The Fate of the Furious (2017)
Directed by F. Gary Gray.
Starring Vin Diesel, Dwayne Johnson, Jason Statham, Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese Gibson, Chris “Ludacris” Bridges, Helen Mirren, Nathalie Emmanuel, Elsa Pataky, Scott Eastwood, Kurt Russell, Luke Evans, and Charlize Theron.
Dom turns into a bad guy and the Fast & Furious family try to get him back. FF8: Civil War, for short.
There’s a running meta-gag across TV shows and film: the action movie parody. Sometimes a joke trailer, others a made-up scene. The Simpsons‘ McBain. Saturday Night Live’s MacGruber. The guns are too large, the heroes comically muscled, the one-liner puns painfully obvious and action stupidly over-the-top. The gags usually finish with a title card appearing over numerous explosions and Epic Movie Voice Over Guy.
‘Generic Action Film 39: This Time It’s Personal’.
It’s no mistake that – with every other franchise shedding their instalment numbering – the Fast and Furious franchise wears theirs like a badge of excess honour. Fast 8: The Fate of the Furious. It’s inherently ridiculous. The name sounds like self-parody.
But, at the same time, beneath the cheesy lines, superhero-level fight sequences and gratuitous low-angled shots of attractive ladies in short shorts runs an impressive attention to continuity, logic, and – the most important part of Fast & Furious – family.
The Fate of the Furious’ main plot device is when Dominic Toretto, the man who holds this makeshift family together – to use a professional wrestling term – turns heel. He becomes the bad guy. When we discussed this character twist on the Flickering Myth Podcast, Luke Owen argued it was to cash in on the latest blockbuster trend: Batman vs Superman, Iron Man vs Captain America. Fast 8 is Toretto vs His Family.
I disagree. I think it’s a natural direction for the story to take. This is the eighth instalment. It’s either Dom vs Hobbs or go to space. Toretto is made to face a character defining choice by his actions: family or going really, really, really fast?
It sounds dumb. And I can’t really defend that. It’s a dumb movie on appearances. But to make being so incredibly stupid work, an equally incredible attention to detail, story and logic needs to exist in tandem. Which is why I can cheer Hobbs redirecting a submarine missile with his foot (actual thing that happens), genuinely worry whether Dom will get out of this alive, cheer Deckard (Jason Statham) babysit a small child while taking out a team of goons, then tear-up as two characters are reunited. The franchise has made me invested in every twist and turn.
The exact same dynamic exists in the film’s action sequences. There is a clear narrative running through each chase. Again, to use a professional wrestling term, it’s called ring psychology: the story you tell through action. Rather than just people hitting people, or cars chasing cars; it’s cars chasing cars with a heavy heart because, once-upon-a-time, they used to be friends. It’s people hitting people while trying to escape from a prison. There are clear stakes and conflict established for every fight.
The movie jumps a shark in every other scene. The scenes between those? It blows up the shark with an M16 attached to the roof of the car it’s jumping in. But with the central cast of characters slowly built up over eight movies, the emotional connection underpinning each death-defying chase keeps you invested. Call it Stockholm Syndrome.
The Fate of the Furious, a superhero movie where cars are the super powers, perfectly achieves its goal: stupidly entertaining action and characters underpinned by emotion and logic.
And Helen Mirren gets to be a cockney. So yeah, it’s five stars.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★