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‘The Fate of the Furious’ Review: Vin Diesel’s Family Becomes Dysfunctional in Worst ‘Fast and Furious’ Ever

This is the “Die Another Day” of its franchise — an empty shell of its former self that disrespects its own proud heritage at every turn.

vin diesel the fate of the furious

“The Fate of the Furious”

The first 10 minutes of “The Fate of the Furious” have everything that you could ever ask for in a “Fast and the Furious” movie, or any other movie for that matter. Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) swaggers through the streets of Havana, tasting the local flavor as a bass-heavy Cuban pop song bangs on the soundtrack. The sun is shining, the cars are classics, and the girls are wearing hot pink thongs that make their butts pop off the screen like they’ve been post-converted into 3D. It’s like someone threw a Pitbull video and forgot to invite him.

Then, as Dom comes across a weirdly well-organized group of local auto fetishists, he finds his younger cousin being antagonized by the baddest guy in town. But there’s an easy solution to this problem. You see, Dom lives by a code, and that code is simple: “All human conflict can be resolved by a rigged street race between two hilariously mismatched vehicles.”

So they race, the Cuban dude in a souped up beauty, and Dom in a rustbucket that hasn’t been touched since the Bay of Pigs — all the better for him to growl that it “doesn’t matter what’s under the hood.” A few pyrotechnics and a shot of NOS later, and a mob of smiling kids is surrounding Dom like he’s brought them all candy. The loser surrenders his keys: “You win my car, and you win my respect.” They’re brothers now. Dom throws an arm around his wife, Letty (Michelle Rodriguez), Fidel Castro rolls in his grave, and the title card skids onto the screen.

Welcome back to the ever-expanding world of the Fast and the Furious, where family comes first, physics comes a distant second, and logic blew a flat tire like three movies ago. What started in 2001 as a modestly budgeted “Point Break” ripoff has exploded into one a box office behemoth the size of James Bond, and Dom’s crew has evolved from a gang of low-rent gearheads into an international unit of government-funded super spies or something.

And that’s awesome. Where these movies are going, they don’t need roads. Or scripts. Or any pressing reason to exist. Sure, the last two installments of this hi-octane soap opera have fallen well short of the nigh-perfect “Fast Five,” and it’s increasingly clear that “Tokyo Drift” will never be topped for sheer personality (or sick drifting, natch), but the series has weathered all sorts of ridiculousness — even amnesia! — because it’s never betrayed the fundamental bonds that hold it together.

Until now.

“F8” is the worst of these films since “2 Fast 2 Furious,” and it may be even worse than that. It’s the “Die Another Day” of its franchise — an empty, generic shell of its former self that disrespects its own proud heritage at every turn. How did the great F. Gary Gray, whose surprisingly strong remake of “The Italian Job” displayed a tremendous flair for comedic vehicular mayhem, waste the biggest budget of his career on such boring smash-ups? How did Diesel and co. manage to learn all of the wrong lessons from the last two movies, delivering an episode where everything feels so fake that even the “family” matters seem forced?

Charlize Theron the Fate of the Furious

“The Fate of the Furious”

It stalls the moment Charlize Theron shows up. As dull and uninspired here as she was riveting and iconic in “Fury Road,” Theron plays Cipher, an embarrassingly named super hacker who plunges “F8” into the most half-assed story of cyber-terrorism since “Live Free or Die Hard.” The franchise’s first female baddie, Cipher is regrettably also its least interesting — her villainous plot is so stupid that the film tries to pretend it doesn’t matter, and most of Theron’s performance is confined to cut-away shots where she says things like “Get ready for this” before hitting a button that triggers some bad special effects halfway around the world. Yeah, she has a henchman from “Game of Thrones” (Kristofer Hivju), but who doesn’t these days?

READ MORE: Universal Surprises With ‘Fate Of The Furious’ Screening At Cinema-Con

Anyway, Cipher blackmails Dom into her employ by showing him some very incriminating information on a tablet (cause she’s a hacker!), and while we’re left in the dark for much of the film’s first half, part of the fun is trying to imagine what could possibly convince Dom to turn against his family. The reveal itself is a satisfying exploitation of the character’s weakness; it’s one of the few details of Chris Morgan’s screenplay that doesn’t feel like it was written on auto-pilot.

But the buildup to it is a slog, and the fact that Dom doesn’t simply tell his pals what’s going on — rather than running them off the road and stealing a massive EMP bomb — is perhaps the dumbest thing that happens in the entire movie (and this is a movie in which Vin Diesel drives a muscle car over a nuclear submarine).

Submarine Fate of the Furious

“The Fate of the Furious”

But while Dom’s betrayal of his friends is obviously temporary, his betrayal of their franchise cuts much deeper. From its greasy analog origins to its plastic digital present, The “Fast and the Furious” saga has managed to speed right over any bumps in the road because every new adventure has held true to the core belief that loyalty supersedes everything else, including the law.

That’s why a criminal like Dom could forge such an unlikely bond with a cop like Brian O’Conner, and that’s why the series has organically been able to accommodate so many new cast members (most of whom are squeezed into this movie as interchangeable sources of exposition and comic relief) — if Dom gave his nod of approval, audiences were happy to welcome them into the fold. It’s why Dom instantly overlooked the fact that Letty was brainwashed by some bad guys, and it’s why Dom grunted “Words ain’t even been invented yet” when someone asked him what he was going to do to the people who killed Han.

Not so fast (not so furious). It turns out that words have been invented already, and those words are: “Host a lovely barbecue for them on my roof deck.” Jason Statham’s Deckard Shaw makes for some of the most fun moments in “F8” (the best of which is too good to spoil), but the ease with which Dom’s pals allow the “Furious 7” villain into their club is not only a fatal misread of what fans loved about these films, it’s also a tacit admission that their sentiments are as fake as their stunts. Han is never even mentioned. It’s nice that Paul Walker gets to live on through these movies — his unseen character is still chilling on a beach somewhere — but the actor’s death has eliminated the last remaining failsafes that were preventing this franchise from forgetting what it’s all about, and “F8” sends the entire enterprise careening towards a full-blown identity crisis.

Statham The Rock Fate of the Furious

“The Fate of the Furious”

It’s telling that Diesel and Dwayne Johnson virtually never appear onscreen together, because at no point does it feel like Gray’s sprawling cast of characters is all in the same film. Dom is in a Hitchcockian thriller, Johnson and Statham are in a balls-out buddy comedy, Theron is in the “Swordfish” sequel that no one wanted, and Tyrese Gibson and Chris Bridges are wisecracking about the whole thing in the distant background. Whereas the previous movies were galvanized by a very real sense of camaraderie, “The Fate of the Furious” is more disjointed than a ten-car pileup, and just about as much fun. This family has officially become dysfunctional.

And while the problems might originate with the human stuff, the fallout is most obvious during the lifeless action scenes. The film’s signature stunt finds the gang racing through the streets of Manhattan, chasing after a Russian diplomat because… don’t worry about it. But Cipher, safely tucked away in the military airplane where her character spends most of her time, hacks into every car in New York City, reprogramming them like the polygonal renderings that they are and flinging them across midtown in perfect formation (“It’s zombie time,” she says as she presses the magic button). They pour through the streets like a tidal wave, the obvious CG distracting from the fact that half of the sequence was clearly shot in Cleveland.

As much a mess of conflicting tones and styles as it is of locations, this setpiece — like the rest of Gray’s movie — feels like a heap of random parts that were thrown together in the hopes that fate might somehow weld them into a roadworthy vehicle. It’s exhausting.

“F8” may be a good 20 minutes shorter than either of the last two chapters, but the parade of dull action beats make the movie feel as long as the never-ending runway from “Fast and Furious 6.” Only the climax, split between Siberia and the stratosphere, displays the cartoonish ingenuity required to take advantage of the “anything goes” tone — it’s so dumb that it almost swings back around to being smart again. Almost.  By the time we arrive at the film’s festive final moments, the underlying problem is painfully clear: It’s not just that this franchise has lost any sense of itself, it’s that “The Fate of the Furious” doesn’t find anything to replace it with.

Grade: C-

“The Fate of the Furious” opens in theaters on Friday, April 14.

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Comments

Chuckie Chappie

This is a very thoughtful piece which i can find nothing to quibble with

target audience

F&F series is beyond any criticism. It’s really don’t matter what snobbish critics would say. But Diesel and team better to slow down a little bit. Return to origins (first entrance to the series). Or go into space in the next installment.

Man with Good Insight on insights

I really do wish that reviews of any kind would steer clear of comparing to any other movie and their flops. Does not show any intelligent insight when critics resort to such banter. His words hold no fortification and I can’t believe I read the whole review of idiocy. Thanks for the entertainment, by the way, now I want to watch Die Another Day and Live Free Die Hard.

    Ghambrie

    Lol

Alex Kelaru

I feel for you, sir, for having to waste the energy and time to review such an utter piece of s**t of a franchise, what a bitch this job can be sometimes! Kudos to the review, couldn’t have said it better myself!

Annita27

LOL!

Dalton Clay

A fantastic review. Not only does it sound wholly accurate considering how shabby this series has been until now, but also entertaining and funny!

Hey, it's better than another superhero movie

I’m not sure how to feel about this since I thought FF7 was the end, especially with saying goodbye to Paul and everything although I’m glad that the series won’t end on such a sad note. I loved the original movie, being a gearhead myself. Tokyo was a bit of a flub because it didn’t have the original actors in it (Diesel, Walker, etc.) but I think the team managed to pull it together nicely in the end with Han’s connection to that movie. I like the idea of the characters living out the rest of their lives chilling on a beach somewhere but if the franchise has more ideas then hey, go for it. FF8 could turn out to be the biggest bomb in all of movie history (though I doubt it will be) and it would still be infinitely better than all the lame superhero movies currently out there and the ones waiting in the wings like the “new” 2017 Spider-Man crossover crapfest coming up. I’ll take another Fast and Furious movie over that garbage any day.

    The Rock

    Did you seriously compare siperman movie with this shit load F&F8? What is wrong with you man, I love the original one and even liked F7 for Paul, but 8 is shit and don’t even think it couldbe anywhere close a movie where character like spiderman are.

      Jameson

      As shit as your English and punctuation… is there not a single troll of this film whose mother wasn’t inebriated when carrying them in the womb for nine months, as dense as shit…

ASFan

“the fact that Dom doesn’t simply tell his pals what’s going on — rather than running them off the road and stealing a massive EMP bomb — is perhaps the dumbest thing that happens in the entire movie”

How about the fact that she warns him not to tell anyone?

    David Ehrlich

    how would she know?

      Jo

      David, in case you’re not aware of this, part of the mechanic of blackmail is the blackmailee not telling anyone about the blackmailer and the blackmail. Why didn’t he tell his team? Are you being deliberately obtuse with that question?

TAG

“and it’s increasingly clear that “Tokyo Drift” will never be topped for sheer personality (or sick drifting, natch)”

I’m amazed that you seem to think that Tokyo Drift had anything resembling personality. I guess with our wildly differing opinions on that, I shouldn’t be too surprised that I basically stand on the exact opposite side of the fence on Fate of the Furious as you.

David

It’s a great movie, enjoyed every second of it. you sir don’t understand anything about movies at all apparently.

John

Really enjoyed every Fast and Furious movie except this one. This review is almost right in comparing it to Die Another Day. I can’t believe after the realism that made the recent mad max fury road movie so good that anyone would make this poor CGI version of a fast and furious movie. This was more like the Transporter 8 than a fast and furious movie, garbage CGI and not even a hint at realism in the stunts… Other than that the main problem was that the Dom/Cipher plot was a dead weight of no fun dragging down the whole thing. Fast and Furious is at it’s best when there’s realistic-ish stunts and an undercurrent of optimism. Virtually none of either in this one.

Jo

Mr. Ehrlich, how did you become a film critic? I can understand how you became a Rotten Tomatoes Top Critic – because you’re equally incompetent in film critiquing. But how DID you become a film critic?

t

It’s strange how we agree that the 3rd and 5th were by far the best in the series yet disagree so heavily on 6,7 and 8. I found both 6 and 7 to be dull and honestly can’t even remember which was which and what scenes took place in which movie. This new one however I enjoyed thoroughly despite agreeing and noticing nearly everything you pointed out (I didn’t recognize Cleveland but seriously, who cares?). It’s not that we disagree whether these issues exist but of their importance. And I’m not trying to use the “it’s a popcorn movie excuse” but rather point out that all these flaws are fairly minor in the grand scheme of things that is built around car chases, comic relief characters making comic relief comments and manly men beating each other up. That is all present in the movie and better than ever. The only complaint I wholeheartedly agree with is Theron’s terrible lines and the style in which they kept cutting back to her for 0.5 seconds every time since they were only a source of groans. Also you must have missed that part where Charlize threatens Dom not to tell anyone. It wasn’t written in big bold letters on a lake which might explain it.

Lucky

Worst movie review, ever! Fast 8 was eenjoyable n Tokyo Drift was a garbage

Gee

As the Biggest FF fan around. #7 was the Peak and after that it is all downhill, recycled, repetative bull shyt. The only good parts of the #8 was Jason Statham because he is a Boss. The rest was whack. These movies are so blehhh now days. They comprise of 2-3 major scenes with fillers in the rest and roll the creidts make anothehr billion. Without Paul Walker these movies are really shit. Sorry but Im over it.

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