‘The Fate of the Furious’ Review – Familiar Franchise Fun for Fans

3.0
of 5
Review Essentials
  • Solid direction
  • Charming cast of characters
  • Hits all the notes fans love
  • A poor escalation for the series
  • Vehicular action isn't clear
  • Too cartoonish for its own good

Dom (Vin Diesel) and the crew are back for another explosive adventure, but the twist this time is that Dom is on the side of the bad guys! He’s been brought under the thumb of the mysterious Cipher (Charlize Theron) and it’s up to Letty (Michelle Rodriguez), Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson), and even old foes like Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) to stop Dom and Cipher and figure out exactly what’s going on. Oh, and cars blow up along the way. Spoiler!

Cartoon Overkill

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Some cars explode. Shocking!

The Fast & Furious franchise experienced a huge revival when Fast Five hit the scene. The last two entries in the series continued to up the ante in terms of spectacle and over-the-top ridiculousness, and that became the bizarre theme of this new stretch of movies. While Fast & Furious 6‘s superheroic take on the characters was a blast – and a step in a new direction for the world – that same gimmick became predictable after Furious 7 continued down the same path.

That’s the biggest problem with The Fate of the Furious: it doesn’t feel like it’s breaking a lot of new ground in a franchise that became infamous for breaking new ground. Sure, the series has its tropes – you’ll see a street race and tons of music video money shots with people partying – but The Fate of the Furious only serves to amplify the already cartoonish arena the series has been playing in since the last two films.

Granted, some of that absurdity is a joy on a very base level. It’s hard not to turn your childish Saturday morning brain on when the team is being chased by a nuclear submarine. But, the problem is that this doesn’t feel out of step for the series while Fast Five and Fast & Furious 6 played with genre and narrative in exciting new ways. The Fate of the Furious feels expected and that’s a shame for such an inventive franchise.

Saved by Direction and Charm

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Cipher (Charlize Theron) gets some direction from F. Gary Gray

What keeps this entry alive and kicking are two high standards that the series has always done right: getting a good director and a lovable cast. F. Gary Gray steps into the shoes of James Wan and Justin Lin as if he was meant to be making these movies. To be fair, there is an established language that these last three movies have leaned on but Gray executes it without missing a beat. His standout sequence is a big prison brawl that features some inspired (albeit outlandish) choreography and a sense of geography that is lacking in some of the vehicular set pieces.

And Gray – the director of one of the best comedies ever, Friday – understands how to play these characters off each other to ensure maximum laughs and likability. Yeah, these are cast members that have their own rhythms already established, but it takes a lot to know how to set them up for their best possible moments. Jason Statham’s upgrade from villain to the regular ensemble is a welcome treat that even leads to a scene where the actor actually cracked up and it was left in the movie. It’s hard not to vibe with these characters because of their raw charisma.

Is The Fate of the Furious Good?

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Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) is ready to brawl

Look, if you’re a fan of this series, it’s going to please you to no end. You’ll see old characters pop up and the magic that this cast has is practically immortal at this point. The Fate of the Furious hits all the notes a fan would want but it lacks that ability to branch out like Fast Five did. When people make jokes about the next entry taking place in space, it tells you where this franchise’s head is at. These were always silly action movies with some heart, but now the silliness has become the hallmark of the entire enterprise.

Still, it’s impossible to hate a movie like this. There is such clear love and passion on the screen that it becomes infectious. Seeing it with an audience was incredible; people cheered and interacted with the movie on a very visceral level. You’ll probably get some kind of kick out of this. Or you can watch reruns of G.I. Joe and have the same desired effect.

Drew Dietsch
Drew Dietsch has written for CHUD.com, the News-Press, WhatCulture, and releases a weekly film review podcast, The Drew Reviews Podcast. He'll yak your ear off about horror movies, Jaws, RoboCop, and/or Batman if you let him.