The Fate of the Furious.
Here’s some context for my history with this franchise. I was on the fence for the first four movies but when Fast Five rolled around, things ramped up, with this franchise now becoming one of the best big-budget action movie series out there. At least, it was.
It’s all about family. Dom (Vin Diesel) has a crew of friends that are called in to help Hobbs (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson) with a mission that, should it go sideways, could send Hobbs to prison. Well, things go sideways. Turns out Dom has been approached by a mysterious hacker named Cipher (Charlize Theron) and for some reason he’s betrayed his closest friends (and his lover Letty, Michelle Rodriguez). To find and capture Dom and Cipher, the head of a secret organization (Kurt Russell) steps in, bringing firepower and some new allies (highlighted by Jason Statham) to get the job done. We’ve also got series regulars Tyrese Gibson, Chris “Ludacris” Bridges, and from the last movie, Nathalie Emmanuel.
It’s hard to continue this franchise after the loss of Paul Walker but I admit this movie tried really hard.
With Walker out of the picture, other characters got a little more time in the spotlight. Hobbs, who kind of showed up in the past films on and off, was the lead here, taking over the team that Dom left. This was a nice change, as Dwayne Johnson is electrifying whenever he’s on screen. They also gave him some character moments that gave the movie some heart that it was obviously missing now. Johnson also had a great dynamic with the return of Statham, though this rivalry never actually culminates in any sort of satisfying way.
This movie is also really funny, with Tyrese and Ludacris having a great back and forth banter as well. This feels a little overdone, as this dynamic was done in the past few movies as well, but I was still chuckling so I’ll count it as a win.
I also appreciated the creativity on display, especially a sequence involving self-driving cars. They’re managing to create really interesting action sequences, though your sense of realism has to be turned off completely. “Is every car in New York self-driving?” I asked myself during the movie. Apparently yes.
What doesn’t work?
Now, before I begin my criticisms… This is a fun action movie and you can still love it while recognizing it’s not necessarily a good movie.
Here are the things that aren’t great. The first deterrent is that the movie clocks in at 2 hours and 40 minutes. It’s entirely too long and the pacing is actually really slow, I found myself bored several times throughout the movie. In the opening scene, you’ll start to realize why it’s so long. Every shot lasts 2-3 seconds longer than it should. They showed no restraint, no urgency. The movie crawls because it takes that much longer for anything to happen.
Once the action starts, I had some problems with its execution. Many of the movie’s biggest scenes suffered from Transformers syndrome, where things just kind of melded together and explosions just kind of happened. You might be excited for this big action sequence but it’s difficult to even make sense of what’s happening on screen sometimes. The hand-to-hand sequences, most notably a jail sequence with Johnson and Statham, are victims of “shaky cam,” where the camera just shakes violently to make you feel like the action is so intense but really, it’s an illusion to overcompensate for poor choreography. If the action and fight sequences don’t look great, that knocks this movie down a couple slots already.
Now let’s get to the story. Dom betrays his family. I won’t spoil what happens but I will say his reasoning for betraying them is frustrating and nonsensical, focusing on plot elements that I thought were so insignificant in past movies that I didn’t even include them in my “What You Need to Know” video. They’ll never bring those plot points up again, I thought. Well, they’re super vital now but it’s problematic for the story in a lot of different ways.
They also add unnecessary characters to an already bloated cast. For some reason, we now have Scott Eastwood. There are two problems here. One: his character is unnecessary and contributes to a long runtime. Two: his acting here is really subpar, near cringeworthy. Then there’s the question of Jason Statham’s return. This character murdered one of their best friends and spent an entire movie trying to murder the rest of them. Their forgetfulness is super frustrating, however badass Statham might be in this movie.
You can love this movie, that’s fine. It’s got some fun action and you’ll be laughing and it’s got some creative moments. However, it’s flawed as a movie and felt average for this genre, not really delivering much that exceeds expectations. The story is unsatisfying and the movie is about 40 minutes too long, everything feeling just a little too slow (which is unfortunate for a movie intended to be both fast and furious). After the awesomeness of entries five, six, and seven, The Fate of the Furious is a frustrating disappointment.