Spoiler-Free Review: ‘The Fate of the Furious’ is a Fun Ride
The Fate of the Furious is the eighth instalment in the Fast & Furious franchise. Yes, a movie that started off as a feature-length commercial for cars and racing has eight films. These films are exciting thrills, with great characters, fun adventures, simple life lessons, and are well-produced and directed. The stories are not incredibly intelligent, and when one puts thought into it, many flaws emerge. However, with each new, instalment the stories have become sharper and sometimes unpredictable.
This franchise succeeds for many reasons, one of them being diversity. This is one of the best examples of casting people of colour, and having them be people. This series has shown that having a racially diverse cast does not need to rely on stereotypes or even address their racial identities. They just exist, and if you find yourself asking why are these films so successful, and why are they successful overseas, the answer is simple: REPRESENTATION MATTERS. This franchise truly does make you feel like you are a part of the family. The other thing that makes these films so successful is effort. I will delve into that one further later on.
The Fate of the Furious, is directed by F. Gary Gray, written by Chris Morgan, starring Vin Diesel, Dwayne Johnson, Michelle Rodriguez, Jason Statham, Tyrese Gibson, Ludacris, Charlize Theron and more. This film follows Dom (Diesel) who has suddenly turned against his crew and is now working with cyber terrorist Cipher (Theron). The film starts with Dom and Letty’s honeymoon in Cuba where we get an homage to the old Fast & Furious films with a dispute being settled with a race. The race is unnecessary, the dispute is cheesy, the ladies are sexy, and the race is a thrill. These are all staples of a Fast and Furious film, and this sequence is a reminder that these films have come a long way. Gray gives the audience what they normally expect, he makes it fun, and quickly moves on to the story.
Cipher tracks down Dom in Cuba and somehow gets him to turn on his family. She is an over the top villain who loves to monologue about fate and choice. She lacks a sufficient backstory, her motivations are unclear, she ultimately belongs to a Mission Impossible type film. How Cipher and Dom get entangled is very fitting with the two main themes of the film: family and fate. Morgan is able to carefully craft a story about whether we are in control of our fates or if we are predetermined to be in a particular situation and surrounded by certain individuals. Those ideas are big, maybe too big for this film, but he manages to make it fit with this franchise. Without giving away spoilers, Morgan showcases the idea of fate by having Cipher be the common denominator for majority of the crew. The execution may have been a bit more efficient and perhaps elaborated on, but anyone who has seen all of the films will understand how our heroes got to this point in their lives.
As for the main point of the film, how did Cipher get Dom to turn against his family? Well that is revealed in a genuinely surprising way. As the pieces fall into place, one can surmise what’s to come, but the story plays out as a genuine thriller. There are a few good twists and some shocking moments. I previously mentioned that effort plays a role in this franchises success. On all fronts (from the directing, acting, cinematography, and writing), you see the effort being put into this film. Morgan puts effort into creating a cohesive thread between all the films. Story wise, The Fate of the Furious makes sense. The Cipher storyline makes sense, there are certainly flaws, but you must admire the effort put into making it work. And it does! There is clearly effort being put into making a compelling story in between the action set pieces. When it comes to physics the film might lose the intellectual audience, and some things make no sense at all and begs a lot of questions.
The stunts and action sequences, as always are amazing and fun. However, Gray does rely on fast cuts and shaky cams one too many times, but the scenes are still very sharp and better than most action films. There are very few hand-to-hand fight scenes. Most of the action is with the cars, but there is one incredible scene between Hobbs (Johnson) and Deckard (Statham) in a prison.
It is perhaps one of the best action sequences that takes place during a prison riot and effectively highlights Johnson and Statham’s very particular fighting styles. This sequence makes Gray an excellent candidate to direct Luke Cage episodes/films or perhaps Shazaam/Black Adam, which will star Johnson as Black Adam. Hobbs is perhaps the most cartoonish character in the film; he and Roman (Gibson) are the comedic highlights. Gray and Morgan also double down on Statham’s comedic abilities too; Deckard has one significant sequence in the film that solidifies Statham’s future as a comedic action star.
As for the rest of the crew, they are barley developed, particularly Nathalie Emmanuel’s Ramsey. Ramsey is still the hot cyber genius who is the object of desire for Tej (Ludacris) and Roman. Gray and Morgan attempt to make Ramsey relevant by giving her a few tasks throughout the film, but she remains ineffective. Her only function is to rebuff Tej & Roman’s advances and provide exposition. The next instalment should utilize her skills better. If not she or Tej have to go, since there isn’t room for two cyber geniuses on the team.
Carrying on with the topic of useless characters, we are introduced to the new “Brian,” played by Scott Eastwood. Eastwood plays a rookie law enforcement agent named Eric a.k.a Little Nobody, which is Roman’s nickname for him. He does not belong in this film, or any future instalments. His character takes away valuable screen time. Screen time that could have gone to Ramsey or Letty, who were left on the sidelines for too long. Eastwood’s performance comes off forced and his character brings nothing to the table.
Letty, the main female team member, is left with very little to do. She defends Dom as the team grapples with his betrayal, and she has one poorly executed fight scene. Rodriguez is one of the few female action stars who is compelling to watch. She knows how to hit her marks and make it look good. In previous films, she has had wonderful action sequences, and what Gray does with her is insulting to Letty and to female audience members. As more and more moviegoers demand better representation of women in action films, this comes across as pure negligence. Perhaps there was no intent behind this, but it certainly does not help women in cinema. To not utilize the only female character capable of holding her own in an action scene is disappointing and very upsetting. We have seen more from Letty before, and hopefully this changes in the next two films.
As for the other female character of note in the film, Magdalene Shaw (Helen Mirren). Her introduction signals a continuation of the Shaw storyline; there is also a nod to Owen Shaw (Luke Evans) and his potential return to the franchise. Mirren is perfection as the Shaw matriarch, and she is given a lot to work with, as it is eluded that the Shaws are a big deal. Her role is purely a cameo, as is Kurt Russell’s role as Mr. Nobody, the head of the secret law enforcement agency that recruits the team. There are also some surprise cameos that die-hard fans will recognize and call backs to previous characters; Brian and Mia are amongst them.
To summarize, the film is a competently made action thriller, with a well-structured story. Moving forward, the fight scenes and action sequences need to be tweaked, but they are still very exciting to watch. Although the characters are compelling, some need more development in future instalments, particularly Ramsey. Cipher raises the bar for future villains, and there is still much to explore with that storyline. The series is quickly running out of crazy things to do, how could they possibly top this? The Fate of the Furious does end in a way that doesn’t beg for a sequel, but there is two more on the way. But once those are made, spinoffs may be the saving grace for this series.
All in all this is another successful film for the franchise, and it can only get better. There will always be those who look down on this franchise, but the results speak for themselves. Diversity and effort are a winning formula for this franchise. Let’s hope the rest of Hollywood take notes and builds off what the Fast & Furious franchise has done.
Do you agree with this review? What did you think of the films? Let us know and share.
The Fate of the Furious is now in theatres.