The Fate of the Furious is the most ridiculous and improbable installment of this franchise, but it was still highly entertaining.
The film starts with Dom (Vin Diesel) and Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) enjoying all that Havana has to offer on their delayed honeymoon. A cousin gets in deep with a “Car Shark” and rather than just allow them to work it out, Dom offers to help settle the matter with a little race around what is referred to as the “Cuban” mile. Dom’s victory was short lived as he runs into a mysterious woman named Cipher (Charlize Theron). Cipher appears to have some information that ultimately persuades Dom to betray his family and join her criminal operation. The next 2/3 of the film is a mixture of his crew coming to terms with Dom’s betrayal and Vin Diesel’s attempts to appear conflicted.
Anyone who chooses to see this picture in hopes of witnessing some great acting might want to rethink their life choices. Charlize Theron and Vin Diesel both put forth serviceable efforts. Theron’s performance gives Cipher some depth which makes her at least interesting. However, the character never leaves the friendly confines of her flying fortress, which kills any character development. Diesel attempts to project being conflicted over betraying his family, but only succeeds in making us want the “old Dominic” back. Ludacris and Tyrese Gibson provide brief moments of comedic relief. Michelle Rodriguez’s character is perennially mad at the world, but at least this time she has a good reason to be. The Rock’s character, Hobbs, settles into the role of doing completely unrealistic acts in the name of defeating the enemy.
Director F. Gary Gray certainly showed that he’s more than capable handling a massive budget of $250 million. The Fate of the Furious proceeds with relentless ferocity: flashes of destruction involving million dollar cars, tanks on ice, and the Rock just kicking a torpedo to the side. Gray brought the audience in closer with his technique of shooting in close during the most intense action sequences. His technique originated when he shot The Italian Job in 2003. One example is during the sequence when Dom’s team is getting away from the German authorities. As the Germans get closer to the group, they release two wrecking balls going in different directions. The shot first started from the vantage point of the wrecking ball and quickly transitioned to a tight shot of the police car being destroyed.
The biggest problem facing The Fate of the Furious is how the narrative is constructed. In the past, the story centered around Dominic and Brian. The give and take between these two characters gave those movies heart. Even when Brian (played by the late Paul Walker) was written off, the dynamic between Dom and Hobbs had at least a similar feel to it. In this picture, our hero is now the bad guy, and it throws the dynamic of the film off. While the reason why Dom ends up turning against his team is totally legit, Vin Diesel doesn’t sell the story line at all. Furthermore, this puts much of the heavy lifting in the film with an ensemble that has yet to show they can carry the load. It would have been better if Cipher had ended up killing Dom and Hobbs took over the group seeking vengeance.
The Fate of the Furious falls just short of the high standards set by the franchise. That’s not to say the film isn’t entertaining. In fact, everyone should go see it this weekend. Just go into the theater with diminished expectations and make sure to turn off your brain before you sit down.