Cast: Vin Diesel, Jason Statham, Dwayne Johnson, Michelle Rodriguez, Charlize Theron
Director: F. Gary Gray
Knocking a Fast and Furious movie for being unrealistic is a little like ripping The Boss Baby for its misleading portrait of a talking infant in a business suit. In both cases, we’re talking cartoons. Still, some cartoons resonate more forcefully than others. The original The Fast and the Furious (released 16 years ago, if you can believe it), which was based on an article in Vibe magazine about street racing clubs, was grounded in something at least resembling reality. But as the franchise grew, plots and the stunts grew increasingly more ludicrous. In The Fate of the Furious, our heroes walk away from crashes that would put Captain America on the disabled list. Cars fly through air as if they had wings. And dozens of enemy combatants surface out of nowhere whenever the screenplay calls for an extended action sequence. Fine, that’s all to be expected. The problem this time around is the plot is particularly idiotic, the supposedly snappy quips are lame and come at some weirdly inappropriate moments, and it’s all delivered in an extremely bloated package.
The Fate of the Furious clocks in at a snail-like two hours and 16 minutes, proving you can rev your engines and spin your wheels all over the planet, and yet still move at a snail’s pace. Fast and furious? More like slow and ponderous. At some point, we’re just numb to the noise. We kick off the action in Havana, which according to this movie is populated almost entirely by gorgeous women in skimpy clothes. Vin Diesel’s Dom is on his honeymoon with Michelle Rodriguez’s Letty, but it doesn’t take long for Dom to find himself in an insanely dangerous drag race that endangers hundreds of lives. The following morning, Dom is coming back from the grocery store (yes, there’s an obligatory loaf of French bread sticking out from the bag) when he encounters Charlize Theron’s Cipher, a vicious cyber-terrorist who speaks like a Bond villain forces him to come to work for her on the spot.
And just like that, Dom is helping Cipher in her evil plan to gain control of the world in a very evil way, so she can continue to be the most evil villain on the planet! (Theron is a lot of fun as the evil Cipher, even though we never even get a hint of why this smart, funny, fashionable, fantastic-looking woman is so angry at the world. She looks like she should be hosting a travel show.) So now Dom’s the bad guy, but Jason Statham’s Deckard Shaw has switched sides from the villains to the heroes, and Dwayne Johnson’s Hobbs is a good guy but he winds up in prison, and the good guys and bad guys have switched sides so many times in this franchise it’s enough to give your brain a flat tire. The clunky script calls for regulars such as Tyrese Gibson’s Roman, Chris “Ludacris” Bridges’ Parker and Kurt Russell’s Mr Nobody (that’s actually his character’s name) to disrespect each other and crack one-liners arbitrarily. Moments after Dom has gone rogue and apparently wants to kill them, they’re making jokes. Even within this ludicrous universe, it’s jarring to hear these supposedly smart folks, who refer to themselves as “family”, acting like idiots who don’t seem to care if they live or die.
There’s no denying the likability of the cast. Diesel still has the range of a hippo in the sun, but I’d rather watch him as Dom than that Xander Cage goof. Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham have a few good scenes and Helen Mirren shows up in a few scenes, does a downscale British accent and scores one big laugh. The speechmaking from Dom and others about the importance of family is beyond tiring at this point. The use of a baby as a comedic prop isn’t nearly as funny as the filmmakers seem to think it is. And of course the ending leaves plenty of room for another sequel, and another, and another... One of these decades, Dom and Co. will be saving the world in wheelchairs.
By arrangement with Asia Features...