"The Fate of the Furious"
Release Date: April 14, 2017
Running Time: 138 minutes
“Dom, you’re just gonna turn your back on family just like that?” asks The Fate of the Furious’ Letty Ortiz (Michelle Rodriguez) of her man Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) when they cross paths after Dominic betrays the family that he’s presided over for six of the eight films in The Fast and the Furious franchise. It’s a question that’s on many minds. The answer is so simple and obvious despite being the driving force behind a contrived plot that exists solely to create unnecessary friction within Dominic’s extended family. It seems strange to alienate Vin Diesel’s Dominic from the likes of Michelle Rodriguez’s Letty, Tyrese Gibson’s Roman and Chris “Ludacris” Bridges’ Tej in the first sequel to be filmed since the death of franchise costar Paul Walker. In theory, the absence of Walker’s Brian should lead to a tightening of the bond the family members share. They only have each other. Family means everything to Dominic, so the idea that he would turn against his loved ones isn’t so much as shocking but unbelievable no matter the reason. From a narrative standpoint, Brian would easily step in to fill the leadership vacuum created by the turncoat Dominic. Brian’s namechecked a few times in The Fate of the Furious but it’s agreed by all parties to let him remain on the sidelines to enjoy life with his own family. But no one in their right mind is going to recast Brian. In this regards, Walker and the perspective his ex-cop so often provided Dominic’s street racer/former car thief are sorely missed. So Dwayne Johnson’s United States Diplomatic Security Service agent and undisputed alpha male Luke Hobbs steps up to the plate. Under the direction of Kurt Russell’s Mr. Nobody, Hobbs leads the charge to locate Dominic and to determine why he’s hooked up with cyberterrorist Cipher, who is played by an unchallenged Charlize Theron with automated efficiency and zero physical exertion. The problem is, we already went through this in Fast & Furious 6 when an amnesiac Letty worked for Luke Evan’s bad guy Owen Shaw. Screenwriter Chris Morgan clearly has run out of ideas after writing the last six films in the franchise. Couple this with director F. Gary Gray’s mechanical approach to what should be another intimate family affair on a grand scale and The Fate of the Furious is the least compelling and stirring sequel since the gang got back together for 2009’s Fast & Furious. It’s unfair to expect Gray—who directed Diesel’s 2003 A Man Apart—to recapture the emotional undercurrent of Furious 7. It’s impossible for almost any director to do that after a film which featured the last performance by an actor who played a beloved character in a long-running franchise. But too often Gray and Morgan remove the human element from The Fate of the Furious, as best illustrated by its two big chases—one in New York, the other in Russia—that involve remotely controlled vehicles and a nuclear sub, respectively. The latter ends The Fate of the Furious in dull and ludicrous Pierce Brosnan-era Bondian fashion. Gray knows a thing or two about cars having previously directed the tolerable Italian Job remake. With The Fate of the Furious, though, Gray reveals little to no imagination when it comes to staging the chases. Even the race along the streets of Havana to start The Fate of the Furious feels tedious and forced compared to those executed in past installments. That’s not to say The Fate of the Furious doesn’t have its moments—it’s just that do not occur behind the wheel. The decision to bring Jason Statham Furious 7’s bad guy Deckard Shaw into the fold works, especially when he and Johnson exchange sharp looks and fighting words. Sadly, though, by turning adversaries into allies, the much-desired rematch between Johnson and Statham never materializes. However, Statham gets to show off both his action skills and comic chops during a marvelously choreographed sequence that’s set on a plane. It’s impossible to explain what makes it so special without giving away the film’s big reveal. Tyrese Gibson’s lovable punching bag Roman gets a new foil in Scott Eastwood’s assistant to Kurt Russell’s Mr. Nobody. Helen Mirren fits in nicely as—well, let’s not spoil that. But Mirren’s brief appearance does result in a much-welcomed cameo during the film’s climax. There is also one significant death in The Fate of the Furious—and its ramifications will likely carry over to the next sequel. Finally, kudos to everyone involved in The Fate of the Furious for refusing to bring back Paul Walker’s Brian in CGI form or through flashbacks. While his absence is heavily felt in The Fate of the Furious, going the CGI route would have been disrespectful and distracting à la Peter Cushing’s Rogue One resurrection. Whether the next sequel continues to refer back to Brian remains to be seen. Might be best to just leave him in the back of our collective memory. While nothing has been announced beyond a 2019 release date, The Fate of the Furious offers a possible hint at the road Dominic and his family must travel down in the next sequel. But enough with trying to tear apart this family from within. It didn’t work the first time. It didn’t work the second time. So let’s just stick to the car chases and stunts.
Aired: April 13, 2017
Web site: http://www.thefastandthefurious.com/