Rated PG-13 for prolonged sequences of violence and destruction, suggestive content, and language
Written by Chris Morgan, based on characters by Gary Scott Thompson
Directed by F. Gary Gray
Starring Vin Diesel, Jason Statham, Dwayne Johnson, Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese Gibson and more
Grade: Two and a half stars
Can “Fast and the Furious” movies really be judged on a scale of “good” and “bad” anymore?
Because as fond as I am of the series, there’s no way I can call even the best “Fast and the Furious” movie “good” according to any kind of generally accepted standards of quality movie making. On the other hand, they remain entertaining enough for those of us who enjoy fast cars, completely ridiculous action scenes and Vin Diesel attempting to act that it’s hard to classify them as “bad.” They occupy their own universe, one in which the laws of physics are mere suggestions and people inexplicably think that Diesel is attractive.
Given that, I think the most reliable analysis for “The Fate of the Furious” is that it’s far better than the worst entries in the series, but not quite as over-the-top delightful as the last few have been. The filmmakers apparently hit the top of the ridiculous mayhem arc and had to scale it back a little, and to compensate they threw in a plot arc that made even this longtime fan of the series go “What? That makes no sense.” When you have a series where a major character comes back from the dead because of soap opera-style amnesia, it takes a lot to come up with a plot that feels stupid.
The plot, such as it is, starts with Vin Diesel’s Domenic Toretto and his now-wife, Letty, honeymooning in Cuba. After a mysterious and extremely tense meeting with a mysterious super-hacker played by Charlize Theron, it looks as though Dom turns traitor and starts working for her. Dwayne Johnson and various cast members from previous movies have to try and stop him, but do they know the whole story?
Of course they don’t know the whole story, a fact that’s obvious to the audience after exactly five minutes. This is annoying in that the team never guesses the reason for the supposed betrayal, which for anyone at all familiar with Dom’s character should take exactly five minutes and a couple of quick GPS searches. I don’t watch these movies for intelligent conversation, but when an entire plot spins around a bone-headed ignorance of basic facts it’s really hard for me to ignore.
Luckily, the explosions helped. The mayhem is only slightly lower than it’s been in the last few movies, and there are a few particularly interesting scenes involving a comically enormous wrecking ball and a snowplow machine that actually ends up being more impressive than a tank. The award for the best scene in the movie goes to Jason Statham, who fights off an entire plane full of villains while protecting a baby in a carrier and is absolutely adorable about it the whole time. A close second goes to his and Dwayne Johnson’s escape from prison.
If only the entire movie was that fun. There’s a more serious, intellectual side of me who could probably write an essay about disposable female characters after seeing this movie, and mourns the fact that a familiar face was turned into a plot device when there was a simpler, more sensible narrative option right in front of them. In a movie that professes to be all about family, it’s particularly jarring when you see someone clearly not make the cut.
The truth is, though, that I’m sure I’ve already put more thought into her death than the creative team behind the “Fast and the Furious” movies puts into anything. Mostly I’m along for the ride, but I do hope that the next stretch of road is slighty smoother than this one.