Friday, April 14, 2017

The Fate of the Furious

By George M. Thomas

Vin Diesel and Charlize Theron in The Fate of the Furious.
Sitting through the eighth film in the Fast and the Furious series – THE FATE OF THE FURIOUS – most people will wonder what exactly is missing.

After a couple of days mulling it over, it finally hit me.  Although the filmmakers try, they cannot replicate the emotional heft that the last movie possessed.

Considering that was the last in the nearly two decades old franchise to have a connection to the late Paul Walker and his ghost-like presence informed almost every moment of that film, it would have been an impossible task for ask any filmmaker, including F. Gary Gray (STRAIGHT OUTTA COMPTON, THE ITALIAN JOB), to attempt.

However, it also frees Gray to take a cast that comes across as family on film, step right in, and go all-out while putting his stamp on the franchise. 

It’s all-star FAST AND FURIOUS as Vin Diesel, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Chris “Ludacris” Bridges, Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese Gibson, Jason Statham and more return for this party.  The result: a film that concentrates on the action, which includes several spectacular scenes filmed in downtown Cleveland, and the easy interplay between the characters.

Dom (Diesel) and his merry band of misfits finally appear to have found some peace in this one.  He and Letty (Rodriguez) are honeymooning in Cuba and everyone else is back to their respective lives. 
However, the mysterious Mr. Nobody (Kurt Russell) approaches Hobbs (Johnson) about a job involving a device that can disrupt power grids on a large scale that’s been stolen.  

Hobbs enlists Dom and his team to help retrieve it, but Dom goes rogue and pilfers it, shocking everyone around him. He races off into the clutches of Cipher (Charlize Theron), who holds the power to make him do as she wishes, and she is far from done with him.

Right now, in the realm of action films, the FAST series has no equal.  It possesses the charm of being very aware of what it is and what it’s meant to be. They had to deal with Walker’s death along the way and did so admirably.  THE FATE OF THE FURIOUS is about getting back to the basics – the fun.  Car chases. Destruction. Explosions.  Easy verbal jousting among the cast.

I learned long ago to quit expecting these films to be anything more than that.  They’re pure cinematic crack and FATE is just as addicting as the previous two films.

The stunts are spectacular. The cast, unlike in some film series, is still very much having fun and showing it on screen.  That’s part of the draw.  The filmmakers, however, deserve some praise for adding a memorable villain in Theron’s Cipher. 

Gray proves to be a wise choice to helm this installment.  There’s nothing left to do but buckle up and enjoy the ride.

Cast: Vin Diesel, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Chris “Ludacris” Bridges, Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese Gibson, Jason Statham
Directed by: F. Gary Gray
Running time: 2 hours and 16 minutes
Rating:  PG-13 for prolonged sequences of violence and destruction, suggestive content, and language.

(3-of-4 stars)

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