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When a franchise reaches its eighth film, each basically recycling the same theme, there comes a certain addictive quality to the formula, a bond between filmmaker and fan that forges a sort of symbiotic relationship, and a promise not to deviate from the pattern. With The Fate of the Furious, there is nothing new under the sun except a renewed contract for the audience that promises nothing is absurd as long as the furious is on the job.
The resounding message of The Fast and the Furious, despite the fast cars, pretty girls, big action, and lots of explosions, has been family, the one unbreakable link in all eight movies. And while that definition has always been the bookends in the stories, here it is the core as the team find themselves obliterated by a surprise betrayal when Dom (Vin Diesel) breaks from the gang after he encounters a powerful cyber-terrorist named Cipher (Charlize Theron), who blackmails him into her service, globetrotting to steal hi-tech weaponry. Now Letty (Michelle Rodriguez), Roman (Tyrese Gibson), Tej (Ludacris), Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel), and Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) along with Mr. Nobody (Kurt Russell) and their enemy from the last films, Deckard (Jason Statham), must work together to bring Dom home.
Directed by F. Gary Gray, his first in the series, The Fate of the Furious is of course, bullet proof, a film built and produced purely for raw escapism and has no interest in appealing to critics or pandering for acclaim, a multi-billion-dollar series that knows what works and doles out the candy with fans reaching for more. And there’s plenty of sweets here, with more over-the-top car stunt action than ever before, as the filmmakers somehow are able to bring more ‘big’ to the show, such as a zombie-like rush of hacked self-driving cars that add a fresh spin on the chase trope and is the movie’s signature highlight.
While the stunts are impressive, as is expected, there is some fatigue settling and the series has yet to fall back on a usual trick long-running film franchises follow in bringing it back to basics and small-time, more personal stories, continuing to adhere to the go bigger mentality that feeds most in the genre. Most disappointing is the use, or rather misuse, of Theron, who spends the entirety of the film in dark rooms spouting menacing one-liners and such instead of getting behind the wheel and being well, fast nor furious. That’s a missed opportunity if there ever was one. Why isn’t she driving?
To appeal to an international audience, the series has, for a long time now, kept the dialogue to a minimum and never much more than witty wise-crack and simple exposition, although the word ‘family’ is used with excess, naturally. The franchise isn’t about words, only good looking people doing spectacular things. That said, the tricks of the trade now sixteen years old are really showing their age, with the same recycled images of overtly sexualized girls, nearly consequence-free action, and meaningless plots. While the series has certainly created some incredible stunts along the way, it would be nice to see these characters grow beyond the action and perhaps sees some innovation in their adventures rather than going back to the well over and over. Still, if you want more furious, this has got it.
Movie description: The Fate of the Furious is a 2017 action thriller and the eighth installment in the series where the the team's patriarch makes a choice that seems to betray his longtime family.
Director(s): F. Gary Gray
Actor(s): Vin Diesel, Jason Statham, Dwayne Johnson