THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan
"THE FATE OF THE FURIOUS"
The Fast & Furious movies started off as a look at underground street racing, then evolved into unrepentantly outlandish crime adventures in which a bunch of expert drivers save the world from various threats. The films pay no attention to the laws of physics or gravity, nor do they adhere to their own logic. (Kill off a character and then regret it? Just bring her back!) Of course, the series has been wildly popular at the box office. There are, however, those of us who – to paraphrase Tommy Lee Jones meeting Jim Carrey for the first time – cannot sanction its buffoonery.
The Fate of the Furious, which is the hard-to-believe 8th film in the series, makes no effort to rein in that buffoonery. In fact, quite the opposite. These movies jumped the shark a long time ago, but this one jumps several sharks. Did you know that you can survive a massive blast happening inches away, so long as you're inside a car?
Vin Diesel returns as Dominic Toretto. He is forced against his will to help a master hacker named Cipher (Charlize Theron) with plans to get her hands on some nuclear codes. What could possibly make Dom turn his back on his “family”? It's literally the exact same thing that dozens of other movies have used when they need a can't-argue-with-that motivation for a character to do something they don't want to do. The rest of the gang – Dwayne Johnson, Michelle Rodriguez, Chris “Ludacris” Bridges, etc. – team up with former enemy Jason Statham to stop him.
Many movies require a suspension of disbelief, a willingness to believe that which is fundamentally unbelievable. One has to wonder, though, at what point this becomes impossible. Scenes in The Fate of the Furious are so cosmically outrageous that ignoring logic simply isn't an option. In one scene, Cipher seizes control of several dozen cars in New York City, commanding them to drive themselves and go after everyone pursuing Dom. That's child's play compared to the big finale, in which the crew drives across a frozen body of water, a nuclear submarine hot on their heels. Cars drive in undrivable conditions and people survive things that are not survivable. All the installments of this franchise are over-the-top, but this one pushes the envelope to the breaking point. Being asked to swallow the occurrences on display is a mighty tall order.
Director F. Gary Gray (Straight Outta Compton) at least knows how to keep a brisk pace. Even at 136 minutes, the movie isn't exactly what you'd call boring. You may snicker at the seriousness with which the film takes its lack of seriousness (admittedly an ironic concept) but you won't be looking at your watch.
Then again, taking its own absurdity so seriously is part of what makes The Fate of the Furious unsuccessful. The insane nature of the series has become its trademark. This time, the movie collapses under the weight of trying to out-do every previous entry. When the Fast & Furious pictures have already gone as far as they can, continuing to try to go further and further is a recipe for disaster. What's next? Dom going into space? Cars on the ocean floor? Inside a volcano?
If there's a saving grace here, it's Charlize Theron. As she did in Snow White & the Huntsman and its sequel, the actress hits just the right note of being evil while still letting the audience know that she's in on the joke. Some of the most amusing moments are the ones she shares with Vin Diesel, who again seems more concerned with badass posturing than with giving an actual performance. It's almost as if she's trying to show him how it's done.
No one who disliked the previous F&F movies is likely to have their mind changed by this one. A few who liked them may find their patience tested. Most fans will be satisfied. We've all got the camp that we're in. You know yours. I know mine.
I cannot sanction this movie's buffoonery.
( out of four)
The Fate of the Furious is rated PG-13 for prolonged sequences of violence and destruction, suggestive content, and language. The running time is 2 hours and 16 minutes.
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