My hopes weren’t exactly high for the eighth installment of the “Fast and the Furious” franchise. However, despite a tawdry, lackluster opening sequence that could have been inserted in any action film featuring fast cars and scantily clad women, about twenty minutes into the film the majority of the cast and director F. Gary Gray found their footing and kept it moving through the duration of the film. As a result, “The Fate of the Furious” manages to run on more than just fumes.
The explosive action film focuses on Vin Diesel’s Dominic Toretto who is enjoying his honeymoon with his new bride, Letty (Michelle Rodriguez), in picturesque in Havana, Cuba. However, things go left when the diabolical Cipher (Charlize Theron) shows up forcing our favorite outlaw to turn his back on his code and his family. Theron slays as the psychopathic icy blonde who is holding a major bombshell over Toretto’s head. She enlists him to do her bidding in capturing some nuclear warheads and the codes to set them off. Unfortunately, the ghastly choice to drape Theron in horrid limp blonde dreads was a distraction for the majority of the film, and if she wasn’t so chillingly believable, this costuming mishap could have easily propelled her into the realm of caricature.
Other highlights in the film are Academy Award winner Helen Mirren whose delicious cameo-like appearance will have you laughing out loud. Additionally are franchise late-comers Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Jason Statham, whose characters – Luke Hobbs and Deckard Shaw respectively – have some of the only backstories that run cohesively throughout the entire plot of the film. Also, their hilarious banter and iconic prison sequence are the gems that will keep audiences excited throughout. With the cumbersome overall narrative of the film, these two are the glue that holds it all together.
Speaking of a shaky narrative and the bloated cast, it’s past time for the franchise to start pairing things down. Tyrese Gibson’s Roman Pierce and Chris “Ludacris” Bridges’ Tej Parker are given absolutely nothing to do. The comic relief in “The Fate of the Furious” has been taken over by Johnson and Statham, so characters played by Gibson and Bridges have been reduced to corny exclamations, and what seemed like a paragraph worth of dialogue between them. The cast is quite robust without trying to make room for every single person that ever touched the franchise. Therefore, if Roman and Tej are going to continue on; I hope the screenwriters make them more than living, breathing relics of past films.
Overall, “The Fate of the Furious” gives its fans exactly what they want. It’s not the fan-favorite “Furious 7″ that paid homage to the late- Paul Walker who was a franchise pillar as Brian O’Connor. Nevertheless, the stunts are larger the life, the cars are stunning and the locations, from the vibrant streets of Cuba to the gritty corners of New York City, and the frozen Russian tundra, are staples that we love and expect from the “Fast and the Furious.”
F. Gary Gray even takes it a step further with the action sequences, slowing things down before speeding things up so that the audience is privy to every bang, blast, fire and explosion. What I enjoyed most about the film is the fact that it doesn’t take itself too seriously, a misstep that past films from the franchise have fallen victim to. The “serious” dialogue that was present here was so clunky that is was often laughable, but the narrative moved swiftly on from it, throwing in a flashier car, an action sequence, or whisper of Brian (who is still alive and well in the world of the franchise) in our faces, before we can truly fall prisoner to Vin Diesel’s scowling face.
“The Fate of the Furious” proves the franchise still has a bit more gas in its engine. It’s not the perfect vehicle, but it has all of the right parts, and the series is seasoned enough to know when to pump the breaks, change the oil or step on the gas hard. Less bloat, a slicker narrative, and some deeper character development could have made things run even smoother, but I would guess true fans of “Fast and the Furious” will be more than thrilled to go along on this ride.
Just FYI, if you were hoping to be done with the franchise, know that “The Fate of the Furious” is reportedly just part one of a trilogy. Two more fast and furious flicks are expected before 2021.
“The Fate of the Furious” will roll into theaters Friday, April 14, 2017.
Aramide A Tinubu has her Master’s in Film Studies from Columbia University. She wrote her thesis on Black Girlhood and Parental Loss in Contemporary Black American Cinema. She’s a cinephile, bookworm, blogger, and NYU + Columbia University alum. You can read her blog at: www.chocolategirlinthecity.com or tweet her @midnightrami