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The Fate of the Furious (2017)
Director: F. Gary Gray
Screenwriter: Chris Morgan
Starring: Vin Diesel, Dwayne Johnson, Charlize Theron, Scott Eastwood, Nathalie Emmanuel, Luke Evans, Tyrese Gibson, Ludacris, Helen Mirren, Michelle Rodriguez, Kurt Russell, Jason Statham.
Warning: Minor Spoilers
The family is back, and with 7 movies under their belt and nearly $4billion in box office receipts, it seems they have no intention of slowing down anytime soon. This time the cast of recognisable characters is led by Straight Outta Compton’s F. Gary Gray, whose task in the director’s chair was vastly different to his predecessor James Wan’s but in many respects equally as difficult. Some obvious “different shooting day” sequences between feuding stars Dwayne Johnson and Vin Diesel aside, The Fate of the Furious/Fast & Furious 8 (2017) was a typically loud and outrageous affair that may have lacked the heart of Furious 7 (2015) but certainly delivered in terms of action, spectacle and even comedy, all the while remaining loyal to the family dynamic of its characters.
To take any Fast & Furious film too seriously has become somewhat of a crime in of itself in recent years as the franchise once centred around an undercover cop drag racing to uncover the truth behind gang crime in Los Angeles has developed into an all-out action franchise as unafraid of cheesy one liners and over-the-top explosions as the best of its 80s and 90s counterparts. The Fate of the Furious is, in almost every way, a development of this sensationalist and easy to understand formula, with its flurry of one-liners lighting up the otherwise very serious dialogue in much the same way that its explosions light up its chase scenes. Similarly, as was the case with the action movies of the 90s, the cast is so stacked to the brim with star power that each face empowers different portions of the film with an added gravitas that many of its modern contemporaries do not have the luxury of exploiting. It’s a formula for success that F. Gary Gray delivers to the line, providing further proof that the Fast & Furious franchise is a powerhouse of modern action cinema and the box office.
The formula of The Fate of the Furious is just as it is in every other movie in the franchise: the bad guys are set a morally good task to uncover a greater truth or, as is the case here, save the world. This time it’s Vin Diesel’s Dominic Toretto who takes the role of bad-guy, with former antagonists Hobbs (Johnson) and Deckard (Statham) teaming with the once rogue Letty (Rodriguez) and the rest of the morally ambiguous crew to track their family leader down and uncover the truth behind his actions and, of course, save the planet. As was the case in Fast Five, Fast & Furious 6 and Furious 7, the plot is less important than the action sequences it sets up and, much like the aforementioned predecessors, The Fate of the Furious often relies upon the rekindling of the cast’s “family” roles and overall dynamic to grab any means of real investment into the stakes of the narrative.
In this respect, the 8th Fast & Furious film pulls out all the stops to ensure its twists and turns are met with an emotional response, bringing back characters we haven’t seen in a while and even bringing one back from the dead at a vital moment in the picture’s third act. The reason we are asked to care is because of their history together which, despite being underdeveloped for a long time now, still seems to ring true as being a unit of individuals who have become entirely reliant upon each other in much the same way as a family would be. As has become common practice in the franchise’s development, The Fate of the Furious also helped to create additions to this family, with Helen Mirren and Don Omar looking likely cast members of the two films Vin Diesel has announced will be following this one. Perhaps the most attention regarding the ‘family’ leading into this film’s release however, was on the casting of Mad Max: Fury Road (2015) star Charlize Theron as the chief antagonist of the movie Cipher, though the presentation and delivery of the character rarely hit any notches beyond bland and was used entirely to make Diesel’s Toretto look even more like a superhero than he already did. This was a surprising and ultimately disappointing aspect of the film as Theron has clearly established herself as a world class leading action performer and having her role be limited mostly to a small control room seemed to be wasting her talents.
Perhaps most importantly regarding the casting and Gray’s presentation of the characters in The Fate of the Furious was the movie’s clear absence of leading character Brian, formerly played by Paul Walker. Not only was the actor a mainstay of the franchise and Brian O’Conner arguably its leading character, but he was also positioned within the narrative as being the moral compass and somewhat of a levelling factor for the outrageously over-the-top characterisations of his fellow cast members, and was now, of course, entirely absent. Even with the rest of the cast returning to their roles and rekindling old dynamics whilst fusing new and entertaining ones with the likes of Scott Eastwood’s Little Nobody and Jason Statham’s Deckard, Walker’s O’Conner was missed in such a way that the picture’s little tributes only made his absence more glaring and unfortunate.
Visually, The Fate of the Furious is probably as good as it’s ever been. The CG effects were, at times, astonishing, and leaps beyond the often hoaky CG sequences in Furious 7. Submarine chases across icy terrain and piles of cars falling from multi-story car parks looked phenomenal and vitally made Fast & Furious 8 tick the most important of all action movie boxes: the “I’ve never seen that before” box. The choreography of the fighting sequences were equally improved, with a prison escape scene centred around Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham being a particular highlight for its authentic and exciting stunt work as well as the creative ways the filmmakers went about distinguishing the differences between the two characters’ physical capabilities. As has been the case with the last few movies, much of the The Fate of the Furious was shot around the globe, with Berlin, New York, Cuba and northern Russia being vastly different yet equally appealing locations from which to present many of the action sequences, ultimately distinguishing this film from the rest in the franchise and, of course, creating an entertaining visual spectacle upon which the eyes could feast. The Fast & Furious movies have always been well known for their achievements in filming in difficult to negotiate locales, such as Rio De Janeiro in Fast Five, and have accomplished tremendous feats off the back of such difficulties, with the work done in Cuba and Times Square, New York, being this movie’s additions to the list; enhancing the box office repertoire and fan appreciation of the franchise even further.
In many respects The Fate of the Furious has reiterated the archetypal modern action movie tropes that three of its seven predecessors (from Fast Five to Furious 7) have so strongly driven home, and in doing so has created another visual spectacle worthy of your time. The Fast and the Furious may be on to its 8th film, and this movie may pale in comparison to Furious 7 or the original, but with this level of outrageous over-the-top action, fun and laughs, it seems to matter only a little that characters are left underdeveloped and that the plots are recycled, for this is easy-watch escapism at its finest, something the approximated $110million+ US box office opening can certainly vouch for. I say “watch it”, because movies this fun are truly hard to come by these days.