TL;DR – The Fate of the Furious is a stupid dumb film, but it’s also a bunch of fun and downright heart-warming in places.
Score – 3.5 out of 5 stars
Ok so we need to acknowledge straight from the start that this is the eighth film in the Fast in the Furious franchise, that’s a real accomplishment and puts it tied with Star Wars which is not mean feat, but it still has a bit to go to catch up with Star Trek, Marvel, Bond, and wait what Air Bud, really, there have been fourteen of them, goodness. Ok wait, we went off on a tangent there, ok where were we, oh yes eight films, it is a real achievement, and means that they are doing something right. However, to be honest for me I have not watched any since the 2nd back in the day, because they kept taking this ridiculous premise and playing it completely seriously and it just grated on me. But given that this is film number eight and given that this franchise has become one of the biggest in modern filmmaking I thought I’d give it another go, and wow was I pleasantly surprised. So going into the eighth film in a franchise there are some things that you can expect before the opening titles roll, there will be a lot of fast cars, a lot of women in tight clothing, a metric ass-ton of machismo, and oh, also a completely on point James Bond narrative, ok I was actually not expecting that last one but there it is and it was a pleasant surprise. It is really fascinating to jump back in after all this time and see just how much the series has evolved, but also how in many ways it has really not changed much at all. So in today’s review, we are going to look at the story, the characters, the action, as well as a couple of other tidbits.
Ok so let’s be honest for a moment, many of you are going to see The Fate of the Furious for one simple thing to see people drive fast cars both against each other in a race, or trying to get away from the police, or trying to catch a bad guy, indeed if you are here just to see those fine creations of engineering and art as they shred rubber down a city street, you’ll be really happy. Indeed there is quite a lot of action in The Fate of the Furious and not all of it is car based, ok a lot of it is but not all of it. There are some decent gun battles, exploding building, hand to hand fights, even the occasional riot to attend to and all of this works really quite well. Probably the best examples to talk about actually occur at the end of the film so I can’t really say much without heading into spoilers other to say, but to be coy for those who have seen the film, did it just use a car to defeat a [spoiler], like that was amazing but it makes no sense, oh well let’s just roll with it. Probably the best non-car action sequence was a prison escape/duel/riot towards the start which had some great combat sequences whilst also showing off just how much you do not want to piss off Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson). Also, there is a very novel fight sequence at the end of the film with high stakes and I really have to give the filmmakers credit for how they pulled it off. While there are a lot of cuts the action is still clear and very fluid, so you always know what is going on unlike a lot of other cut heavy action films. However, one small issue is that in a film all about the cars, it is a bit disappointed that it is quite noticeable that they have used CGI cars in places. Look not every film needs to be, or can be Mad Max Fury Road, but some more work was needed to render the light maps on the CGI models so they didn’t stand out as much as they did.
While the action is really good, what also helps is everything around the action as it helps the whole movie shine. First, the locations in this film are amazing, we made the Bond comparison earlier in the review but you really see it here as The Fate of the Furious jumps from one location to the next, I even really liked how they implemented the location titles. Iceland once again shines here, and makes another compelling case for me to come visit one day. The film also starts in Havana, and actually filmed there as well and besides creating a fantastic location for the first car chase I do have to say this is the most rose tinted glasses version of Havana I have seen in a while, there is no chance they could have gotten away with all that without the police interfering, an issue we will explore a bit more in a bit. As well as the locations, I have to give a shout out to Brian Tyler and his great score that blends strong action beets with current licenced songs to make a compelling audio soundscape for the carnage on the roads. Part of what works is that they have had the same team in a lot of the roles (Editing, Cinematography, music, costumes) for a number of films now and you can see that they just get the film’s tone and characters.
Of course, we can’t talk The Fast and the Furious without talking about the characters because of how they are the more important, more so than just about anything in the film, ok maybe the cars too. Look Vin Diesel gets a lot of flak for playing the same character or at least the same type in all his films, but you can’t deny he is perfect for the role of Dominic. He oozes charisma, but while he may talk mostly in stares or in a low gravelly voice it is also clear how much he cares for his family. Dwayne Johnson is, well look, Dwayne Johnson is one of this generations best actors because he is comfortable in whatever situation you give him, from being a soccer coach, to breaking out of prison, to heading a raid in a foreign country with no parachute if something goes wrong. Charlize Theron is this movie’s big bad playing Cipher and while I thought she had an interesting introduction the more the film when on, the blander and one note her character became. Scott Eastwood is continuing his current trend in appearing in every action franchise as a CIA/Military guy, he has played this role quite a bit, so it will be good to see him branch out a bit more. The rest of the supporting cast is amazing whether it is Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) someone you do not want to mess with, or Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) talking his mouth off, Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel), Tej (Chris Bridges) and Roman (Tyrese Gibson) banter, or indeed the delightful Magdalene Shaw (Helen Mirren).
Now it is these characters that will help you get through this movie because it’s not really going to be the story. Look the story is there for one propose to drive the film to the next action or character beat, so in that regard, it does quite well, but it also means it is very superficial and starts to fall apart on a closer inspection. Now because we are talking about the story there will be some slight spoilers here so you will want to skip to the next paragraph if that concerns you. For example for someone who is meant to be so smart, Cipher makes some really stupid decisions, like it is clear that Charlize Theron is trying to play at something deeper but the script is given her nothing to work with. As well as this, you have things that just make no sense, like why is the Berlin police protecting a terrorist group, why would Luke be flown to the USA to stand charges for something that happened in Germany when it was clear that the USA government was not going to help him, these are just a couple of a number of examples throughout the film. In what world is an EMP a class 4 WMD, and from someone who studied Arms Control and Disarmament the whole nuclear subplot is a mess. This lack of story also leads to The Fate of the Furious biggest problem, it’s completely predictable, seriously you will probably be able to work out the fate of every character within a couple of minutes of them being on the screen. This being said, the movie will go and hit you in the feels at times, the characters are well written even if the rest of the script isn’t, and most of the story issues don’t get in the way of the enjoyment of the film, and it is good to see them take the series in a new direction, this time into spy film territory. Though there is this odd moment where we have all of these beautiful product placements of brand new car models, and then the movie goes and states that they can all be hackable and crashes them into other cars, I wonder if they knew that before oking the placement.
Look in the end all The Fate of the Furious really needed to do is have great action sequences and have great characters and in both cases, the movie works really well. Now would I have liked the story to have a bit more substance, of course, but it does not take away just how much fun this film was. Look after missing so many of the films in this franchise I think the best praise that I can give them here is that The Fate of the Furious has made me want to go back and watch the others that I missed.
By Brian MacNamara: You can follow Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV, he’ll be talking about International Relations, or the Solar System.
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Directed by – F. Gary Gray
Written by – Chris Morgan
Based on – Characters by Gary Scott Thompson
Music by – Brian Tyler
Cinematography by – Stephen F. Windon
Edited by – Christian Wagner & Paul Rubell
Starring – Vin Diesel, Dwayne Johnson, Michelle Rodriguez, Jason Statham, Tyrese Gibson, Chris Bridges, Nathalie Emmanuel, Scott Eastwood, Kurt Russell, Charlize Theron, Kristofer Hivju, Elsa Pataky, Luke Evans & Helen Mirren
Rating – Australia: M; Canada: PG; NZ: M; UK: 12A; USA: PG-13