Wednesday, July 17

Movie review: ‘The Fate of the Furious’

(Courtesy of Matt Kennedy)

(Courtesy of Matt Kennedy)

"The Fate of the Furious"

Directed by F. Gary Gray

Universal Pictures

Released April 14

The best action sequence of “The Fate of the Furious” isn’t in the trailers.

It’s not the scene where self-driving cars go rogue in New York City, nor is it the car chase involving a tank, an orange Lamborghini and a submarine racing across a frozen Russian bay.

The best action scene in “The Fate of the Furious” involves no cars at all. Instead, it centers around Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham), taking down a host of bad guys while gingerly holding a baby carrier.

That scene sums up what makes “The Fate of the Furious” entertaining – it’s surprisingly funny. The film is an adequate action movie with a predictable plot and serviceable action sequences. But the best moments are those when the supporting cast members get to flex their comedic chops and interact with each other.

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The film centers on Dom Toretto (Vin Diesel), who is blackmailed into working for criminal mastermind and hacker extraordinaire Cipher (Charlize Theron), helping her steal various devices and weapons. Dom’s mysterious descent into crime brings his team together, reuniting Letty Ortiz (Michelle Rodriguez), Tej Parker (Chris “Ludacris” Bridges), Roman Pearce (Tyrese Gibson) and Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) and forcing them to ally with “Furious 7” villain Shaw. The motley crew tracks Dom and Cipher across the globe, working to stop Cipher from wreaking havoc on the world and restore Dom to the team.

The plot of “The Fate of the Furious” sometimes seems more complicated than the film can handle. Cipher makes for a somewhat menacing villain, enhanced by Theron’s performance that balances smirks and whispered threats. She also challenges Dom in a nicely pointed way that draws on his past, attempting to bring him back into the world of crime he inhabited at the beginning of the franchise.

But “The Fate of the Furious” never coherently explains Cipher’s motivations for stealing things such as an electromagnetic pulse device and nuclear launch codes, leaving her with a somewhat muddled agenda without any real idea of the consequences. By the end, she’s reduced to shouting desperate, angry commands at her lackeys.

The story hinges on the idea of Dom betraying his team. The reason he betrays his team is revealed within the first 30 minutes of the movie and makes sense for his character. Even to the casual moviegoer who’s not a die-hard fan of the franchise, it’s clear Dom would only work for Cipher if he had no choice.

However, the film fixates on Dom’s nonexistent betrayal of his family, and after a while, it gets boring to hear his friends and teammates wonder out loud if he just “went bad,” with Letty jumping to his defense. The tension feels manufactured every time the characters revisit the question.

The action scenes of “The Fate of the Furious” are standard for the franchise. None of the chases ever quite live up to the spectacle of the vault robbery in “Fast Five,” arguably one of the best scenes of the franchise. Car aficionados will have plenty to enjoy, as the film starts in Cuba with a smorgasbord of old classic cars, and the team later visits a super-secret bunker equipped with hundreds of sports cars.

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However, the strength of “The Fate of the Furious” isn’t in the storyline or the action scenes – it’s in the supporting characters.

Within the team, Johnson shines brightest as Hobbs, equal parts muscle and comedy. His performance is matched by that of Statham, who serves up his fair share of intense fight scenes with a fair share of wry quips. Hobbs and Shaw verbally spar throughout the film, with Hobbs’ insults centering on Shaw’s British identity. Johnson delivers his one-liners with a deadpan commitment that makes the ridiculous comments – in one scene, Hobbs calls Shaw a “tea-and-crumpets-eating criminal” – even more hilarious.

If Dom serves as the conflicted emotional heart of the movie, then Hobbs serves as the de facto leader of the crew, driving both the plot and action on screen.

Fans of the franchise will enjoy the various cameos of familiar faces from past movies in the franchise, along with a few new faces that delight, like Helen Mirren as Shaw’s manipulative, larger-than-life, Cockney-accented mother.

“The Fate of the Furious” isn’t the best “Fast & Furious” film by any means, but it’s certainly an entertaining and humorous addition to the franchise.

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