Don’t get me wrong, I love some good spectacle because quite simply when it’s well done, it’s a hell of a lot of fun. However there does at least have to be a sense of evolution to it all. The Fate Of The Furious while not without its moments, for the most part feels like a step backward in the evolution of this franchise as it relies a little too much on tropes and gimmicks that it has already explored in trying to build itself up to an eventual conclusion for the rumored and final tenth installment of the franchise.
With Dom and Letty (Vin Diesel and Michelle Rodriguez) finally on their honeymoon with Brian and Mia have retired from the game this entire globetrotting team seems to have found a semblance of a normal life. However that quickly changes when a mysterious woman (Charlize Theron) seduces Dom into the world of crime he can’t seem to escape and a betrayal of those closest to him. From the shores of Cuba and the streets of New York City to the icy plains off the arctic Barents Sea, our elite team along with some new allies will crisscross the globe to stop to prevent chaos being released on the world’s stage and to find out what would make the man who brought them all together as family, betray his very own.
Sure stuff blows up and the action is fairly gonzo, but an underwritten script that truly only highlights one of the players in the ensemble, some altogether useless characters and overused plot points that don’t acknowledge any kind of emotional evolution now 16 years after the original installment in the series.
It’s hard to fault director F Gary Grey as he takes over the director’s chair of the franchise since he is a competent but hardly daring director. The story moves well enough all be it at a break neck speed and the action while a little overly CGI’d this time out is still filled with plenty of great set pieces but it never feels as edgy or as frenetic as the Justin Lin or James Wan installments in the franchise. Grey is here as a placeholder for hire and that’s fine but it’s unfortunate since most of the blame will fall on the script from Chris Morgan which just feels weak and rehashed. Watching the entire thing you can’t help but get the feeling that Vin Diesel may have just given him a few too many notes this time out. The arc of it all is a bit rushed and the reveals in the plot happen far too awkwardly to ever really resonate or hit home as existing characters feel pushed into the background for the sake of action set pieces and new ones are introduced in a rather haphazard fashion. Sure it’s building towards something bigger as the series can see the end of the finish line but we are getting a little too much of the ragtag 2001 vibe from this film rather than it being a tale of a crew of badasses that it had evolved into up to now. As a viewer you won’t be able to shake the feeling that you are watching what would probably fill 1.5 movies of screen time and it’s being stretched into 3 full length features. Characters are either there just to spout catch phrases, emote or flex their muscles as they rotate around Diesel’s Toretto and the angst filled decisions that he has to make in this installment.
Without a doubt it feels like Diesel is trying to take his legacy back in this film as the guest stars and leading men table around him gets a little crowded. With Dwayne Johnson clearly taking more of a back seat in this one the real star of it all actually is Jason Statham as he takes the dry wit that he got to showcase recently in Spy in concert with the gonzo frenetic energy that has become the trademark of the series. While Diesel is being super serious and emoting about family, Statham is self effacing and cracking jokes at every turn and while the reasoning for him to suddenly be a good guy is paper thin, Statham just feels like he is having so much fun with the part that is incredibly compelling to watch him work. Johnson does manage to keep pace with him for the most part while Kurt Russell gets a few lines in but neither guy feels as relevant as he should in the entire process of this story. Conversely, Scott Eastwood’s character is fairly pointless and while Charlize Theron is ok as our ultimate villain, she wobbles along the line between menacing and campy a little more than she probably should be doing.
And really that’s the problem with The Fate Of The Furious. The reason that this series has managed to transcend its humble beginnings is because it is a campy action franchise that never takes itself all too seriously. However on this chapter as we obviously build towards an ultimate conclusion for the franchise we are left feeling underwhelmed as it tries a little too hard to go back to its scrappy street racing, family loving roots that no one really cares all that much about any more.