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Movie Review: The Fate of the Furious

Movie Review: The Fate of the Furious
3.5
Game Name: The Fate of the Furious
Publisher(s): Universal Pictures, Original Film, One Race Films, Perfect World Pictures
Developer(s): Director: F. Gary Gray / Written/Screenplay: Chris Morgan, Gary Scott Thompson
Genre(s): Action, Car Chases
Release Date: April 14th, 2017
ESRB Rating: PG-13: For prolonged sequences of violence and destruction, suggestive content, and language

In an era of reboots and recasting, it’s impressive to see a film franchise hit eight movies while still keeping the series consistently entertaining and of course, keeping much of the original cast along with it. While the Fate of the Furious can feel like the biggest departure from the racing series roots of the original Fast and the Furious, this latest entry is a very entertaining movie that will either see fans of the series embrace this new direction of the franchise, or be outraged at how much it has changed over the past few films.

The movie starts where it all began, with a street race. While the series has turned from racing for pinks to that of heist capers, the franchise knows where it began and has always implemented cars into its crazy and off the wall narratives, complete with physics-defying action scenes that require a bit of disbelief, and by ‘bit’ I mean a lot.

It isn’t long into the film where we are introduced to the villain of the piece; Cypher, as played by Charlize Theron. It is here where she puts a plan into action that will see Dom betray his team. While the film is very coy as to why, it isn’t that much longer into the story where we discover the why, and it’s also then that we “get” why he would do this, it’s a very GOOD reason and one tied to events of a past film.

This team-up of Dom and Cypher doesn’t go unnoticed and the team of Letty (Michelle Rodriguez), Roman (Tyrese Gibson), TeJ (Ludacris), and newcomer Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel), are set to team up with Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) and, whether they like it not, Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham). The whole lot of them are brought together by Kurt Russel’s Mr. Nobody, who is rather fun here, if mostly absent through much of the film.

While both Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham, to a lesser extent, haven’t been involved with much of the franchise so far, these actors get quite the attention in the film’s 136 minute run time, more-so than much of the veteran cast. Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham have some great moments, and while the duo doesn’t have much in the way of a physical confrontation, the verbal shots they take at each other are some of the funniest moments in the film. Since his entry into acting, Dwayne Johnson has become quite the popular actor and it’s very apparent that the studio is keen on his ability to put butts into seats and has written much of this movie around him. I really enjoy his Hobbs character even if it has changed much from his entry in Fast Five and become more like that of his Rock persona, so much that I expect that the next time we see him that he will be pulling off a few Rock bottoms and calling people ‘Candy asses’.

The core cast of returning favorites are not used to much effect here as Roman and Tej are present for mostly spouting off car engines and what car has this horsepower or the size of, well, I don’t really know much about cars but they’ll convince you that they do. Tyrese Gibson’s Roman is his usual self here, yelling and screaming about all the crazy stuff that is going on that he is starting to become more of a parody of himself than letting his character evolve into something more worthwhile. Ramsey, since joining the cast in the prior film, is a welcomed addition to this roster of characters but lacks a truly defining moment for her character. Apart from being the hacker of the group, she can sometimes feel like the odd one out during many of the car chases in the film.

As for Letty, I haven’t been a huge fan of Michelle Rodriguez in these films and The Fate of the Furious hasn’t done much to change that. While she is the emotional hook for Dom, I just haven’t grown to like her character that much at all. She has a fight scene near the end of the film that is alright, I guess, but other than constantly wondering why Dom has flipped to the other side, she isn’t given much to do than stare at him through her car window or try to convince people that “that isn’t Dom”.

Vin Diesel himself is sometimes put to the side as while much of the film is based around him and his betrayal, he feels used almost sparingly. The scenes that he is in are good, and the way in which he is used in the final act is some of the best stuff in the movie. I find it odd as while Dom is the main character of the franchise now that Paul Walker is no longer with us, that he just doesn’t feel like he is the lead in this movie at all and again, that may have something to do with the popularity of Dwayne Johnson.

The rest of the supporting cast is filled with Kurt Russel’s Mr. Nobody, which I’ve already mentioned and he has a new assistant with Scott Eastwood’s Little Nobody. While Eastwood can play off the cast somewhat ok, he feels like he is there to solely move these characters further in the plot than anything else and just stands out as bland and something of a throwaway character. Asking Vin Diesel himself to be a part of the film, Helen Mirren is superb here in the few minutes she has in the movie. I’ll leave you to see who she plays, even if the trailers themselves have spoiled it, but I really hope to see her back again next film.

Charlize Theron’s Cypher is really well done here and is a very satisfying villain for the series. The way she’s introduced and how she manipulates Dom is rather well conceived and I was thoroughly impressed with every scene she was in. I also liked how she was tied into the narratives of the previous few movies and it felt completely natural like her character was part of it all along.

The film bounces between two central locations; New York and Russia. The scenes in New York were a refreshing change from the tropical locations from the prior films, and contain some of the most original car chases I’ve seen in any movie and I can honestly say it will be tough for the series to top what they’ve done here. The film finds a way to have dozen’s, if not hundreds of cars to be used in the biggest car chase in cinema history and the scene when many of those cars are speeding around a corner had me gasp and form the biggest smile ever, it’s beyond amazing.

The film’s final act takes place in Russia, and while there are some interesting scenes here, I did find that combined with another event taking place at the same time elsewhere in the story, that the events taking place in Russia went on a bit too long. I do like the resolution of what happens here but feel that a solid 10 minutes could have been shaved off and cleaned up this scene a bit better.

I’ve usually quite enjoyed the soundtracks of the series but found that Fate of the Furious had easily the least impressive one of the past few films. Tokyo Drift had me humming or singing various parts of the soundtrack for months after the movie and I don’t think I can recall a single selection from this movie. I feel that since the franchise has left much of its street racing roots behind that the movies don’t leave many scenes open to have some catchy dance song playing in the background, but maybe that’s just me.

The Fate of the Furious is an enjoyable entry in the Fast and Furious movies and slightly better than Furious 7, but well behind my favorite, Fast Five. While some fans have felt outraged at the direction the series is taking by leaving the street racing behind, it does in some ways feel like a natural progression of where the series was going all along. I do feel that this movie tends to lean heavily on Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham far more than that of its original cast and maybe that has to do with the Hobbs spinoff movie they currently have planned, but either way, The Fate of the Furious hits all the right buttons and delivers us a very fun action-packed film.

 

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