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Awesome: 6.67%
Worth A Look46.67%
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Pretty Crappy46.67%
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2 reviews, 3 user ratings

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Fate of the Furious, The
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by Peter Sobczynski

"All Revved Up With No Place To Go"
2 stars

The trouble with making a film franchise that is predicated almost entirely on over-the-top action sequences featuring wildly elaborate stunts and special effects is that in attempting to top themselves with each subsequent entry, the filmmakers run the risk of going too far and crossing the line from cheerful lunacy into outright and borderline intolerable foolishness. Remember how the increasingly gaudy James Bond movies with Roger Moore in the Seventies got bigger and wilder until the producers were forced to send him into space in “Moonraker” (1979), generally regarded as one of the low points in the history of that series? Then there was the case of Steven Spielberg and George Lucas reinventing the action genre with “Raiders of the Lost Ark” (1981) and then attempting to do that classic one better by devising a follow-up that was literally nothing but a string of show-stopping set-pieces—the result, “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom” (1984) was fun for about ten minutes or so but it tried so hard to knock viewers out with every single frame that the sheer effort of it all became wearying after a while.

Over the last few years, it has been the “Fast and the Furious” franchise that has been raising the bar for on-screen spectacle. Having begun as a serious of cheesy exploitation films vaguely involving street racing and the worldwide phenomenon known as Tokyo Drifting, the series got a new lease on life with “Fast Five” (2011) and continued with “Fast & Furious 6” (2013) and “Furious 7” (2015) when they started adding a new group of action stars such as Dwayne Johnson, Jason Statham and Kurt Russell to appear alongside such veterans as Vin Diesel, Michelle Rodriguez and the late Paul Walker and shifted the storytelling focus to international adventures in which there was no threat to the world that couldn’t somehow be overcome by driving a car into it at 140 mph. Even though the films grew bigger and crazier with each additional installment, they still somehow managed to maintain that tricky balance that kept them from going so far beyond the pale that they simply became too obnoxious for their own good. Of course, there was no way that the series could possibly continue to pull off that balancing act forever and with “The Fate of the Furious,” the franchise has hit a long-overdue roadblock with a film that does have its occasional moments of goofball charm but spends so much of its time trying to hard to dazzle viewers that one get exhausted just sitting there watching it.

As the story opens, muscle-headed muscle car fanatic and all-around family man Dom (Diesel) is on his honeymoon with longtime love Letty (Rodriguez) in Cuba when he is challenged to a race that finds him hurtling through the streets of Havana and victoriously crossing the finish line despite his car being on fire at the time. The next day, Dom is accosted in the street by Cipher (Charlize Theron), a cyberterrorist who plans to use her considerable computer skills (and an apparently unlimited hardware budget) to bring the governments of the world to their needs by using their own weapons against them as a way of demanding accountability from them. (I think that is her plan—the screenplay is a tad sketchy on the detail in this regard). Of course, to acquire the key elements to her plan, she requires Dom’s mad skills behind the wheel. Of course, Dom refuses at first but it turns out that Cipher has an ace up her sleeve that forces him to go along with her plans. Of course, he can’t actually say anything to anyone else so when he and his crew—Letty, Hobbs (Johnson), Roman (Tyrese Gibson), Parker (Chris “Ludacris” Bridges) and Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel)—are recruited to retrieve a stolen EMP before it can fall into enemy hands, he makes off with the device himself, making it appear as though he has betrayed his family for good. It looks bad for him but his crew, especially Letty, refuses to believe it—as you may have heard, he is all about family.

Before long, the gang is recruited by mysterious government spook Mr Nobody (Russell) and his dopey by-the-book aide, quickly dubbed Little Nobody (Scott Eastwood) to track down and stop Cipher. To pull this off however, the gang will need an extra set of hands and a bald dome to fill in for Dom and so Nobody brings in Brit brut Deckard (Statham) to fill in. Hobbs, not unreasonably, objects to this because they spent most of the previous film as antagonists trying to beat each other to death. Oddly, the rest of the gang seems okay with the presence of Deckard even though we saw him straight up murder one of their numbers a couple of movies ago. (Granted, it was only one of the Tokyo Drifters, but still. . . ) Anyway, the pursuit takes them from places ranging from an undisclosed location, where Cipher (the hands-on cyberterrorist) and Dom bust in on them to steal an all-powerful surveillance device, to New York, where Cipher uses her skills to turn half the cars in midtown Manhattan into zombie vehicles that she can control and crash at will, to the frozen hinterlands of Russia, where the action culminate with them trying to stop Cipher from using a submarine to carry out her devious plot in the ta-daa nick of time.

In theory, this probably reads as being not that much sillier than any of the other films in the “Fast & Furious” franchise but in practice, it quickly proves that when it comes to this kind of movie, there really can be too much of a good thing. Basically, the nutty charm that helped to drive the best of the previous installments along has gotten lost amidst all the crunching metal and heaving chests (the latter contributed almost entirely by the male members of the cast). The storyline is powerfully idiotic and almost completely lacking in the small character-driven moments that helped to keep the series from being just another soulless money machine—the script is far more interested in tossing out in-jokes and references to earlier installments (including the surprise deployment of characters whose presence will mean virtually nothing to anyone hasn’t watched all of the previous film approximately 14 minutes before starting up this one) than in telling a story that works at all on its own terms. The byplay between the characters that used to give the material a zip that wasn’t necessarily always there on paper is also missing—what used to be fun and fresh now comes across as being dutiful at best, as if the supporting cast knows that they are essentially the Moneypenny’s in these adventures. Other aspects are simply bewildering. In the last couple of films, there were brief and mildly perplexing cameos from pop starlets Rita Ora and Iggy Azalea that, face it, did little more than add some eye candy to the proceedings. On that record, one might have hoped that Charlie XCX would pop up this time around—perhaps even inspiring a spin-off film where the three of them drive around in a van solving mysteries and looking hot—but this time around, the head-scratcher cameos is supplied by none other than Helen Mirren. I don’t object to the presence of Helen Mirren—believe me, there are few actresses that I would rather see than her—but what I do object to is the fact that they don’t actually give her a single thing to do of consequence—hell, she spent more time behind the wheel of a vehicle in “The Queen” than she does here.

A film like this tends to live or die on the strength of their villains and it is this aspect where “The Fate of the Furious” has its biggest failing. As one of the very few performers today who is both a supremely talented actor and thoroughly convincing in action-oriented role such as Furiosa in that landmark “Mad Max: Fury Road,” Charlize Theron would seem to be the perfect person to give the series a much-needed boost but that isn’t the case here. Put simply, Cipher is a bore who feels like a studio executive’s idea of a edgy tech-savvy character from around 1999, maybe a reject from a proposed sequel to “The Net.” Nothing about her makes any sense—not only do we not have the foggiest notion of what it is she is trying to accomplish in the end, we never even get any idea of exactly why she require Dom for her various misdeeds when she could have just saved herself some trouble and gone elsewhere. (For one of the missions, all that he is required to do is walk into the aftermath of a massive auto pileup, retrieve a briefcase and walk away.) Theron must have realized early on that this part, while no doubt financially beneficial to her, had absolutely nothing to offer her other than the chance to wear a goofy hairstyle and sneer vaguely apocalyptic threats while stabbing almost randomly at a computer keyboard because the usually lively actress goes throughout the whole thing on autopilot.

“The Fate of the Furious” does have its occasional charms—it comes to life during the moments when the stars are able to put the increasingly convoluted narrative (which is beginning to make the “Saw” series seem simple and straightforward thanks to a backstory that is now practically cubist in nature) and let their natural charisma shine through (with Kurt Russell once again stealing pretty much every minute he is on the screen) and a few of the visuals have the kind of loopy grandeur that is undeniably thrilling at times—and it is far from being the worst of the franchise. (It certainly beats the hell out the largely forgotten “2 Fast 2 Furious” and “Fast and Furious.”) My guess is that as the summer progresses (and, despite what the calendar and common would suggest, this is pretty much the first big entry of the summer movie season), it won’t come close to being a low point among the multiplex offerings to come (certainly not in a season that also offers a new “Transformers” film). However, in the effort to top what has gone before, the film ignores the quieter elements that have always been just as important to the series as whole and the result is just kind of silly. No doubt it will make a ton of money and inspire a ninth installment to come in a couple of years. Considering that at this point, Dominic and the gang would have to either go up against sharknados or venture into outer space to top what has gone before, my humble suggestion would be to scale back things considerably the next time around and tell a story that focuses on the core characters instead of their international expeditions. Such a film might not be as dazzling as its predecessors but I think that such a move would help recharge a franchise that, for the first time in a while, appears to be in genuine need of a tune-up.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=29151&reviewer=389
originally posted: 04/14/17 01:26:24
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User Comments

6/12/17 meeo Rather boring 2 stars
4/15/17 Bob Dog Best one since Five - lots of fun! 4 stars
4/13/17 Louise Astonishing, unmittigated genius from first frame to last. 5 stars
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  14-Apr-2017 (PG-13)
  DVD: 27-Jun-2017


  DVD: 27-Jun-2017

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