Film Review: ‘The Fate of the Furious’

'The Fate of the Furious' review:
Courtesy of Universal Studios

The eighth 'Fast and the Furious' film, with Charlize Theron as a supervillain who puts Vin Diesel under her thumb, is a dazzling action spectacle that proves this franchise is far from out of gas.

If there were a hierarchy of action cinema, you’d find a masterpiece of speed-demon nihilism like “Mad Max: Fury Road” at the very top, and on the next level a superior Bond or Bourne film or “Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol.” At the bottom would be the visceral, live-wire kicks of B-movie brutality. Somewhere in the middle are the “Fast and the Furious” films, which started off as drag-race movies but morphed, over time, into an outlandishly extravagant genre all their own, one with just enough heart — and, yes, mind — to make the stunts and velocity seem like something larger: a pure expression of character. If this series, over the last 16 years, has taught us anything, it’s that just when you think it’s about to run out of gas, it gets outfitted with an even more elaborate fuel-injection system. And that’s never been more true than it is of the eighth film in the series, “The Fate of the Furious,” which may just be the most spectacular one yet.

That’s because more than any previous entry, it draws elements from every conceivable level of the action-cinema hierarchy. It’s a pedal-to-the-metal car-chase movie. And a global thermonuclear cyberthriller in which a supervillain, known as Cipher (Charlize Theron), tries to teach the world’s superpowers a deadly lesson. It’s also a suspenseful “inter-family” drama that takes the gruntingly gruff and loyal Teddy-bear badass Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) and figures out a way to pit him against all of his beloved comrades, including Letty (Michelle Rodriguez), whom he’s finally just married. The movie is also a playfully sadistic bare-knuckle rouser, with actors like Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham inflicting some serious bone damage.

You’d think that merging all those elements would make “The Fate of the Furious” a bit of an overcooked stew. Is the movie top-heavy, only semi-logical, and 20 minutes too long? Of course! But the director, F. Gary Gray (“Straight Outta Compton”), who has shown a propensity for action going back to “Set It Off” (1996) and “The Italian Job” (2003), now proves to be a high-flying ballistic wizard at it. “The Fate of the Furious” is nothing more than pulp done smart, but scene for scene it’s elegant rather than bombastic, and it packs a heady escapist wallop. The fact that it’s the first film in the series to have been made after the death of Paul Walker (and the first not to feature him since “The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift,” in 2006) only gives fans that much more of a reason to rally around it. Box office should be over-the-top.

The movie opens in Havana, where Dominic and Letty are on their honeymoon, an interlude that’s interrupted when Dom agrees to race a Cuban hipster-bully who tried to make off with his cousin’s jalopy. It’s an uneven race, with Dom stuck driving the slow-poke jalopy, which he strips down to its engine and outfits with a nitrous-oxide canister that will make the car either go intensely fast or blow up (or both). It’s the one classical old-school race in the entire movie, and it’s a true rouser, with Havana making for the most decorous of Old World mazes, and Dom, in the home stretch, driving the car in reverse, its engine engulfed in flame. But when a slow-mo overhead shot shows him inching ahead across the finish line, damned if you don’t want to fist-pump.

Following that rapid-fire appetizer, the film teases out its main course: Cipher, in twisty long blonde tresses, introducing herself to Dom and telling him that he’s about to go to work for her (and against his friends). When he balks, she shows him something on a cell phone that changes his mind. What is it? The film keeps us in suspense for a while, but for Dom to cave in and betray those he’s closest to, you know it must be serious. Theron proves an ace villain: imperious yet personable, with a leonine cunning and directness. Cipher is some sort of vaguely left-wing power-mad cyber-warrior (she doesn’t want the usual money or chaos — she wants to force the world’s nations into “accountability”), and even her curled finger-taps on the keyboard dance with personality.

Meanwhile, Mr. Nobody (Kurt Russell), the jaunty U.S. covert-ops shark who leaves no traces, coerces Dom’s crew into going back to work for him, a process that involves slapping Johnson’s Luke Hobbs in prison, all so that he can break out along with Statham’s Deckard Shaw, the rogue assassin who’s his loathed rival. Johnson and Statham get the hostile jabs flowing, but really, that’s the language of this whole crew. The other sparring partners include the peacockish Roman Pearce (Tyrese Gibson) and the dweebish Tej Parker (Ludacris), as well as the entire team ganging up on Nobody’s green new second-in-command, played by Scott Eastwood with a by-the-book dork decency that grows more winning.

“The Fate of the Furious” feels standard-issue when the crew uses the God’s Eye global-scan computer program (sorry, but it’s got nothing on the stuff in the latest “Bourne” film — or the real-life N.S.A.), or when Helen Mirren shows up, in a too-cute cameo, as Deckard’s Cockney spy-overseer mom. Yet the action set pieces are stunning, staged with a flamboyance that’s surgical in its precision, and that emerges from their logistical sense of purpose. A chase through Manhattan, with an army of remote-controlled “zombie” cars trapping the vehicle of the Russian defense minister, who is toting a suitcase of nuclear codes, really seems to be taking place in teeming, anything-goes New York City. It culminates in Dom facing down his colleagues, who spear his jet-black Mad Max mobile from four directions, and that still isn’t enough to stop the guy. Vin Diesel has become a great action star, not just because of how he delivers those on-the-nose revenge lines but because he expresses sheer will — the will to win, to survive, to drive — in every muscular grimace.

The movie climaxes with a preposterously elaborate showdown at a military outpost in the frozen Russian wasteland, and the sequence has everything: a zipping-across-the-glacier momentum that merges with destruction, fireballs even bigger than you expect, as well as a humongous nuclear submarine smashing through the ice, so that Dom can do a split-second kamikaze fly-drive right through it. In the end, I’m not sure how I feel about our heroes being made into a pack of world-saving James Bonds, but what’s clear is that there’s probably no turning back. Most franchises, after eight films, are feeling a twinge of exhaustion, but this one has achieved a level of success — and perpetual kinetic creative energy — that’s a testament to its commercial/cultural/demographic resonance. So it only makes sense that its characters must now do important things. Breaking the speed limit never looked so responsible.

Film Review: 'The Fate of the Furious'

Reviewed at Radio City Music Hall, New York, April 8, 2017. MPAA Rating: PG-13. Running time: 136 MIN.

Production

A Universal Pictures release, in association with China Film Co., of an Original Film, One Race Films production. Producers: Neal H. Moritz, Vin Diesel, Michael Fottrell. Executive producers: Chris Morgan, Amanda Lewis, Samantha Vincent.

Crew

Director: F. Gary Gray. Screenplay: Chris Morgan. Camera (color, widescreen): Stephen F. Windon. Editors: Paul Rubell, Christian Wagner.

With

Vin Diesel, Dwayne Johnson, Charlize Theron, Jason Statham, Michelle Rodriguez, Kurt Russell, Helen Mirren, Scott Eastwood, Tyrese Gibson, Ludacris, Nathalie Emmanuel.

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  1. Kathy says:

    Spectacular movie that packs a bit of everything. I did not think that this installment would be as engaging but it truly delivered. Adding Charlize as the beautiful and evil Cipher was fantastic…loved that her character never wavered….she maintained that cold as a fish persona to the end except for when she realized that Dom and Deckard had beat her at her own game and she was forced to ‘fly’ away with her parachute. Since she was never captured and was supposedly sighted somewhere in Athens according to Mr Nobody, this leaves the door open for her reappearance in the 9th installment of the franchise (?). I agree that Scott Eastwood’s character could be the precursor to a new team member for the gang and a possible replacement for Brian. The scenery and car chases, particularly when it was ‘raining’ cars, were amazing. Another box office wonder!

  2. Ighosotu says:

    I think they are trying to kill the franchise since the death of Paul Walker. That’s Torredo have to be against his family but I know there will be Fast and Furious 9. Watch out.

  3. jd says:

    Surprises me when a lot of people comment badly about this franchise but yet they have not seen any film in the franchise.

    Aside from that, this was a fu.king cracker of a film. Theron was a great addition though I would have liked if she had gotten more physically involved in the action scenes. Mirren was a hoot. I’m surprised the review never mentioned that Scott Eastwood’s character is being set up, in my view anyway, to be the new brian character, who was a cop before he went rogue with Dom and he looks very similar to Paul Walker. This was as good as the last few films and thoroughly entertaining.

  4. Jumiten Sari says:

    Watch The Fate of the Furious Full Movies Online Free HD

    ORIGINAL URL >> http://zonamovie.net

    Genre : Action, Crime, Drama, Thriller
    Stars : Vin Diesel, Dwayne Johnson, Jason Statham, Kurt Russell, Michelle Rodriguez, Charlize Theron
    Runtime : 136 min.

    Production : Universal Pictures

    Movie Synopsis:
    When a mysterious woman seduces Dom into the world of crime and a betrayal of those closest to him, the crew face trials that will test them as never before.

  5. Joe says:

    Those who bad mouth this franchise seem to fail to understand why it succeeds where it does. One is capable of enjoying high quality films and superfluous stuff like this in the same way one can enjoy dinner at both a fine sushi place and a low run teriyaki place. Enjoyable is enjoyable. Great technical, action filmmaking can be as justifiably entertaining as any other film. It may not achieve the same level of quality, but if it’s entertaining in it’s spectacle, then it’s worth the price. And if you’re questioning the entertainment value of the franchise, go back and look at any of the major action scenes of the past three films and how technically accomplished they are. That’s reason enough for this franchise.

  6. nbean3 says:

    O’d never heard of Charlize Theron before; she’s very beautiful and majestic. She’s gonna make it big in Hollywood.

  7. Unknown freak says:

    Just came here to read Online Trolls wasting time writing bullshit comments against this franchise ( and probably everything else in their lives).

    Only bullshit and trash talk-no constructive reviews and critics-drop dead!

  8. Glenda Jeffries says:

    The movie was awesome I enjoyed watching it and all cast member did a great job in here .

  9. Just because the fast and furious Franchise doesn’t appeal to you doesn’t make them crap films. If you don’t like them don’t watch them and don’t waste your time reading a article pertaining to it. Makes zero sense why your wasting your time criticizing a film you clearly don’t like!

  10. Movie Chat Blog says:

    Where did you watch the movie before it was released?

  11. This review is serious? 8 movies for this crap?! Even a blind man would understand that this kind of cinema is trash. No thanks, i think i’ll see ”MINE”.

  12. Alex Kelaru says:

    Thumbs up to this piece of c**p and thumbs down to T2:Trainspotting??? WTF is the matter with you? This franchise is like a piece of s**t that just won’t flush! Yes, I understand the reasons for continuing to make these ‘excrements’ of movies, but I’m shocked that they warrant the attention, time and online real-estate of a respected webpage such as Variety. Baffled… but maybe it’s just me…

    • Trainspotting sucked says:

      Trainspotting was boring, dry trash. It’s a wonder they bothered to dredge up that over 20 year old turd to try to make a sequel of it. Hollywood is desperate.

    • Anthony shepherd says:

      And it seems you do care about the franchise since you commented on this article. You need to get at better trolling, and T2 trainspotting and this film are very different so it makes sense that they’re rated differently. Now, put on your big boy pants and stop whining over a computer screen when things don’t got your way.

    • Anthony shepherd says:

      Butt hurt, eh?

  13. bobo says:

    All I can think of is Billion Dollar Brain

  14. ivan says:

    Every time they make another one of these, it’s just one more in the series that I haven’t seen.

  15. Cass says:

    Tell us who hurt you, friend?

  16. LOL says:

    It looks crap, though. Like it’s made for idiots.

  17. stevenkovacs says:

    The last one was reduced to one action set-piece followed by another. Quite disappointing.
    I hope this is more like FF 4-6 quality!

  18. me says:

    Mad Max had absolutely NO story and was 2 hours of boredom. If that’s his yard stick, he’s even worse at this than I thought.

    • Bill B. says:

      I’ve never seen a Fast & Furious movie I liked and doubt I’ll see this one, but Mad Max was an awesome piece of film making. I never thought it would win an Oscar for best picture, but I was sure hoping its director would win. I’ve seen it a number of times. It is a spectacular production.

      • Dave J says:

        Mad Max- Fury road was one-note to go there and then back is not really a thrilling experience. And there’s a reason why Fury Road was not even nominated for best original story.

    • Gerald Ward says:

      Mad Max was off the freaking chain and won a few Oscars!!

    • Greg says:

      Mad Max: Fury Road have 10 Oscar nominations including Best Picture and 6 wins… tell me another action movie who did that

    • Also me says:

      Mad Max Furry Road was not about plot, it was about spectacle, which was provided by IMAX and nothing else

  19. mcgwynne says:

    American taste in movies now seems to mirror our current administration It’s all very bad news for those who would presume we would be judged by our last eight years of thoughtful but enfeebled response to a-holes!!

  20. Ray Usiak says:

    “If there WERE …”
    But then, the extravagant praise for a film of immeasurably little value is the definitive reflection of the state of film criticism today.

    • Max Borg says:

      Have you actually seen the film? Not that I’m defending the Fast franchise (I’ve enjoyed the later instalments, but that’s pretty much it), but criticizing someone’s opinion without having seen the movie in question is one of the problems of moviegoing today…

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