The Fate of the Furious (2017)
Directed by F. Gary Gray
The worst thing about the Fast and the Furious franchise is that the new movies are so far from the car culture roots that it's too late to go back. But the action, thrills, and the fun really help ease the pain.
Fate brings us to Havana, where Dom and Letty are enjoying their honeymoon with some family and cars, when a new face informs Dom that he now works for her, after providing some incentive. Hobbs, meanwhile, is given a classified mission to steal an EMP that's being eyed by terrorists and calls Dom for some help. The team makes easy work of the mission, but Dom turns on them and steals the EMP for his new "boss." Hobbs is the only one caught and, because of the mission being off the records, is sent to a maximum security prison, the same prison where Shaw is being held. Mr. Nobody sets up an escape, but Shaw takes the opportunity as well. We soon learn that Mr. Nobody wants Hobbs, Letty, and the team to find and stop a hacker named Cipher, who turns out to be Dom's new boss, and that they're supposed to work with Shaw.
The best thing about The Fate of the Furious is the unrelenting focus on thrills. The story is cliché and the cars take second fiddle to explosions but the action is worth it; the fun is worth it. It's a literal non-stop thrill ride that takes the action, set pieces, racing, fighting, everything to the next level. The franchise has always been known for thrills but this time around the climactic scene lasts for half an hour. The difference is that the old racing created an adrenaline-pumping urgency, while the new theatrics and slow-mo create moments of breathtaking suspense in which you can feel every heartbeat.
The photography caters specifically to the slow-mo, CG, and action sequences, so they're experienced in their full glory. Everything else feels less important in the overall image than creating a lasting impression. During the action, that beautifully focused photography is a good thing, but conversations end up feeling clunky and unnatural in comparison. The fact that half of the script is one-liners meant to make every character memorable doesn't help matters, but the gorgeous action is like a spoonful of sugar helping the dialogue go down.
...there's only so much you can do when most of your dialogue is either comic relief or specifically meant to be memorable.
The acting is decent but the everlasting grimaces end up being hard to bear. They really try admirably but, in their defense, there's only so much you can do when most of your dialogue is either comic relief or specifically meant to be memorable. Besides which, because the lines are written poorly they never feel organic or comfortable. Every conversation feels like a bad edit of ad-libbed lines that someone imagined an Arnold Schwarzenegger character voicing, although it must be said that Charlize has never felt so threatening. The terrible dialogue robs Fate of any soul beyond gratuitously bashing the audience in the face with "family." The only thing saving the story from it's terrible self is the infectious chemistry that the veteran cast shares. Their friendship is real and the audience can feel it. We can feel that they actually give a shit about each other and that after everything they've been through they share a connection.
The story is cliché bullshit. It's a patchwork quilt of dime-a-dozen villain motifs, highlighted plot twists, save-the-world melodrama, and for-fuck's-sake action. 'Nuff said.The soundtrack is in the same vein as the photography. It's meant to highlight the action and adrenaline. The fast beats fluidly underpin the action, moving along with each moment and breath in a perfect reflection of escalation and suspense.
But let's get to the nitty gritty, the real reasons why you should or should not see Fate. This movie works great as an action/adventure blockbuster à la Transformers or The Expendables, and it's a perfect continuation for the escalation of action and thrills in the franchise, but the movie only works on it's own. The franchise is too far gone from the friends, family, and car-centric roots of it's original movie(s) to really feel like a Fast and Furious franchise entry. It's as if there's 2 different franchises; the first 3 movies are car-centered crime dramas and everything afterward is basically James Bond if James Bond were actually a Megazord combination of a few different criminals with varying expertise. That's not to say that I don't like the new movies, because I do; they're a lot of fun to see and experience but the fact is that they're a completely different genre to the film's roots and anyone who grew up with them could be let down.
All tolled, Fate is a complete mischaracterization when compared to the franchise as a whole; nothing's remained inconsistent. In place of trying to make a good movie or a coherent story, they've just tried to create more opportunities for comic relief and logic-breaking fights. To be fair, this progression has been a long time coming. Ever since the fourth installment, 2009's Fast & Furious, the franchise has been hard-pressed to remain anywhere near believable, instead requiring ever-increasing suspension of disbelief with each successive film including progressively more shit/futuristic technology, physics-defying stunts and gratuitously unnecessary car crashes; Fate is no exception to it's own, new rules and instead pushes it's new boundaries to an ever-disappointing point of no return.
The one-liners reach a new level of ridiculous, with the comedic intent brought to new heights. Characters like Rome become entirely comedic, becoming less a breath of fresh air and more of a comedic subplot.
The story as a whole is less of save-the-world and more of let's-forget-that-Deckard-Shaw-was-literally-trying-to-kill-all-of-us-and-almost-succeeded-and-instead-create-more-cast-chemistry-and-save-the-world-in-the-charismatic-process. It's a damn shame.
The 2001 original movie may have been a riff on the classic Point Break story, but it had a lot of heart and even let it's story and character development build and breathe organically without having to shoehorn action or force awkward conversations. There was a scene where Dom was telling Brian about his dad's death and it was the most touching and most believable scene in the franchise. They haven't been able to recreate that in the 16 years since but not for lack of trying. Instead, the attempts at emotionally appealing dialogue are just rehashes of the familiar "family is what you make it" message.
The franchise used to have heart along with the suspense. Now it's relying on action, fun, and comedy. To be honest, I enjoyed Fate very much. It's only recently that the movies have taken care to include beautifully choreographed and beautifully photographed fighting sequences. It used to be about dramatic tension-building for an adrenaline-fueled resolution; the new movies seem to be all about double dosing some adrenaline-pumping thrills and charismatic comic relief leading into a slow-motion-riddled and explosive climax. It's a different world for Dom's gang but whether or not that's better is up to you. Pure enjoyment can be equally as important as a good story.
TL;DR: I grew up watching Paul Walker and Vin Diesel race cars and make friends. They're not racing anymore, they're just making friends. With Ronda Rousey and Jason Statham, The Fate of the Furious is basically The Expendables, if the Expendables spent more time in cars. Also, the baby should be named Paul; Brian is still alive.
- Acting – 3 / 10
- Story – 2 / 10
- Cinematography – 5 / 10
- Soundtrack – 6 / 10
- Entertainment Factor – 20 / 20
- Action – 12 / 20
- Other – 10 / 20