The Fate of the Furious movie review: A tired franchise running out of fuel
A franchise that refuses to die out, despite nearly running out of fuel each and every time. Fans nearly gave up on the franchise with the release of Tokyo Drift, a movie that should have gone straight-to-DVD. The franchise got a new lease of life with the release of Fast and Furious 7, post the untimely death of Paul Walker.
In the latest installment, we are in Havana, Cuba, the starting point of the eight films in the franchise - The Fate of The Furious. A place where it "doesn’t matter what’s under the hood” and street races are as frequent as Cubans smoking cigars.
Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) and his wife Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) are enjoying each and every moment of their honeymoon, talking about starting a 'family' - "I can't imagine what it'd be like if you were a dad," Letty says at one point - while the rest of the team is seemingly taking time off to do their own things. Unfortunately, crashing the party is Cipher (Charlize Theron), a terrorist intent on nuclear destruction.
With one fell swoop, the tech-savvy woman who'd make Anonymous sweat blackmails Dom into joining her in her quest for world destabilisation.
Standing in Dom's way is his crew, his family, his racing pals. "Your team is about to go up against the one thing they can't compete against. You," Cipher says at one point. The old family is joined by Hobbs' (Dwayne Johnson) law-enforcement officer friend and, in a nice twist, Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham), whose hand-to-hand combat is a nice relief from straight up recycled car-sequences.
Count the number of minutes of actual playing time in an American Football match, or any other 'commercial' sports. Now count the actual minutes of car chase sequences in The Fate of the Furious. You'll get more or less the same result.
What the movie gets caught up in is too much drama, too little car-chase, its USP for the franchise. In what was seen as a departure for the Fast & Furious series, it's not about family, not about the car chases and only about the enemy.
The movie runs out of steam pretty quickly. Cipher is a souped up angry character that is ever so slightly bored by the limited action she gets to engage in. Somehow, director F. Gary Gray gets there before even Hobbs can say the famous line, "Sorry, guys, I've got no more tricks left." There is one scene-stealing cameo that will make heads turn, but for now, less said the better.
Much of The Fate's limited car-chase sequences feels like you're playing Need For Speed. Cipher and her side-kick hack into thousands of vehicles in midtown Manhattan, leading to a rally in the place you'd least expect it.
In the end, the movie, or rather the franchise just feels tired. Each and every time though there is just enough hook to keep new fans coming and ample kick to keep ardent fans sticking around.
The best scene is when the movie goes back to its roots and that, I'm afraid to say, is during the opening sequence where Dom races a supercar with his cousin's old hag. You leave the cinema hall with that nagging feeling that the series needs to find new way to crash cars into each other - a la the Burnout video game series - for it to seem fresh.