How has it come to this? Many franchises manage to overstay their welcome by the time they hit the third movie but following a clever reinvention in the fifth film (release date wise, not chronologically!), new life was breathed in to the Fast & Furious cinematic universe and here we are with instalment number eight, The Fate of the Furious.
We start with Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) on a sun-drenched tropical island, racing cars to uphold the family honour. Sounds familiar so far? Our ‘hero’ is blackmailed by hacker-terrorist Cipher (Charlize Theron) with a dark secret that has Dom turn his back on his friends and family and ‘go rogue’. It is up to his team (led by the enigmatic Dwayne Johnson and assisted by inmate Deckard – perfectly cast Jason Statham) to try and stop the bad guys to prevent nuclear war, by going from action set piece to action set piece across the globe. Clichéd? Of course! But that has been the strength of the franchise up until this point. With writer Chris Morgan, the films have been self-aware enough to play up to this stereotype and deliver straight, over the top action movies. But could it be that we are starting to see diversions from that formula in this latest movie?
On the positive side are, amazingly, the performances which are bang on point. There is definitely a group dynamic, forged over several movies, and you can feel a genuine closeness between the cast. Each actor has been cast in a way to accentuate their positive points such as wit or charisma and not potentially expose their limitations with excessive wordy dialogue. Removing the Vin Diesel character to give the others a little more time to shine was also beneficial. Charlize Theron stands out as a heartless villain with an ‘agenda’ (more on this shortly). The chemistry between Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham is fantastic and when they are on screen at the same time, you have testosterone coated gold. In addition, there’s quality supporting cameos by Kurt Russell and a ridiculous OTT performance by Dame Helen Mirren. The film is also shot well with some nice use of colour dependent on scene location (vibrant reds and yellows in Havana, duller greys in New York and blues in the Antarctic.)
Now for the negatives. Firstly, the main villain’s plan is nonsensical. Not wanting to get into spoilers, this movie goes to great lengths to show how hard was to obtain one item. After use of said item…. then what? There is no follow up plan. Fans don’t ask much from the plot of a movie like this but there has to at least be some cohesion, and that is lacking here. Also, this movie definitely feels two and a half hours long. Recent Fast & Furious movies have been high-octane and had time flying by but this one is one big action scene too far. The NYC car chase is a little too long as is the movie’s climax. Lastly, and this is the real kicker, for a film with such an absurd premise, it felt a little too… sensible. OK, it has its outrageous moments but mainly it is grounded and has a dour and solemn tone. Not what you expect from the genre.
At the end of the day, The Fate of the Furious is going to make money hand-over-fist around the world and potentially smash box office records, but as a film, it fails to improve on the movies that preceded it. The more serious tone does not really fit and detracts from what had people interested in the first place. While it is an enjoyable enough watch, there’s nothing that will keep people coming back for more, and that’s a shame as there is still a place for movies like this on the big screen. Will the execs will take onboard some of the criticism levelled at this movie? Only time will tell. There’s still the possibility of another enjoyable car-heist movie with this cast, but again, money matters may speak louder and dictate the beginning of the end for the franchise.
The Fate of the Furious is in UK cinemas from 14 April 2017.