There’s a moment late in The Fate of the Furious where Vin Diesel in the guise of the Dominic Toretto character uses his vehicle to jump over a nuclear submarine which had partially emerged out of the icy depths of a Russian ravine. It was almost poetic because in that very same moment you could sense The Fast and the Furious franchise finally and officially jumping the shark once and for all. Up until now the franchise has taken pride in the fact that it’s made up almost entirely of brawn with very little to no actual brains but now we’ve gotten to the point where the scales have tipped over completely and the films have now become completely brainless. It’s a fine line that previous films in the franchise like Fast Five and Furious 7 were able to navigate somewhat precariously, however The Fate of the Furious is clearly not interested in “logic” or “making sense” so it basically just squats over and takes one big Dwayne Johnson-sized shit all over that fine line. Let’s look at this way, if someone were to take Johnson and sever his head from his body, all those gigantic muscles of his wouldn’t be worth a whole heck of a lot then would they? Well, The Fate of the Furious is what you end up with when you remove the head and by default the brain from the equation.
In this the 8th(!) installment in the franchise, Dominic Toretto finds himself on the wrong side of the law yet again as he’s blackmailed into helping a dangerous cyber hacker called Cipher get her hands on a nuclear weapon which could spell the end of all mankind as we know it. In their way stands Toretto’s old team including ex-nemeses Luke Hobbs and Deckard Shaw who are hell bent on stopping Toretto by any means necessary. Complicating matters even more is the fact that Toretto and his old flame Letty Ortiz find themselves on opposite sides one more time. The film stars Diesel, Johnson, Jason Statham, Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese Gibson, Chris ‘Ludacris’ Bridges, and Charlize Theron. It was directed by franchise newcomer F. Gary Gray.
Shortly after F. Gary Gray made Universal a butt load of money with his N.W.A biopic Straight Outta Compton in 2015, it’s safe to assume that Universal returned the favour in kind by backing up the brinks trunk to his house and offering Gray a big money offer to direct the latest installment in the studio’s biggest money making franchise which may explain then why the film ends up looking so much like a paycheque movie. We all know by now that the franchise basically exists solely to keep Diesel, Rodriguez, Tyrese and Ludacris off of welfare but now it seems as though the franchise has gotten its grubby mitts all over Charlize Theron who basically pisses away any goodwill she had cultivated from her performance in Mad Max: Fury Road by dressing up like a trashier version of Tilda Swinton’s character in Only Lovers Left Alive and making her act all menacing playing a nasty piece of business who wants to rule the world. What are her motivations for wanting to rule the world you might be asking? Well, the film doesn’t seem to want to be bothered with details like that nor with trying to apply logic in explaining how the team manages to get their sweet collection of hot rods from one side of the world in New York City over to the other end of the earth and onto a secluded patch of ice in mother Russia where a nuclear submarine happens to be hiding.
At this point, not even the mighty Avengers themselves would have a hope in hell in taking down Dominic Toretto as they’re simply no match for his superhuman ability to downshift or pop the clutch on whatever vehicle it is he happens to be driving at the time. It doesn’t matter now if the car he’s driving is a flaming inferno or if it’s being pulled in opposite directions by 5 different cars who’ve latched on to his with various grappling hooks, Dominic Toretto will inevitably find a way to win in the end. It’s that simple. The thing with the franchise is that even as it’s trying to outdo itself by getting more and more over the top it’s also becoming more and more predictable at the same time. For starters, the franchise desperately needs to start killing off some of these characters in order to keep the stakes high so that the audience can start to get a real sense of danger again. As is, whoever ends up dying in The Fast and the Furious inevitably finds a way to miraculously come back to life and it’s no longer believable now whenever the film is trying to convince us that one of their character’s has died. We all know deep down that he or she is just going to come back and make the save somewhere down the line. It doesn’t even have to be in this film but it’s only a matter of time until they make their triumphant return none worse for wear.
With my grievances about the franchise’s current state of affairs aside, fans of the Furious franchise who are only in it for the badass cars and insane action are probably not going to be disappointed with this latest installment. The film is rarely ever boring if that means anything and some of the action sequences, while crazy over the top, are also usually crazy entertaining such as the chase scene where Dom, Cipher and her crew attempt to take down a heavily armored motorcade by hacking and remotely taking control over vehicles and throwing them through the windows of a hi-rise parking garage and onto the busy Manhattan streets below.
Actors like Johnson, Statham and Kurt Russell certainly aren’t without their charms either and it’s usually fun whenever one or several of them are on screen. The same cannot be said however for Diesel, Theron, Scott Eastwood and basically, everyone else in the film’s cast including Tyrese and Ludacris who’s shtick is really starting to wear thin. If this film is any indication, perhaps it’s time to start pumping the breaks a little bit and rethink the path that this franchise has taken. If you want to continue making these films into the double digits some urgent changes need to be made in order for the franchise to continue to have wheels.