THE FATE OF THE FURIOUS Review
Director: F. Gary Gray
Back when I was first discovering the wonders of watching movies through the internet, amongst the first things I watched were all of the Fast and Furious movies that had been made to that point. I’m not sure why I chose this particular series, but I devoured them, genuinely impressed that the plots of the films so baldly served as nothing but vehicles (pun intended) for fast cars, hot girls, and explosions. However, as you may have realized, this means I did not get to see most of these films in theaters, and boy, have I come to regret that. As such, seeing THE FATE OF THE FURIOUS in the theater felt like a real treat.
The eighth installment in the ever-ballooning series needs to be seen on the big screen with a giant sound system. It’s so much easier to get on board with the absurd scale of the film when things like gigantic Russian nuclear submarines are 40 feet tall and the rumbling of it breaking through sheets of ice vibrates your insides. Director F. Gary Gray is aware of this and balances a story that is simplistic but interesting with flooring set pieces and visual effects. THE FATE OF THE FURIOUS’s strength is that it does not try to be something it’s not. It embraces its cheese and goes balls-to-the-walls with its humongous set pieces, which is really all I’m looking for in a franchise built on smoking tires and a 14 year old boy’s idea of “cool.”
To be honest, the main reason I wanted to see F8 (am I the only one that didn’t realize until a moment ago that F8 = fate) was the submarine bursting through the ice on the billboards all around LA, and let me tell you, it did NOT disappoint. Somehow, after the whole parachuting-in-cars-out-of-a-plane-onto-a-road thing in FURIOUS 7, Charlize Theron hacking into and hijacking a nuclear submarine from an airplane-borne computer lab seems completely believable. Unfortunately, the submarine was the best part about Theron’s character, Cipher, who was woefully one-dimensional and underdeveloped. But it’s Charlize, so even as the most boring villain ever she held her own on screen and didn’t detract from the tension in the story. It’s just a bummer, because I was hoping for such fireworks from her. Oh well! I’m just going to blame it on the horribly misguided hair style.
Seriously, who thought this was a good idea?
After seven previous movies it’s difficult to surprise your audience, but F8 gave it a good try. Vin Diesel’s Dom becomes the bad guy in this film (a quasi inverse TERMINATOR), and though we know Dom way too well to believe that he’d ever turn on his team, it was really fun seeing him transform into the angry and tortured antagonist. Dressed all in black with an intense scowl and mouth set in a hard line, Vin Diesel oozed delicious, delicious menace, the tension emanating from him in almost tangible waves. On the flip side, The Rock continues to be a beautiful ray of sunshine as he is in everything he does. When we meet him again in this movie, he is on the field coaching his daughter’s soccer team, giving the most goddam inspiring speech to an adorably fearsome group of 11 year-old warriors, then proceeding to do a badass haka with his team of Red Dragons. It’s a truly majestic scene. His good dad traits coupled with his rivalry-turned-bromance that is Jason Statham’s Deckard Shaw is enough to make anyone’s heart melt.
And speaking of Shaw, this time Statham gets to return as a good guy, which is fortunate, since he’s much better suited to it than attempting to play the brooding baddie as he did in FURIOUS 7. Instead, he basically reprises his character from the TRANSPORTER series, which culminates in my absolute favorite scene from F8. In this sequence, Shaw fights down the length of a heavily-guarded plane, baby in hand. The choreography in the scene is artful and lets Statham flex the hand-to-hand stunt muscles he perfected in the TRANSPORTER movies, and also lets him bring back the witty one-liners that seem so native to him.
Aw, look at these cuties
F8 preserves all the things that we know and love about the franchise. The dialog, cheesy and unsubtle as ever, is kept to a minimum, which allows the meaty pursuit and fight sequences to dominate. F8 still includes the same ridiculous masculine posturing as its predecessors, but it also retains the pure heart of the series: the loyalty and support of one’s “family.” The Fast franchise is rarely given credit for this, its most valuable quality, portraying a group of friends who raise each other up instead of tearing one another down. A group of friends that is cool and successful who love each other for who they are and push each other only to improve. It is a value that is reflected both in F8 and in real life, as Dom Toretto names his son after Paul Walker’s character Brian, just as Vin Diesel named his daughter Pauline in the wake of Walker’s death in 2013. In a world where bullying proliferates and competition dominates, this message will always be valuable. F8 preserves the “wow” factor and the heart, which makes it a worthy addition to the franchise and a fun action flick to boot.