Yo, this movie fucking sucks.
Before I go into any more detail, I just want to make it clear that I’m a fan of the Fast and Furious franchise.
Like most people, I tuned out of the series around Tokyo Drift, but was back onboard after The Rock was introduced in Fast 5 and it was very clear that the filmmakers were just having fun with it.
And that’s what we’ve come to expect from the series for the past 5 years or so: fun. Nobody watches these films for life lessons or compelling dialogue. If you do, you’re either a 12 year-old, a 35 year-old who attends car shows at Taco Bell parking lots, or a dumbass.
Rather, we come for varied combinations of the same things: Vin Diesel mumbling some shit about family, fast cars, indulgent explosions, suspension of disbelief, friendly banter between characters, and The Rock being The Rock.
For the clear purpose that the movies seem to aspire towards, this formula works perfectly. They’re movies that we can just turn our brains off and have a great time with. We need that sort of escapism every now and then–especially these days.
So with this is mind, it seems almost impossible that they could ever screw this up, right?
Oddly enough, Fate of the Furious’ biggest misstep was trying to deviate from the tried-and-true method of past installations.
The biggest of which is taking the cornerstone character of the franchise, Dom (Vin Diesel), and pitting him against his former team…oops, I meant to say “family”.
Instead of Dom galvanizing the motley crew familia to drive cars fast and stuff by repeating “I am Groot”, this time he’s gone rogue…which apparently requires him to not speak at all and dramatically look over his shoulder every now and then.
Seriously. He does it like 6 times, and not once is it convincing.
Which leads me to the major issue with this film: tonal misfires.
Fate of the Furious tries to be two movies at once. On one hand, you have the classic fun nonsense that helped this movie extend to 8 installations in the first place.
But on the other, you have an awkward espionage subplot involving Dom that hilariously ventures into the territory of nuclear war. Charlize Theron even acts as the main villain for safe measure.
The problem here is that these two spheres of plot rarely intersect, making it seem like you’re watching two movies at once. Once Dom leaves the group, the rest of the members continue to banter and crack jokes as if nothing ever happened. The only indication that they ever care is communicated very explicitly, with someone saying something like “Dom is gone, and I am mad and/or sad about it”.
And when they do intersect, it’s awful. Instead of having heated exchanges over his betrayal, or Dom even trying to explain himself, he just stoically attacks his friends (nearly killing them) before dramatically looking over his shoulder and leaving.
It’s as if the film REALLY wants us to care about Dom’s captured baby mama and child, and feel some sort of conflict when he wrecks his familia…who continue to wisecrack amidst crisis.
Well, we don’t. Ever.
The scenes that do give us what we want are few and far between. Some (like the opening race) are decent, but require way too much suspension of disbelief—even for this series. When you’re too over-the-top for Fast and the Furious, you might have crossed the line.
The best sequence is the prison break, unsurprisingly starring The Rock and Jason Statham.
Side note: The movie could have just featured these two and been great. They need a spinoff, or something.
Anyway, the scene is excellent, showcasing great chemistry between Statham and Johnson, as well as playing to each character’s unique strengths. Statham uses advanced martial arts to get through most of his enemies, while The Rock leans on his comically overblown strength. It’s fun stuff.
The only issue is that it happens pretty early in the runtime, getting us excited with intensity that isn’t matched again.
Instead, we get these long, drawn-out scenes with Diesel being sad and Theron giving pseudo-philosophical spiels that have no place in a film series where an entire fucking safe was once dragged down the streets of Los Angeles.
The attempted emotional peak of the film, where Theron murders Dom’s baby mama, Elena, isn’t as gripping as it is confusing.
Like…really? That’s how you get us to care about this shit? Unceremoniously murdering a character we’ve all forgotten about who’s spent the entire film in a glass box? WHET??
I never thought I’d say this about a film from this serious, but I found myself bored watching this film. There was just way too much focus on Dom’s motivation that, by the way, NONE OF THE OTHER CHARACTERS ARE EVER AWARE OF.
People seem to be evenly split over the final car chase. I personally didn’t think much of it, because I didn’t care about what was going on at that point. I think the submarine deal was an interesting idea, and it showed that the filmmakers are still trying to think outside the box for the 8th movie in the series–which is very commendable.
However, like I said, I just didn’t care.
And I know what some of your are thinking: “It’s Fast and the Furious, you’re not supposed to care blah blah”
While I get that these are actions movies and all, previous films in the series have done a much better job of getting the audience invested.
Remember the first Fast and the Furious? When Jesse gets murdered and Dom’s only choice is to drive his Dad’s Charger that he vowed not to in order to catch the villains? That was a huge emotional peak, because it was tied to events and characters who were already established earlier in the script.
Or how about the aforementioned heist in Fast Five? As ridiculous as dragging an entire safe through a city was, it was still exciting because they were being directly opposed by The Rock, who had been established as a competent antagonist.
I don’t even remember who was opposing the group in Fast 8‘s climax. Or much of what happened. The point is that there is a right way to do mindless action, and a wrong way. Fate of the Furious dropped the ball by doing the latter.
This isn’t one of those “so bad that it’s good” things that makes the prior films so fun.
Fate of the Furious is just bad.