I still can’t believe that audiences would show up for false machismo combined with an arrogance so high it borders on masturbatory, but enough about our current president. The Fate of the Furious is, first and foremost, a film that can’t be taken seriously.
In fact, it can’t even be viewed as a joke in the way it’s predecessors were. It’s a cartoonish parody, one that would be a series-ender if it weren’t so damn fun. I try to view myself as an analytical person that doesn’t get swayed easily, but I got in my car after seeing this and screamed out in joy.
Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel, looking fat) is in Cuba with his now-wife Letty (Michelle Rodriguez), and they’re enjoying the fruits of their previous life. It’s a simple one, one would say domesticated, until a mysterious woman (Charlize Theron, looking dangerously thin) shows up. Her name is Cipher, and she encourages Toretto to go rogue.
The particulars of it are irrelevant. There’s codes and tracking devices and nuclear footballs, yada yada yada. You’re here for the cars and the explosions. There’s a lot of them, and they make Furious 7’s driving-between-skyscrapers act look amateur. Cars are now hacked in and controlled to create swarms of accidents, and parking lots rain down vehicles. The rambunctious child that won’t shut up will love this; what’s surprising is how much the adults will too.
That’s because underneath all the stupidity, there’s a surprising heart. Michelle Rodriguez is the absolute soul of this film, smoothing Letty’s rough edges to reveal a sweetness underneath. The usual family rah-rah found in the last few films is here too; it’s cheesy but effective enough.
I loved this cast; it’s one of the better ensembles I’ve seen on film lately. Diesel embraces his destiny as the new Sly Stallone, with the the grunts and marble-mouthed- yelling to match. Dwayne Johnson (as Luke Hobbs) serves as his Schwarzenegger-like rival. There were rumors of a feud on-set between the two stars; considering how aggressive both men come off in this picture, I’m certain it’s true.
Furious 7 bad guy Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) becomes a part of the “family” here, despite killing one of their own in Fast and Furious: Tokyo Drift. Between this and his standout turn in Spy, he needs to drop the B-grade action movies immediately and unleash his inner comedian. He’s a riot, and his scenes with Johnson are hot macho garbage that will asphyxiate you in AXE body spray that also doubles as laughing gas.
Okay, I’m getting out of control. Helen Mirren also shows up in a comedic bit role. Ludacris and Tyrese Gibson do their usual two-man stand-up routine, yelling at each other in cars. They keep all of the action scenes bouncy and light, which is what’s needed.
Kurt Russell is here, looking like director F. Gary Gray (Straight Outta Compton) told him to yell EFF IT before every take. He treats this movie like a joke, which again, is what it deserves. Scott Eastwood (yes, Clint’s son) plays his underling, a role where he shows a personality a lot different than his dad’s. It’s refreshing.
I’ve been using words like “funny” and “laughing” a lot for a reason. For all the exploding cars and mumbling about family, this is basically a comedy. No movie could have a scene where a character kills dozens of henchmen while carrying a baby with him and not vault past joke territory. Nor would they include a lengthy scene showing Hobbs delivering a hard-nosed speech designed to pump up men, and have it be to his daughter’s soccer team. But I’ll give screenwriter Chris Morgan (Fast & Furious 6, Fast Five, Fast & Furious, you’re getting the point) credit: he’s having fun with his characters, and we buy it because they’re likable no matter what they do.
I freely laughed at much of this. Almost every line in this film might as well be pulled out of a comic book written by a twelve-year-old boy. Hobbs rips out concrete benches from the wall so quickly he might be the Hulk. Characters re-appear after dying in previous movies, making the stakes about as high as a pro wrestling match. But just like that fake sport, there’s a thrill in watching jacked idiots take stupid stories very seriously. Who am I to fault that?
This is where I must confess something that hits to the bone of who I am as a film critic. I can’t hate these movies. Yes, they’re ridiculous and stupid, but so what? Hollywood has been cashing in on stupid and thrilling since The Great Train Robbery in 1903. Who am I to shame them for appealing for our desire to see fast things go boom? The climax here? The group goes one-on-one with a submarine. Considering Fast & Furious 6 was in the air, it makes sense now were by sea. It takes place in Russia, another beautiful location choice by the filmmakers. You get to also see New York City and Cuba (where it was shot on location, the first major Amercian studio project to do it). Even after all these years, I don’t tire of watching fast cars drive through beautiful lands.
I’ll give these Fast & Furious crew credit; they may be stupid, but there’s a heart with this franchise that keeps it running like a good engine. This series never gets offensively stupid like a Michael Bay film, nor does it get bogged down in an episodic formula like some Marvel movies. God help me, but I think we need these movies.
The Fast and the Furious appeared in 2001 as the hell-spawn of street racing, ghetto rap, nu-metal and being a douchebag. In the 16 (!) years since, it’s morphed into an action franchise more ludicrous than almost any cartoon, but with an undercurrent of family devotion.
I would say that this, the eighth film in the franchise, represents the culmination of all that, but screw it. They have two more movies planned, so it’s only a matter of time before we get Dominic Torretto in space. Hit me with your best shot Vin Diesel.
Published by Jagger Czajka