Fast and Furious 8 (aka The Fate of the Furious) review by Mark McPherson - Cinema Paradiso
The Fast and the Furious franchise was on such a roll with the most outlandish, ridiculous and entertaining of movies where street racers save the day. I can still recall how I smiled and chuckled heartily at scenes where cars are able to stop a tank with wires, survive being shoved out of a jet and take down a helicopter firing missiles at them. The series seemed to have finally found its groove of presenting the most over-the-top of action with a giddy sense of comradery amid a “family” of misfits. But in finding its groove, it may have grown too comfortable with Fate and the Furious, an unfortunate misfire that doesn’t so much crash and burn the saga as it does show how empty the tank is getting.
First and foremost, the stunts are ample and fun, though not as amazing as they’ve been in the past. Highlights include Vin Diesel’s character of Toretto driving a flaming car backwards in a street race, a horde of remotely controlled cars assaulting a motorcade and a missile-firing submarine chasing our heroes through the ice. These are amazing stunts and they never fail to please, but I could sense a desperation in these scenes, as though filmmakers are eventually hitting the bottom of the barrel for car stunts. The sequence where a mass of cars topple over one another through New York City was fun, but more from a satirical sense of combining the car chase from The Blues Brothers with the volume and intensity of World War Z. The scene where the cars speed around the ice to avoid being sunk by a submarine had me wondering if I’d already seen this before in Die Another Day. If I did, it wasn’t memorable and this sequence doesn’t fair much better.
Speaking of James Bond, the new villain for the picture could take a cue from his villains. The terrorist at large is Cipher, played by Charlize Theron as nasty blonde with big ambitions. Size doesn’t matter, however, when your plans are far too bland. Her grand scheme for world domination is to snatch some nukes and hold the world ransom. I thought such simple plots were retired when Austin Power satirized them for how silly they really are? Sure, villains of Fast and the Furious have never been that cunning or original, mostly adopting the tech of the day with some vendetta against our heroes.
That being said, I can’t fault Theron for her actions to get that old nuke-stealing plot. She figures she needs some extra muscle to acquire her weapons and sets her sights on Toretto. It doesn’t take much to convince Diesel’s character to work for the enemy as Cipher is holding hostage his infant son that he didn’t know we had. This team seems to just have “family” coming out of the woodwork every movie.
Diesel-less, the rest of the familiar good guys assemble to take down Cipher on their own. Dwayne Johnson returns as the cute and slick-talking giant of agent Hobbs, this time teamed up with his worst enemy of Shaw, played by the always smug and tough-as-nails Jason Statham. Both of them are great with their love/hate chemistry. So great, in fact, that they deserve better dialogue. There’s no denying they have a likable chemistry in everything from an insult showdown to a prison brawl, maintaining their charisma with every punch. Shouldn’t they be given better dialogue then talk about what they’re going to shove up each other’s butts?
What made the previous films work so well was the tricky balancing act of providing as many crazy stunts as there were enough cool moments for the entire cast to shine. Most of the characters seem to have been sidelined for this outing. Kurt Russell can mug at the camera like no other actor can, but feels wasted as he does little more than advise from a corner. Tyrese Gibson and Ludacris could have some fun as the loud and smart members respectively, but here are reduced to a handful of semi-amusing moments, rarely shining as brightly as they should. Even newcomer hacker Nathalie Emmanuel feels wasted as the expositional tech girl, only having short interactions with Gibson and Ludacris in a love triangle that just isn’t there. To shut up both the boys, Emmanuel asks if either of them know her last name. We don’t know either because the movie never asked.
I fear for the future of Fast and the Furious as this latest picture displays a lack of charisma and a spark of enthusiasm. The stunts are still grand and uproarious, but what good will that do to improve scripts of bland doomsday scenarios and dialogue more standard than clever. I don’t expect a lot of out of these movies as big, dumb blockbusters go, but maybe I should if I won’t feel much for the inevitable sequel where cars are launched into space.