Thursday, April 27, 2017

Review: I call shotgun for "F8" and you should too!

The Fate of the Furious Review

It's easy to enjoy most action blockbusters as a fun time at the movies, but nothing much else. We can find some enjoyment through the witty one-liners, the eye-popping action, and movie stars striking cool poses. But these blockbuster franchises are never incredibly important to cinema, not to me. Action blockbusters are like eating your favorite candy, its a sweet sugar rush and usually nothing more. Sometimes  they fall so far into the world of cheese that its hard to watch them. I thought that the "Fast and Furious" movies were headed that way, but there was a change mid-franchise. Now, these are movies I anticipate every few years. Yes, these movies are incredibly silly, but they are so confidentially made that its hard to not sit back and enjoy the ride.

After eight movies, I think any franchise would be an endurance test to sit through for any fan, hardcore or casual. There is always a worry of doing the same things, over and over again. There is a potential problem with circular plots, will these movies tread water? What's blown me away over the years is how the "Fast and Furious" movies manage to keep things somewhat fresh. I don't think I could honestly count too many parallels between "The Fate of the Furious" to "Fast Seven" or "Fast and Furious 6" or the any of the other films. This franchise is constantly changing, constantly subbing characters out, constantly hurling new challenges at these people, and its a miracle that it feels like a different experience. Even though there are some trademarks we are beginning to see develop in this franchise.

"The Fate of the Furious" begins in Havana, Cuba. Dom (Vin Diesel) and Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) are on their honeymoon. Of course, Dom knows somebody there. Of course, that somebody is in trouble and Dom must race for their honor. Of course, Dom being Dom, he creams the competition and his respect in the street racing world increases. The next morning, Dom runs into a mysterious woman (Charlize Theron). Dom doesn't know her, but she knows quite a bit about him. She wants him to work with her and she shows him "something" on a phone. Whatever Dom sees, it works and he is coerced into working with her. On Dom's next job, he frames Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson), and betrays the rest of his crew (including the returns of both Tyrese Gibson as Roman and Ludacris as Tej). None of them can believe it as Dom delivers a WMD to Cipher (Theron) a ghost of a criminal who is incredibly dangerous. Mr. Nobody (Kurt Russell), gets Hobbs out of prison and reunites him with Letty, Roman and Tej. He wants to recruit them to go after Cipher, and they will get to her through Dom. Mr. Nobody also throws one more person in the mix, Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham), the villain from last movie, who has a beef with Cipher himself. Its a shaky alliance, but they all need to know the truth about Dom.

What ensues is another big, broad action movie. But its amazing to me that a franchise that has mainly revolved around fast cars and still feel so relevant. We aren't seeing the same few stunts over and over again. The film makers behind this franchise are always at odds with themselves, always continuing to push the envelope. There is an action set piece involving a submarine that will possibly be a favorite among action set pieces by the end of the year. The confidence within the context of the action scenes is key, and its wildly entertaining throughout.

At this point in this long franchise, its hard to judge Vin Diesel, Michelle Rodriguez, Ludacris, Tyrese Gibson and the others on their acting. They have wholly become these people at this point and these characters will be cemented in their identities for many years to come. As new challenges await these classic characters, the actors are able to role with the punches, always making everything feel human and natural. I can tell you that Kurt Russell continues to be a witty force in this franchise. I can tell you that Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham have several stand-out scenes here, and they are doing some of the best work in their careers so far. I can tell you that the inclusions of Charlize Theron, Scott Eastwood, Kristofer "Tormund" Hivju and Helen Frigging Mirren is more than welcome. There are several cameos from characters from other parts of the franchise that should put smiles on the faces of loyal fans of this franchise. There are bug character moments here that will make fans of this franchise cheer.

We know there is an end game in mind now. We know that nothing lasts forever and there will be a moment when Dom and Letty drive off into the sunset and we never see them again. We know we have a ninth and tenth movie left and then we are done, we will see these characters again. Its been a wild ride so far, and if those last two films are as confident, as big and as fun as this latest installment, we have every reason to be excited.

FINAL GRADE: A

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