly after where the seventh film leaves off. Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) and his sort of risen from the dead bride Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) are on their honeymoon in Cuba, racing cars and living well beyond their means. Their time away is ruined, however, when a criminal mastermind named Cipher (Charlize Theron) shows up with an eeeeeeeeeevil plan. Through one of the few surprises in the film, Cipher manages to get Toretto to go rogue and turn on his team, aka his family.
Along the way, a lot of things are destroyed. Insurance companies would go bankrupt and their CEOs would commit suicide. There’s never a mention of it, but you can also kind of assume dozens of innocent bystanders were probably killed, but let’s not get bogged down by semantics.
The Fate of the Furious is the most deeply connected film to the others in the series, but that shouldn’t be a surprise given the direction the previous movies have been moving. The main cast returns, there are cameos from people that appeared in earlier movies, and there are a few new faces as well. This is also just the second film in the series that Paul Walker isn’t in following his tragic death. There is a quick explanation for his character’s absence, but with such an ensemble cast his absence isn’t hugely missed – at least not in terms of plot. There’s also a replacement white guy in Scott Eastwood, and Dwayne Johnson takes an even bigger role than before. He’s also a freak of nature that shrugs off rubber bullets and tosses people 20 feet.
Oh, and Jason Statham is kind of a good guy despite an earlier film having retconned him into killing a major character. No one really seems to mention it. Still, Statham has a few moments that stand out and his machismo is just another drop in the bucket with this film. He fits right in as one of the team.
As a side note, the Fast and the Furious series has always laughed in the face of reality, and it now adds another layer of absurdity in its treatment of technology. But if that is an issue for you, then this isn’t the series for you to begin with.
One thing that is missing from this iteration is the character development. That might sound ridiculous for a series where two of the characters drove a car out of one skyscraper and landed it in another, but the previous movies have always managed to inject humor through character interaction. That’s somewhat absent in this one.
To make up for that personal touch, director F. Gary Gray basically turns each character into a live-action cartoon character. At one point, each character is in his or her own unique car and it feels like an 80s cartoon come to life with their rides personifying them. The Rock is a Humvee, Rodriguez is a classic corvette, Statham in a Jag, Eastwood is a bland sports car, etc.
But with all of that said, the film does what it sets out to do. It’s two hours of action scenes loosely held together by a little bit of exposition handled by a shockingly impressive cast. Dame Helen F-ing Mirren and Kurt Russell are both in it, appearing with a nod and a wink to the audience.
You know what you’re getting with the Fast and Furious series, and The Fate of the Furious doesn’t stray far from the formula that has made it an insane amount of money over the decades.
The Fate of the Furious review conclusion
The eighth film in the wildly unrealistic-but-entertaining series starts a new chapter that will likely carry it through the planned tenth movie. It doesn’t introduce anything new and it offers nothing you haven’t seen before – thematically at least. It is, however, filled with things never before seen on film, like the Rock throwing a torpedo and cars harpooning another car like a really fast, angry whale.
There is a little something missing from this movie compared to the others, mainly in terms of character development. When you have a series that is nearing double digits you might expect that the character building is a little soft, but with a series that continues to harp on the idea of family, it’s a little odd that it’s treated as little more than lip service. Still, the filmmakers know their audience. The Fate of the Furious doesn’t push any boundaries, but it does what it sets out to do.
The Fate and the Furious is rated PG-13 with a running time of 136 minutes.