×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Film Review: ‘The Fate of the Furious’

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.

With:
Vin Diesel, Dwayne Johnson, Charlize Theron, Jason Statham, Michelle Rodriguez, Kurt Russell, Helen Mirren, Scott Eastwood, Tyrese Gibson, Ludacris, Nathalie Emmanuel.
Release Date:
Apr 14, 2017

Official Site: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt4630562/

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.

More Film

  • 'Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse' Weaves Inclusive

    The Secret Power of 'Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse' Is Inclusion

    In a year that gave us films like “Black Panther” and “Crazy Rich Asians,” this weekend’s “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” delivers one more home run for underrepresented groups in media in 2018. An animated film that takes advantage of Sony’s piece of the Marvel pie, “Spider-Verse” not only puts a mixed-race, middle-class teenager in the [...]

  • Jeff BridgesJeff Bridges, who stars in

    Jeff Bridges to Receive Cecil B. DeMille Award at 2019 Golden Globes

    The Hollywood Foreign Press Association has announced that Jeff Bridges will receive the Cecil B. DeMille award at the 76th Golden Globes on Jan. 6, 2019. Bridges has starred in films like “The Big Lebowski,” “Crazy Heart,” “True Grit,” and “The Fabulous Baker Boys.” More Reviews Film Review: 'Nona' Tallinn Film Review: 'Winter's Night' “The [...]

  • Charlotte Rampling Euphoria

    Berlin Film Festival: Charlotte Rampling to Receive Honorary Golden Bear

    Oscar-nominated actress Charlotte Rampling, whose career has spanned more than 100 film and television roles, will be honored with a special Golden Bear at the upcoming Berlin Film Festival. The fest will also pay homage to Rampling by screening a selection of her work, including Sidney Lumet’s “The Verdict” (1982), Francois Ozon’s “Swimming Pool” (2003) [...]

  • The Sisters Brothers

    France's Lumieres Awards Unveil Nominations

    Jacques Audiard’s “The Sisters Brothers” has been nominated for best film and director at the 24th Lumieres Awards, France’s equivalent of the Golden Globes. The Western starring Joaquin Phoenix, John C. Reilly and Jake Gyllenhaal world-premiered at Venice Film Festival, where it earned Audiard a best director award. More Reviews Film Review: 'Nona' Tallinn Film [...]

  • CAA to Represent Peter Chan's We

    CAA to Represent Peter Chan's We Pictures

    Creative Artists Agency (CAA) has signed with We Pictures, the production and distribution company founded by Hong Kong-born director and producer Peter Chan Ho-sun. It aims to boost the company’s footprint both in China and abroad. Within China, CAA China will help We Pictures to develop new business partnerships and find new sources of investment [...]

  • Elizabeth Karlsen, Stephen Woolley to Receive

    'Carol' Producers Elizabeth Karlsen, Stephen Woolley to Be Honored by BAFTA

    Elizabeth Karlsen and Stephen Woolley, the producers of such films as “Carol,” “Their Finest” and the recent “Colette” starring Keira Knightley, will receive the Outstanding British Contribution to Cinema Award at the BAFTA Film Awards. The prolific pair run Number 9 Films and have a long list of credits. They will pick up their accolade at [...]

  • BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY

    Korea Box Office: 'Rhapsody' Reclaims Top Spot, Beats ‘Spider-Verse’

    “Bohemian Rhapsody” reclaimed top place at the South Korean box office, overtaking “Default,” after spending two weekends in second place. The Fox release earned $4.38 million from 554,000 admissions for a total of $61.0 million from 7.94 million admissions. In its seventh weekend of release “Rhapsody” accounted for 27% of the weekend box office. CJ [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content