Success in Hollywood can be simplified down to one statistic, money. To the dismay of many the Fast and Furious franchise has been climbing ever since the fifth entry, Fast Five. The fifth entry marked a new direction for the franchise that wasn’t just street races and product placement for Nos, but a heist film that highlighted how a band of misfits can come together for a non-stop thrill ride. Ever since they have been upping the stakes, embracing the over the top stunts and riding the line between reality and fiction. Fate of the Furious is now the eighth installment and takes everything they’ve embraced to new heights. At times it left me smiling, and at other times made me second guess what I had just seen or heard.
The best part of the Fast franchise is seeing everyone work together and their interactions when in embroiled in a ridiculous action sequence or a smaller scene of them around a table. This movie has Dom going rogue so the team adds Jason Statham as Deckard Shaw from the last movie. This dynamic was fun because it allowed him and Dwayne Johnson as Hobbs to share a lot of screen time together that was entertaining but ultimately ended up feeling like a series WWE skits. No one comes to these movies for the deep intricate stories, but part of the charm with these films is the comradery among the team and with both Dom and Paul Walkers Brian gone, I couldn’t help but feel like a crucial ingredient was missing. This prevented the free flowing nature of the teams chemistry to flourish and created instances one word away from derailing entire scenes.
The set pieces in this film were the highlight and while the team dynamic felt disjointed at times, the ridiculous action I came to see was still intact. A prison escape scene with both Hobbs and Deckard was the show stealing, high-octane sequence we had all hoped it would be from the trailers. The cyber-terrorist villain in this movie played by Charlize Theron hacks an army of cars and controls them among the streets of New York, only adding to the lack of realism fans have come to know and love. Parts of these action sequences felt like they fit right in with every film before and could be copy and pasted right into prior films with no one noticing.
Humor for better or worse has always been an underlying trait throughout these films and Fate of the Furious implements a new brand of humor that feels as if it was lifted straight from a scrapped Marvel Studios script. Without spoilers, one of my favorite uses of humor in this film is with Jason Statham on a plane, and while hilariously ridiculous it didn’t feel like it belonged in a film like this. Again, these films have always had elements of humor, but never to the extent this scene evokes. While I enjoyed said scene it didn’t belong in this film and took away from me feeling any real sense of dread or danger with Stathams character, a problem the humor creates for the rest of the film. I knew every character would make it out alive, and even times of peril would be cut short by a punchline.
My biggest gripe with this movie is with the character of Dominic Torreto as played by Vin Diesel. As a fan of this franchise, I have come to expect the over the top nature and the borderline superhuman aspect of certain characters. However, I can not help but question the character of Dom as a human being. To me he is a street tough mechanic who was just cunning enough to get away with crimes but just dumb enough to get himself right back in trouble. In this entry, Dom feels unbeatable and it’s honestly kind of boring to watch. His entire team trembles at the thought of going up against him, but really I’m confused as to why. Yes, he’s a formidable opponent, but he would not be where he is without all these people who are now trembling at the menion of his name. But that doesn’t matter because former street mechanic Dom is now the worlds top underground mercenary. A fact I’m willing to accept for the fun of the franchise, but this installment takes it to new levels that even left me thinking, yeah right.
Not to be that guy who gets all philosophical in an review for a Fast and Furious movie, but this movie is missing one key aspect at its core and that’s Paul Walkers character, Brian O’Connor. Characters are replaced, retired or sent off all the time in beloved franchises but in a film series with character interactions and over the top action as its crown jewels, when a main character goes missing it’s hard to not notice. Brian was the real life character the audience was able to gravitate towards and root for. He had a family dynamic that created for a lot of real world drama that didn’t feel like a 200 million dollar soap opera. Aspects of Brian were almost forcibly shoved into this installment taking away from any dramatic or emotionally pull they were trying to go for.
For what it’s worth I enjoyed Fate of the Furious, but I definitely find this one to be the weakest entry since the fourth. The action was all present and did more than its fair share of going over the top but aside from that the characteristics that have made the prior installments such fun felt lacking. To those reading this, I know you don’t go see these movies for the deep narrative and layered characters, but I can admit faults when I see them and this movie is littered with them. Street tough Dom turned superhero, aspects of other characters forcibly shoved into the story in an excuse to carry on certain arcs and humor that at times felt forced. While this movie is at times a thrill ride with hit or miss humor and loads of franchise easter eggs sprinkled throughout it is sadly one that falls just shy of expectations.