"The Fate of the Furious": Movie Review
The Fast and Furious flicks have never been terribly concerned with obeying the laws of physics (or common sense, for that matter), and eight movies in, with two more still to come, it’s clear that’s not going to change anytime soon. In fact, the nonsensical goings-on in The Fate of the Furious make the Dubai tower-to-tower jump in 2015’s Furious Seven look like a Sunday drive down a quiet, tree-lined avenue.
Though Fate gets its act together for a slam-bang final half-hour, the first hour and forty-five minutes (yes, it clocks in at 2:15) are so ridiculous and over-the-top, it’s readily apparently that the bloom is coming off the (fuel-injected, 8-cylinder) rose.
The first of the series to be filmed after the 2013 death of co-star Paul Walker, The Fate of the Furious can’t seem to overcome his absence ("honoring" his memory with a quick photo and an even quicker mention), instead taking the head-scratching left turn of having Toretto (Vin Diesel) become the bad guy, blackmailed by a cyber-terrorist named Cipher (Charlize Theron) into turning against his crew. Screenwriter Chris Morgan, who has penned the last five films in the series, clearly wanted to shake things up, but Fate is his weakest effort yet (and, yes, that includes 2006’s Tokyo Drift). Full of wildly implausible situations and gaping, borderline-criminal plot holes, it’s a mediocre attempt at best.
Not that the plot is important, but the main gist is that Cipher is trying to upset the global apple cart by first stealing an EMP device and then stealing Russia’s nuclear launch codes. She’s able to coerce Toretto into coming along for the ride, while Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson), Tej (Ludacris), Letty (Michelle Rodriguez), and the rest of the Fast and Furious posse drive around in really fancy cars, trying to stop them.
Director F. Gary Gray (Straight Outta Compton) does his best to keep the motor humming, but he’s hampered significantly by Morgan’s script. Theron is stuck on a plane, far away from the action, for most of the movie, relegated to barking orders into a headset. And Diesel lone-wolfs it with a perma-scowl and the demeanor of a sleepwalker.
Among the few bright spots is Johnson reprising his role as Hobbs. After Mr. Nobody (a winning Kurt Russell) has him team up with Furious 7’s bad guy Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) to go after Cipher, some much-needed life is injected into the festivities.
The finale, involving a Russian sub, an ice field, and a couple of heat-seeking missiles, is pure nutballs, and it almost succeeds in helping you forget the interminable lead-up. But not quite. My advice to Gray, Morgan, and, heck, Universal? Stop trying so hard. Just go back to the old days when you made fun films with cool cars. The good guys were good, the bad guys were bad, and all was right with the world.