Saturday, April 15, 2017

'The Fate of the Furious' Is Another Fun, Utterly Ridiculous, High-Octane Installment

Back in 2001, no one expected that a Point Break-esque action film about illegal street racing – arguably a faddish subculture at that time – would have spawned a franchise that would remain active and huge fifteen years and seven sequels later, becoming one of the biggest movie franchises of all time.  It’s really amazing.  It’s because its filmmakers have recognized what works, retaining them, while continuously figuring out new ways of infusing fresh, over-the-top fun into each new installment.  Thus, unlike other cash-grabbing, refusing-to-die-because-money franchises (e.g. Resident Evil, Ice Age), movie fans never groan about having “another one” when it comes to The Fast and the Furious.  Ever since Fast Five (I didn’t strongly like the previous four), it never feels tiresome, but remains a constant source of enjoyable popcorn entertainment.   I’ve grown to love this series; along with Mission: Impossible, it’s a non-Disney-owned franchise that I would love to get to its 15th installment without undergoing a reboot.

Titled The Fate of the Furious (which I think should have been stylized and marketed as The F8 of the Furious), the eight movie starts off with Dominic “Dom” Toretto (Vin Diesel) and Letty Ortiz (Michelle Rodriguez) finally finding the time to have their honeymoon in Havana, Cuba.  But a criminal mastermind/hacker named Cipher (Charlize Theron) soon meets up with Dom, and somehow, she manages to recruit him into betraying his team – his family – and working for her as she executes her master plan for world domination.  Now, Letty, Hobbs (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson), and the rest of the team are forced to work with former foe Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) in order to stop Cipher and Dom.
The reason why Dom turned is what I was curious the most as I go into this movie.  What was Cipher’s hold on him?  It doesn’t take long before it’s revealed.  And, even before that, it can be predicted – which I did – what it was since there’s a foreshadowing for it during a conversation between Dom and Letty early in the movie.  Still, I liked how it played out.

Another interesting aspect of the plot is Deckard joining the team.  (Mild spoilers from here onwards.) Heck, this is the villain of the last movie – and the brother of the villain of the movie before that.  He killed Han, for Pete’s sake.  One of their own.  One of their family.  Yet, just like that, he has been welcomed among them with minimal opposition.  Nevertheless, the good thing is that it never felt unearned at all.  He has been made so likable in the movie – especially through a badass and adorably hilarious airplane action sequence – that I didn’t mind if his heel-face turn seemed too easy and unreasonable.
The standouts of the movie are Statham, Rock, and Theron, for their characters have the most personalities.  Cipher is a strong, interesting movie villainess (an early favorite for the category in the next Bernels); a first-rate despicable beeyatch.  Meanwhile, most of the best scenes in the movie are those where Deckard or Hobbs or both are in.  They are so delightfully badass and witty, and the fight scenes they’re involved in – either against each other or with enemy thugs – are sheer testosterone awesomeness.  Statham and Rock have terrific screen chemistry, giving me somewhat a glimpse of the Heroes for Hire fantasy (with The Rock as Luke Cage and Statham as Iron Fist) I used to have.

Lastly, it’s also worth a mention that Helen Mirren has a cameo.  She’s great, though her identity is easy to guess.  Moreover, some characters from previous movies also make appearances.  And the participation of one of them is as odd but almost as agreeable as Deckard’s heel-face turn (want a hint which one?  Actually, there’s already too much hint there).
The Fate of the Furious is no cinematic masterpiece.  However, it’s not expected go into that direction in the first place.  As usual, if you watch this movie by being too keen on logic, physics, and logistics, a lot of things don’t make sense.  It’s an utterly ridiculous story packed with absurd sequences and plot points.  It’s a “dumb action movie” – but the best kind of such, as it revels in entertainingly over-the-top, high-octane action while having a touch of heart on top.  Hence, it’s another triumphant installment to the endearing franchise.

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