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THE FATE OF THE FURIOUS is Still Fun, Just Less So (Review)

THE FATE OF THE FURIOUS is Still Fun, Just Less So (Review)

It seems like an unnecessarily nitpicky critical response to say something like, “Boy, the eighth entry in that massive action franchise is slightly less enjoyable than the previous ones,” but it’s kind of unavoidable. With Fast Five, the Fast & Furious franchise essentially morphed into superhero movies where everyone is comically durable, super strong, and has an otherworldly familiarity with cars and how to drive them. We all accept that they’re ridiculous in the best way, but I have to say, The Fate of the Furious (or F8 to its friends) is not quite as fun… with a few major exceptions.

With every subsequent Fast and/or Furious movie, the level of physics-defying automotive maneuvering goes up a million percentage points, and in that respect, F8 doesn’t disappoint. The trouble is, the longueurs in between these action sequences seem particularly lengthy. At a certain point, I realized that the bulk of the movie had been characters sitting in rooms talking about the plot, and that’s not generally the best way to go about things, even in this kind of movie.

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So, the shocking twist affecting the plot this time around is that Charlize Theron’s hacker queen has recruited Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) into working for her and her non-government-sanctioned criminals (as opposed to the government-sanctioned ones he usually works with), thus tragically turning his back on La Familia and breaking the heart of his true love, Letty (Michelle Rodriguez). But our old pal Mr. Nobody (Kurt Russell) wants Toretto’s crew (consisting of other franchise regulars Tyrese Gibson, Chris “Ludacris” Bridges, and Furious 7 addition Nathalie Emmanuel) to team up once again with Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson), and even lets previous villain Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) aid in finding and stopping Dom, who seems to have totally turned his back on family.

Honestly, if they had stayed true to that premise, I might have been more excited to go along with the movie. But the reason for Dom’s switch of sides is revealed not only to be reasonable, but incredibly fucking urgent. Most of the scenes of Diesel and Theron–aboard her character’s technological marvel of an airplane–are so serious that it almost seems laughable given the tone of the rest of the movie’s events. Stuff gets real dark on that plane, man. It’s almost like this material is from an entirely different franchise.

The other movie that’s happening, however, is a ton more fun. Having the Rock and Statham as bitter enemies forced to work together for the greater good–and hurling elaborate death threats at each other all the while–is easily the most genius move they made. If the next movie was just the two of them on a mission with Ludacris and Emmanuel running tech, it’d be my favorite movie in this or any other franchise. Because, honestly, any scene they’re in–Hobbs being the unkillable behemoth and Deckard being a master of tactical combat–becomes the best scene in the movie.

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Director F. Gary Gray inherited the reins from Furious 7 director James Wan, and he gives the movie a bit more frantic a pace and editing style, with ample speed ramping at points. It works well enough, though there are incredibly dodgy visual effects in certain shots, and the moment you realize all you’re seeing your main characters do in said action scenes is sit in a car set on a green screen stage, saying lines and offering reaction looks, it’s kind of glass-shattering. The more physically-oriented stunts come off much, much better, and the epically goofy finale with our crew chasing a submarine across a field of ice while being chased by Russian war rigs is incredibly satisfying, even with Gibson’s incessant yelling and clowning. At least the movie ends on a high note.

Nobody watches these movies for realism, so for the most part you just have to enjoy the spectacle of car-based carnage around you. The action, however, feels a lot less tangible here as compared to some of the other films–not believable, tangible–and the disconnect between the “good guy crew” and what Dom is up to is not something I particularly enjoyed. And, not for nothing, but a lot of the dialogue is atrociously bad. Still, the positives are incredibly positive and this franchise remains one of the most dumb-fun things you can hope to watch.

Rating: 3 out of 5 family-style burritos
3-burritos3

Images: Universal

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