The Fate of the Furious
Directed by F. Gary Gray
The Fate of the Furious is, well, ridiculous. Is it as ridiculous as its title? Close. Over the top, bewildering, computers don't work that way, physics definitely don't work that way, head-shakingly infuriating, The Fate of the Furious is not a movie to ever, ever, ever stop and say "hey, that's not believable". The second that happens, the spell is broken. Hell, that's good advice for any of these films. You just have to strap yourself in, accept the mayhem, and never, ever question why these middle-aged car enthusiasts are now invincible super spies. Let your brain relax, take a couple of hours off, just let the bright colours and mayhem and explosions wash over you in the comfort of your theatre seats. Motivations will rarely make any sense. For some reason, every super spy thing they're up to involves a pile of cars and a giant set piece that is overwhelming in its scope. And, again, physics just don't work that way. But, damn, if The Fate of the Furious isn't more fun than it should be.
Is it as much fun as the last couple of movies in this auto-fetishists franchise? Nope. It sags, it hits one too many predictable moments. Never does it have a "what the hell is happening?" moment, like, say a car jumping from one building to another building to yet another building, or a bunch of cars battling a tank on a crowded highway. Though a bunch of hyper cars racing a submarine does offer some moments that come close to that level of insanity. The Fate of the Furious is exactly as advertised, it's a Fast and Furious movie. Lots of talk of family, lots of talk of loyalty, lots of hyper cars and super cars and American muscle cars, all modded to an inch of their lives.
Kurt Russell returns, as does Nathalie Emmanuel. Clint's boy Scott Eastwood joins the fray. As does Charlize Theron and Helen Mirren. Charlize Theron digs in deep and chews all the scenery as the villain. And Helen Mirren plays… nah, I'll leave that alone. It's a fun surprise. The cast does what it does when it's in one of these movies - Ludacris does computer stuff, Tyrese Gibson is the comic relief, Michelle Rodruguez does the tough/sweet/sensitive thing she does. Vin Diesel and Dwayne Johnson are the walking embodiments of testosterone. No-one stretches, no-one is bringing any emotional truths, no-one is bringing much more to the screen than what is written on the page.
But here is the reason that the Fast and Furious franchise has grown from Point Break with cars to one of the world's largest grossing film franchises. Along with the insane car stunts, auto fetishisizing, and plot points that anyone in any culture can understand, there is another part of the stew that is so, so, so important to the international appeal of these movies. There ain't a whole lotta white guys. There are different shades and different cultures and different life experiences on the screen. In an era when a Sony executive was outed for attempting to argue that Denzel Washington can't open an action film internationally, that it should be a white guy playing the lead in The Equalizer, it is refreshing and exhilarating to see this international cast take this franchise from its B-movie roots to multi-billion dollar grosses. Hell, as I write this The Fate of the Furious is on track for the largest opening box office weekend ever. Ever? Ever.
This is a movie that features a Maori Haka dance. A movie that shot in Iceland, New York and Havana, Cuba. This a giant blockbuster film, part of a giant blockbuster franchise. I can't emphasize enough how important it is what this cast has achieved, seemingly effortlessly. There aren't many film franchises that have such humble roots. But coming from such humble roots and building into a billion dollar juggernaut means that at some point the egos are going to come out and it's gonna get ugly, seriously ugly, friends and neighbours.
If there is one serious flaw to The Fate of the Furious, it's the feud or whatever is going on between Vin Diesel and Dwayne Johnson. I was pretty suspicious of the press about this feud, thinking "hey new movie, interesting way to stir up attention". And then went about my day. Until I saw the movie. It's for reals, boys and girls. The two men who never met a shirt they couldn't tear the sleeves off of seem to be in bit of a tiff, a bit of a snit. They never really share any screen time together, any scenes they do share have a split-screen sheen to them. Or a very obvious body double odor to them. I don't know what really happened between these two, outside of Mr. Diesel being reportedly regularly late to the set and Mr. Johnson referring to one of his co-stars as a "candy ass" on Instagram a year or so ago. There's plenty of gossip and opinion words being written about this weirdness. The truth may never be known, and that isn't what really matters really. What matters is that it brings an unneeded ugliness to a film that is ridiculous fun.
And now we come to the point where I say if you should go and lay out some hard earned dollars and sit in a dark theatre for two hours and sixteen minutes. Look, I'm pretty sure you've already made up your mind. You either love this franchise and are planning your night out with your honey and your buddies or you're completely indifferent to this series and are already writing a grocery list while staring at these words on your screen of choice. I discovered watching Furious 7 that you really don't need to watch this series in any kind of order, or even have a working knowledge of the backstories to enjoy any of these movies. But, let's get real here - if you haven't jumped in yet, there's a good chance The Fate of the Furious wasn't made for you.
So, yeah. The Fate of the Furious. Ridiculous fun. Just not as much ridiculous fun as the last few.