It doesn’t exactly stall but the latest in the seemingly unyielding ”Fast & Furious” franchise doesn’t quite get out of second gear.
It’s been 16 years since the ”Fast and the Furious” franchise began, and my brain is having trouble working out how it started as renegade trouble-makers racing cars through LA streets and ended up with a worldwide criminal syndicate having a tiff over nuclear weapons. The first film in the recently rebooted series not to feature series staple Paul Walker (who tragically passed away in 2013), ”The Fate of the Furious” abandons most of the intrigue, peril and that occupied the precious chapters in favour of a two-hour plus showreel for a small town’s worth of stuntmen and a chunk of computer generated machines banging, clunking and smashing through various global locations. It feels about as familiar as bubbles in your wee.
The story begins in Cuba, with newlyweds Dom Toretto (Vin Diesel) and Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) enjoying their honeymoon in wedded bliss in a similar fashion to how the rest of us do – walking arm in arm amongst the culture, picking fights with strangers with questionable facial hair, racing cars through crowded city streets and then of course celebrating said race with passionate, hot monkey sex as if it were their first time together. One can only hope my honeymoon is somewhat similar – *FINGERS CROSSED*. But of course it then all falls apart, with an unexpected visitor (Charlize Theron) chasing Dom down and luring him away from his new bride, causing him to “go rogue”.
To describe ”The Fate of the Furious” in one word? ”Inception”. And you’ll have to watch it to see what I mean. And I won’t even begin to discuss the logistics of country-hopping from Cuba to Russia and everywhere in between. Somewhere along the line they would’ve had to go through customs, and I would like to know how that went down.
When ”The Fate of the Furious” is at its best, it’s grand scale stunt sequences and big-action moments with flair and imagination. Here, director F.Gary Gray shows little interest in how it’s done but rather just getting it done, with the films major action moments – particularly an icy car chase involving a submarine – served up like gristly meatballs. Of course this also brings forth the most depressing part of the film: watching hundreds (or even thousands) of perfectly good cars getting destroyed in the name of entertainment, meanwhile I have to spend 5 years paying off my mid-size SUV. It’s clear though, that action and stunts are indeed the key point to the film. Just watch the credits and you’ll see more stunt-people credited than key actors. The Fate of the Furious certainly delivers in edge of your seat car chases, fight sequences and pretty original action in a similar fashion to the last few F&F movies.
Star and producer Diesel seems less awake here than an exhausted Asian wiggle. Without Walker by his side, he just doesn’t seem as comfortable with his surrounds. That might be the reason why Gray opted to concentrate large chunks of the movie to his supports.
Because the premise of the film is ridiculous, confusing and not especially intriguing, it’s a blessing that seasoned action-comedy vets Jason Statham and Dwayne Johnson return for more. Though it makes no sense for Statham’s cold blooded Deckard Shaw to be suddenly playing for the good guy team, his screen charm, especially coupled with the hulking and humorous Johnson, makes him a welcome addition. These two are worth the price of admission alone.
New franchise additions Charlize Theron, as the ice cold villain who literally shows zero emotional response to anything until the bitter end, and Scott Eastwood as a Paul Walker-like pretty boy assigned to work with the team, aren’t nearly as memorable. The film undoubtedly belongs to those who down protein powder for breakfast.
Chris Morgan’s script, not surprisingly, features a couple of references to Walker’s character but considering his Brian O’Conner is merely said to have retired, they don’t exactly work. James Wan’s tribute to Walker at the end of “Fast 7” played organically, and therefore heartbreakingly touching, but the tributes here, though well intentioned, play a little forced.
What’s refreshing is having a film that doesn’t have Justin Bieber sing the title track. Plus there’s enough here to entertain fans – and that’s exactly what the movie is, a “fan service” movie that won’t appeal to anyone hoping for a solid, standalone action piece – but is there enough juice in the tank to get this franchise to ten? Guess it depends if they can keep the dipstick more firmly in place next time.
To summarise, I have developed a list of things not to do…ever.
1. Pick a fight with The Rock.
2. (see above)