The Fast and Furious franchise is a modern miracle. If somebody had told me, back in 2001, that The Fast and the Furious, a blatant rip off of the amazing Point Break (1991), would become a franchise that spans eight films, with undoubtedly more to come, I would have thought they were crazy. There’s no way that movie, a silly melodrama centered on street racing in which literally nobody can act, should have had a sequel, let alone eight of them; but it did. It survived. It survived four mediocre movies (ok that’s me being generous; 1-4 are AWFUL movies) before Fast Five (2011) jammed a needle full of adrenaline into the franchise’s heart, Pulp Fiction style, turning it into one of the most beloved, and easily the most ridiculously over-the-top action franchises ever. So how did it do it? How did one of the stupidest movie franchises become a staple in the action genre? And how does the latest, The Fate of the Furious stack up to the rest of the movie? Read on to find out.
In my opinion, the Fast and Furious franchise has survived and thrived by doing two things. First, it has stayed the same while embracing change. I know that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, but hear me out. The franchise has very clearly evolved throughout the years. It went from a street racing movie with elements of an action to straight up action movies, complete with fight scenes and shootouts. Throughout that evolution, however, it has never strayed from its themes of family and honor, and it has always featured fast cars and thrilling vehicular action. The producers hoped that, if they evolved into summer blockbuster action movies while maintaining the core themes and feel of the previous movies, they could keep the established audience (car lovers and street racers) while building a broader and bigger audience (action and man movie lovers, but not necessarily lovers of the street racing culture; i.e. me) and make more money. It worked, and it worked WELL! Fast Five easily topped the previous movies at the box office (by more than 50 million dollars) and each movie after that has topped the one before it. But simply evolving the brand wasn’t enough. That wouldn’t have worked without the second change; Casting.
These movies were growing stale (again, just my opinion). They needed a shot in the arm, and they needed it fast (and furious?). So, aside from evolving into blockbuster action movies, they needed one more thing; star power. They solved that issue by getting the single biggest star in action movies, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. Johnson single handedly elevated the franchise by injecting a ton of personality, and even more badass attitude, into the franchise. They didn’t stop there though. Since the addition of The Rock, they’ve added even more action movie star power with Jason Statham, Gina Carano (If you’ve read my other articles, you already know I love Gina Carano), Ronda Rousey, Kurt Russell, and Tony Jaa. Adding those actors to the already highly diverse cast gave the action scenes more credibility and allowed the movies to appeal to an even broader audience. The franchise now had something for both men and women across the globe, so it’s no surprise it has become a hit worldwide (Furious 7 (2015) is the sixth highest grossing film worldwide of ALL TIME). Enough with the history lesson, right?! Ok, moving on. I just wanted to establish the basis for my profound love for this franchise (from Fast Five on. If you read this and still feel the need to watch 1-4, you can’t blame me!). Now we’ll get into the reason you all decided to read this; A review of The Fate of the Furious.
Here’s a quick plot recap. Vin Diesel (I’m not going to bother with character names. Let’s be honest, they don’t matter) goes rogue, for reasons I can’t tell you because they would be spoilers, and starts to work for Charlize Theron (who goes for the weird, too skinny with dirty blonde dreads look like Angelina Jolie in Gone in 60 Seconds). She uses him to pull off heists that “only he can pull off.” Basically she wants him to steal nuclear launch codes and submarines and whatnot. So the old team, with the addition of Jason Statham (he’s a good guy now. . . kinda. Switching sides is another thing that’s prevalent throughout this franchise) and minus Paul Walker (R.I.P.), have to track down Diesel and Theron and stop them from blowing up the world.
The acting in this one is all across the board. These movies have never been about acting. In fact, the acting has been pretty consistently terrible (That’s part of the appeal of these movies at this point), but some of the characters just don’t do it for me in this one. Charlize Theron is probably the most surprising of the people that were disappointing. She is typically a very solid actor and, to be honest, she is way too talented to be acting in a movie like this, but she just doesn’t work in this movie. I don’t know if it’s because she is such a good actor and was just trying too hard, or that she just wasn’t in on the fact that these movies are garbage, so the best approach to take is to just have fun with it. Whatever it was, she was not good. She went for a quiet, controlled villain, which could have worked, but she chose to constantly talk in a weird, hushed, almost seductive voice and it just came off wrong. Maybe you’ll disagree with me, but I didn’t like her in the movie, I didn’t like her as the villain, and, for me, that did slightly take away from the movie.
The other disappointing bit of acting was by the main man, Vin Diesel. I’ll be the first to admit I love Vin Diesel despite the fact that he doesn’t have much (or really any) range as an actor. Typically his roles don’t require much acting, so he can get through them by just playing the tough guy role. His role in this movie was different from the other movies in the franchise though. This one could have been effective; a character, whose entire existence is about family, being forced to not only abandon those he loves, but go against them head to head. There are times where he runs into his “family” after he becomes a traitor. Those moments should have feeling behind them. It should be obvious to those people, and to the audience, that what he is being forced to do is tearing him apart. They should be able to see that he doesn’t want to be doing those things, but he has no choice. Just because he’s being blackmailed doesn’t mean he can’t make it clear that he doesn’t want to be doing these things. The other actors in “his family”, especially Michelle Rodriguez, played their part well. The showed the right combination of pain, anger, and confusion by Diesel’s betrayal, while showing the faith and love they still have for him. Any emotional impact that comes as a result of his betrayal is all due to those other actors. I think a combination of bad writing and limited range as an actor made him, maybe not bad in the role, but DEFINITELY a little confusing, and not nearly as effective as he could have been.
The stand out actors were Jason Statham and Dwayne Johnson, more specifically, the chemistry between the two of them. The bantering and conversations between the two on screen enemies make for some of the best scenes in the movie. Any time those two are on the screen together, the movie takes on an energy that just isn’t matched throughout the rest of the movie.
I’ve said this before, so this will sound familiar; Acting doesn’t really matter in a movie like this (Says the guy who just spent three paragraphs writing about the acting . . . ). Whatever! I just thought you guys might want to know about the acting in this movie! My point is, acting doesn’t have an impact on a blockbuster action movie like it does to a drama or character driven movie. What makes or breaks action movies is the action. Fun, crazy action with badass people pulling off ridiculous stunts, and directing that shows us the action without making us want to hurl up our popcorn with quick cuts and shaky cam.
The Fate of the Furious definitely doesn’t disappoint in the action department. It did, however, take a slight step back as far as the directing is concerned. Justin Lin directed 3-6, and found his action directing groove as he went, before leaving the franchise to direct Star Trek Beyond. James Wan (Saw, Insidious, The Conjuring), really hadn’t directed an action movie before, but he surprised me by bringing a fresh kinetic feeling to the camerawork that elevated the action in Furious 7 above the rest in the franchise. For The Fate of the Furious, F.Gary Gray was brought on to direct. Gray had a little more experience than Wan with action movies (The Italian Job, The Negotiator, A Man Apart), but those movies weren’t anywhere near the magnitude of action he would be shooting in this movie. The camerawork isn’t bad per se, it just gets a bit shaky at times, and it feels uninspired; It doesn’t quite have the intensity that his predecessors brought to the action.
Luckily for Gray, his actors stepped up, and they more than make up for his directorial shortcomings. Jason Statham and Dwayne Johnson are the standouts in this department as well (If you are sensing a common theme, it’s because these two carried the movie). Every action scene involving these two, whether together or individually, gave this movie life. Without those two, this movie would be completely mediocre. The scene involving them in a prison break/riot is easily one of the best action scenes I’ve seen in a long time, and I’ve seen a lot of action scenes!. Statham uses his parkour infused martial arts to ease through the madness of the riot while The Rock chases him, barrelling his way through inmates and prison guards like a real life version of the Incredible Hulk. It’s the kind of scene that amps you up and makes you want to break through walls and take on whole armies by yourself. The other standout action scene that I will never forget, and which may never be topped for silliest, yet coolest, scene ever, involves Jason Statham getting into shootouts and hand to hand combat on a plane while carrying a baby in a carrier in one hand. If that sounds ridiculous, it’s because it is beyond ridiculous!! But it’s also exactly the type of over-the-top, balls to the wall, badass nonsense action that makes this series amazing! I cannot stress enough how much I loved those two scenes!
And now for my 100% arbitrary and opinion based ranking that I will present to you as fact! How does The Fate of the Furious stack up to the others in the franchise? I have already mentioned that I don’t really like movies 1-4 so I will leave them out of the ranking. If you really want them included, let’s just rank them all tied for last. Actually, scratch that. The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift (2006) is last. . . And not only on this list. I’m talking about the rankings of all movies ever. That movie is dead last. So I guess that means 1,2,and 4 get the honor of being tied for second to last. As for ones that matter; I would rank them like this; 1st: Furious 7 2nd: Fast & Furious 6 3rd: The Fate of the Furious 4th: Fast Five
The Fate of the Furious edges out Fast Five because it has more star power and because the two scenes I mentioned above are significantly better than any individual scene in Five. It doesn’t quite live up to 6 or 7 because its story isn’t as cohesive, its villain isn’t nearly as good, It doesn’t have Gina Carano (<3), and (I never thought I would say this) the loss of Paul Walker was felt in this one.The chemistry that Walker and Vin Diesel had in the previous movies was sorely missed in this one. We’re lucky we had Statham and Johnson to make up for it, otherwise his absence would have really hurt the movie.
It will be interesting to see what direction the franchise takes moving forward. While Vin Diesel was out playing Bad Guy with Charlize Theron, The Rock stepped in and became the leader of the team and, I must say, he did it well. He and Statham completely owned this movie and Diesel was a bit overshadowed in his own franchise (a fact that probably had something to do with the on set feud between him and Johnson). While Diesel started the franchise, nobody can deny that Dwayne Johnson is the reason it became the worldwide phenomenon it is. Diesel is pretty much The Godfather of the franchise (not to mention he is one of the producers) so there’s no way he won’t be heavily involved moving forward. The big question then becomes, will the feud result in Johnson being phased out and, if it does, how much will that hurt the franchise. Truthfully, I don’t care what happens behind the scenes as long as the onscreen product continues to provide the completely bonkers, manly action it has been!
The Fate of the Furious continues the franchise’s hot streak by giving us bigger and badder action than anything else you’ll find in Hollywood. This is a franchise where ratings don’t mean a thing. People either love these movies (me and all of you reading this) or they hate these movies (people who are wrong). No review, discussion, or rating by me is going to change their minds. That being said, I’m going to give it a rating anyways. . . because I want to, and it’s my review so I can do whatever I want.
RATING: 7.5 out of 10