Saturday 15 April 2017

Film Review: The Fate of the Furious

The Fate of the Furious sees Dom and the gang buckle up for an eighth ride - however, is there still gas left in the tank or is the series running on empty?

Following the cathartic closing scene of Fast and Furious 7, it would have been very easy for the series to call it a day and drive off into the sunset, just like Paul Walker's character did. In many ways, it was the perfect sendoff for both the actor and the series as a whole - how could the franchise ever top such a fitting conclusion?

And yet, here we are - The Fate of the Furious advances the plot by introducing a fearsome new cyberterrorist threat called Cipher (Charlize Theron) for the group to wrangle with. The twist is that Cipher has some hefty and rather mysterious leverage on head honcho Dom Toretto (Vin Diesel), which enables her to bend him to her will. After Dom turns his back the 'fambly', it's up to Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) to unite everyone and get to the bottom of what has caused Dom to go rogue.

If you're in the market for untold destruction, goofy humour and the ultimate break from reality, The Fate of the Furious will be right up your alley.

The undisputed main appeal with the Fast and Furious movies is unrelenting vehicular mayhem and suspension of disbelief, and this latest entry certainly delivers in that regard. This series isn't just looking at reality in the rearview; it's boarded a rocket and would need a telescope to look back and see a minuscule speck of reality.

That's not to say it's a bad film - part of the charm is seeing how Tyrese Gibson and Ludacris constantly find themselves in increasingly ludicrous situations. The action and the choreography is genuinely fantastic and the humour and rapport between the gang is as dynamite as ever. I'm just saying you need to know what to expect, and if you're looking for consistent and satisfying character growth or logical narrative progression, you've come to the wrong neighbourhood.

The Fate of the Furious bounces all over the world, from Havana to Berlin, New York and Russia. Each location plays host to a zany action set piece that will delight fans who have been invested in this most unlikely of series'. You've got a classic street race (par for the course at this point), a heist and a submarine chase through the Arctic. It's like an episode of Top Gear on steroids.

However, the story that ties these sequences together is flimsy at best. The character motivations and plausibility are stretched to breaking point on more than one occasion as director F. Gary Gray wrangles with finding a compelling reason for this series to exist now that the buddy relationship between Dom and Brian has been resolved.

For a film about roided up muscle cars, there is a lot of standing around in rooms looking at computer screens. So much jargon flies around and not a lot of it actually means anything. Even when you've got charismatic individuals like Ludacris, Kurt Russell and Nathalie Emmanuel (who plays returning character Ramsey) rattling off the dialogue, it still seems superfluous.

This mainly impact the second act of the film as all the arcs (but mostly Dom's) are clumsily manhandled into shape before the rollicking crescendo. At two hours and 16 minutes, it's a little too much and could have been simplified for the sake of making everything smoother and breezier. I also felt that the film did one specific supporting character a huge disservice - but that's a major spoiler and you can probably piece it together yourself after watching the movie.

At the end of the day, The Fate of the Furious is a fun time but little else. The Rock and Jason Statham are highlights as their rivalry and rapport makes for some really funny moments; Emmanuel is a vision of loveliness; and the buddy stuff with Ludacris and Gibson is still entertaining. The biggest flaws are Diesel and Rodriguez's clumsy character arc, Theron's hammy Bond villain and an overstuffed second act that could have been shaved back.

The Verdict: 6/10

The Fate of the Furious may not be firing on all cylinders but at least shows there is still life in this old beast yet. The globetrotting hijinks have never been sillier and for some that will be more than enough to satisfy.

The Fate of the Furious is in cinemas across Australia now.

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