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Review: Fate of the Furious

A disappointing foray into a new era

Universal Pictures

Fate of the Furious is the worst film in the Fast and Furious series since the abysmal, forgettable 2 Fast 2 Furious.

This isn’t a traditional Fast and Furious movie. What we’re seeing with Fate of the Furious is the birth of an entirely new franchise. It steals elements from previous movies and pays homage to the army of characters we’ve met over the past 16 years, but it also loses itself. Much like how Fast Five kicked off an entirely new direction for the franchise, making it one of the most important in the eight-part series this far, Fate of the Furious represents the dawn of a new trilogy.

The changes could have made for an exciting, refreshing start, but Fate of the Furious is a departure from everything that has made the series great to this point. The themes that came across organically in the first few films — family, honor, respect and, of course, cars — feel forced in this one. Even the brief racing scenes, of which there are far too few, don’t seem like they belong.

Fate of the Furious tries too hard to hold onto the past, yet makes an extraordinary effort to reinvent itself. What results is a tug of war between what was and what could be, trapped in a mess of a boring plot and disastrous storytelling. The acting is at an all-time low, with exceptions from newcomers like Helen Mirren and Charlize Theron. And although Fast Five expanded the scope of the series beyond racing cars, Fate of the Furious stretches itself too thin. It feels like it’s trying to pack in an entire James Bond movie, with elements of a Transporter or Taken film, while still attempting to remind audiences that it’s a Fast and Furious movie in ways beyond Vin Diesel appearing on screen in a white tank top to reiterate that it’s about family.

Fate of the Furious feels confused and that makes for a lousy movie, but the overall experience is still enjoyable at times. When the Fast and Furious moments work, they work. As a lifelong fan of the franchise, its fanfare certainly won me over, but that’s just not enough. It needs to succeed as a piece of storytelling without relying on its past laurels.

Unfortunately, Fate of the Furious can’t do that.

Universal Pictures

Fate of the Furious takes place directly after the events of Furious 7. Dom and Letty are in Cuba experimenting with a new life and trying to get the most out of the peaceful place they’ve found themselves in. It’s become a common theme in the later Fast and Furious movies: the desire to move away from a life of crime and then being called in for one last big job. Fate of the Furious is no exception, except for one big difference: Dom is the enemy.

This is where Fate of the Furious tries to base its plot. After being blackmailed by a dangerous hacker named Cipher (Charlize Theron), Dom is forced into one of the most loathsome errand boy positions he’s ever been in. The reason he decides to join Cipher’s team is kept a secret for most of the movie, but the answer is so obvious that you’ll feel a little ridiculous for not guessing it sooner. It’s an emotional arc that, again, feels entirely forced. When it’s as inauthentic as this, it’s difficult to care about Dom and his reasons for doing anything, which is one of the film’s biggest issues.

The Fast and Furious franchise works because we’re so heavily invested in the characters on screen. They’re a family and we care about them as such. We celebrate their victories and mourn their losses. The “ride or die” mentality is a core asset, but it doesn’t feel as genuine in Fate of the Furious. Instead, we get these moments of faux sincerity that are offset by thunderous explosions and wicked action sequences — and while that’s fun at first, Fate of the Furious ends up feeling like a generic action movie instead of a Fast and Furious film.

With that being said, credit where credit’s due: Fate of the Furious has some of the most outlandish, adrenaline-fueled action sequences in the entire franchise. There are torpedoes, heat-seeking missiles, tanks, fast cars and, yes, a submarine. There are bombs, planes, and fists flying through the air. There’s even a jailbreak fight sequence worthy of its own award. When it comes to action, Fate of the Furious knows how to do it right, and it exceeded any expectations I had going in.

Universal Pictures

There’s one particular sequence with Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) on a plane that features stunning fight choreography, and reminds you why the Fast and the Furious franchise has succeeded as much as it has. Unfortunately, there aren’t enough of these types of scenes, and the movie falls flat. It cycles through different action sequences so rapidly that it’s hard to catch your breath, and what’s sacrificed in order to make this even remotely work is the family aspect that made the franchise special.

What I always loved about Fast and Furious was the importance it placed on its characters, and on their relationships to one another outside of the requisite action setpieces. It’s what made the first movie so beloved: Dom’s friendship with Brian (Paul Walker) and the family of miscreants they built in Los Angeles. As the years have gone on and the series has become more successful, it’s slowly been losing that important identity, and it seems to have been almost completely forgotten in Fate of the Furious. It’s not that the filmmakers don’t try to include the mention of the word “family” — believe me, they do — it just feels like an afterthought.

This is, at least, the funniest move in the Fast and Furious franchise. Considering how much drama and gunplay there is, Fate of the Furious needs humor to remind us that its cast is human. It needs to have some semblance of a soul so that it’s not just a mindless action machine. On that level, it does deliver. It’s genuinely funny, and the way past characters from other films are re-introduced is both clever and genuinely heartwarming, even if only for a second.

There are also three actors who deserve recognition for their work in the film: Charlize Theron, Jason Statham and Helen Mirren.

Theron is the quintessential villain, and as Fate of the Furious sets the stage for the next two movies — where she will be the main enemy — it’s important that she’s both interesting and terrifying. Theron’s performance is brilliant. She plays the cold-hearted terrorist with no reservations, delivering evil lines with such a genuine sense of iciness that it’s hard to stop the chill from running through your bones. Statham, who reprises his role as Deckard Shaw, will leave you wanting more. He brings a lightheartedness to the character for the first time, and the newfound sense of humanity gives Shaw a little extra bounce in his step that I greatly appreciated. Mirren, one of the most acclaimed actors in the world, doesn’t have much time on screen, but when she appears, she’s genuinely the best part about whatever scene she’s in.

Even with strong performances, funny moments and gorgeous action sequences, Fate of the Furious is a mess. It’s almost unsalvageable from a filmmaking perspective. There are moments that are genuinely fantastic, but the heart of what made Fast and the Furious such an important franchise — and the series that I boast as my favorite to date — is missing.

I wanted Fate of the Furious to leave me excited for the possibility of what’s to come, but all I’m left with is dread for the future and nostalgic pining for what has been.