Film Review: The Fate of the Furious #F8

XO Rating

5 Plot
7 Cinematography
5 Cast
6 Experience

Director: F. Gary Gray

Writer: Chris Morgan

Cast: Vin Diesel, Charlize Theron, Dwayne Johnson

Our faithful hero is finally enjoying some rest and relaxation. Retirement looks good on a weathered Dom (Diesel) as he carves out a decent life for his family in Cuba. His life of leisure comes to a screeching halt when he comes across a dangerous woman who lures him into a job he cannot refuse. His new assignment puts him against everything he stands for, forcing him to fight the family he is sworn to protect.

This eighth installment of the Fast and Furious franchise, titled The fate of the furious, is bad. It is really bad. As the first film since Paul Walker’s untimely passing, the film falls flat in story development, plot, and realism. If you are familiar with the previous films then you know that the formula is the same throughout. Typically the crew is chasing some drug lord or pulling off some heist that requires high-speed chases and insane stunts. This time around they are up against a diabolical villain bent on world domination. Expecting the often comical crew to get drugs off the street is one thing, but stopping nukes is a huge leap in the wrong direction. Realism takes a sharp nosedive in this movie as outrageous stunts and gratuitous fighting replaces plot and dialogue. In one of the first action sequences Dom is driving a beat up old car that catches fire, flips over, and crashes over a bridge but somehow he leaps out of the fiery vehicle completely untouched. Not even a ripped shirt or scar; his white tank top bright and crisp as if nothing at all happened. In another scene, Roman (Tyrese Gibson) is saved from a watery grave by a car door and is dragged through icy tundra on that door while angry henchmen shoot directly at him missing every single shot. Despite the usual insanity of the stunts we have come to expect some degree of realism in their aftermath. To have our heroes in peril and not see a single scratch as evidence, is insulting. This oversight is unforgivable especially as they face their most dangerous threat to date.

Charlize Theron joins the cast as the terrorist Dom can’t resist. She is smart, manipulative, crazy, and lives on an airplane with a team of doting henchmen. She isn’t the usual greedy mobster looking for a payout. She isn’t chasing revenge. She just wants the entire world at her feet. Comic book fans should find this familiar territory and would be right to expect this threat to be handled by a team of super humans and a good looking alien or two. Unfortunately, this isn’t another bit of fodder fueling the DC versus Marvel debate. It is the Fast and the Furious, so we don’t get super humans just really good drivers in really fast cars. Despite the unrealistic plot, Theron is a worthy adversary.  She isn’t the usual cherub-faced beauty. Her look is darker and more sinister; pure evil. A role we loved seeing her in. As a terrorist she is willing to go to extremes to get what she wants, even killing a defenseless baby. In one of the pivotal scenes, she has someone killed in front of loved ones just because she can. She’s just in the wrong movie. Her antics are far too extreme and go well beyond what should be an acceptable threat. This is the eighth film, by now we’ve become accustomed to a certain formula and her darkness just doesn’t fit in.

As for the crew not much has changed. The smart guy and comic relief are still chasing the pretty tech girl. The tough girl is still in love with the lead bad ass and there is still a grizzled government agent leading the way.  The last member of the team is, of course, the gorgeous heartthrob, a role originally played by Paul Walker. Scott Eastwood tries to fill this void, but it is a little too soon. He looks the part but he doesn’t quite connect with the rest of the cast. He’s the odd man out and it shows. In fact, the cast is as disjointed on film as they are in real life. By now everyone is aware of the feud between Johnson and Diesel.  Their grievance shows up on film with a noticeable distance between the two.

In summation, the loss of Paul Walker has taken its toll on the franchise. From the writing to the direction there is a noticeable shift.  This film feels rushed and thrown together like two scripts trying desperately to become one complete movie. The Fate of the Furious is a grief-stricken ode to what could have been. As loyal fans, we enjoyed the fast cars, fight scenes, and familiar twists but we can’t deny there is something missing. With any luck, they’ll figure it all out before the next one if there is a next one, OK there will probably be a next one! We hope they take a long break before that happens.

The Fate of the Furious hits theaters this Friday, April 14th.