THE FATE OF THE FURIOUS review by Mark Walters – Vin Diesel’s family falls fast

THE FATE OF THE FURIOUS review by Mark Walters – Vin Diesel’s family falls fast


On the heels of 2015’s FURIOUS 7, one of the fastest movies to reach $1 billion worldwide in box-office history and the sixth-biggest global title of all time, comes the newest chapter in one of the most popular and enduring motion-picture serials of all time: THE FATE OF THE FURIOUS. Vin Diesel is joined by a returning all-star cast that includes Dwayne Johnson, Jason Statham, Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese Gibson, Chris “Ludacris” Bridges, Nathalie Emmanuel, Elsa Pataky and Kurt Russell. The big change up this time out is the villain is a woman, played by Charlize Theron. With this installment, the series also welcomes newcomers Scott Eastwood and Helen Mirren. It should be noted that with Theron and Mirren, that’s TWO Oscar winners in a FAST & FURIOUS movie… who would have thought we’d see this day? The new film is directed by F. Gary Gray (STRAIGHT OUTTA COMPTON) and produced by returning producers Neal H. Moritz, Michael Fottrell and Diesel. Considering this is the eighth entry in the series, one can only wonder when the concept will finally run out of gas.

The story opens in Cuba, with Dom (Vin Diesel) and Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) dragged into an argument because Dom’s cousin or nephew (I honestly can’t remember) owes a debt to another racer, and is about to lose his rusty old car as a result. So Dom steps in and challenges the racer dude, even going so far as to race him with the rusty old car, which he rigs up to go much faster than it should. This gets us into an intense racing sequence that seems to exist only to remind the audience what they came to see. As Dom and Letty enjoy their time together in Cuba, they also discuss the idea of possibly expanding their “family” with a little one, but things turn sour when Dom meets a mysterious woman (Charlize Theron) in the streets that shows him something on a cel phone that stops him in his tracks. Whatever Dom sees, she lets him know that it’s going to make him betray his team and do what she tells him to. Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) is enjoying spending time with his daughter as a unconventional soccer coach, but is called back into service by the government and tasked with stealing an EMP (electromagnetic pulse) device. The old gang is reassembled, and Dom and Hobbs lead the mission to completion, but in the final moments Dom crashes Hobbs’ vehicle and steals the EMP. This is the beginning of his dark betrayal during which he leaves his “family” behind, including Letty, who almost sees it coming. As this mission was off the books, Hobbs is thrown in lock up and caged side by side with Deckard (Jason Staham), the villain from the last movie. Mr. Nobody (Kurt Russell) and his assistant Little Nobody (Scott Eastwood) inform Hobbs they can get him out, but it has to be on their terms. A big prison riot scene takes us into the eventual reforming of the old gang, who now must work with Deckard to go after Dom. We also soon learn why Dom is allowing himself to be bossed around, and what the mysterious woman controlling him is really up to… which of course leads to some rather outlandish chase scenes.


I’ve really been enjoying the past few FAST & FURIOUS movies, as they’re just (for the most part) silly fun. Even FURIOUS 7, which had the seemingly impossible task of lovingly saying goodbye to Paul Walker after his shocking real life death, managed to deliver an entertaining story and solid action while ending with a tear-inducing montage that seemed like an almost perfect wrap everything up. And maybe that’s part of the problem with THE FATE OF THE FURIOUS, as it just doesn’t seem to have the charm or proper feel of the recent entries, nor does it feel like a necessary sequel. The first downfall is the storyline itself, this whole “Dark Dom” element that separates the series headlining star from his racing family, and in some ways makes him the bad guy of the story. By driving a wedge between these familiar characters, we lose a big part of what makes these stories seem to gel. There were rumors swirling about Diesel and Johnson not getting along while filming this outing, and their limited interaction definitely backs up those claims. There’s also a core character death (something that frequently happens in these movies) that ends up lacking punch or resonance as it happens off camera and ultimately unbeknownst to the rest of the team.

But honestly, this entry just feels a tad too big, loud and dumb for its own good. Some of the moments (particularly with Dwayne Johnson) are so over the top that it starts to look and feel satirical. It’s as if they knew it lacked the usual charm and tried really hard to overcompensate with crashes and explosions. At two hours and 16 minutes, it’s also one of the more bloated entries in the franchise, though in this case bigger isn’t necessarily better. There’s one sequence in the middle of the story that involves hundreds of crashing cars the villains control by override leading to major wrecks and obstacles for our heroes in downtown New York. It’s a grand scene, very impressive in its presentation and probably one of the most ambitious attempts any of these movies has featured… yet I found myself (and I’m not kidding here) starting to doze off as it was happening. I just wasn’t invested in what was playing out, and felt like I was having to get through yet another dramatic chase just to slog toward the ending. Director F. Gary Gray has always been hit or miss with me, and his previous outing with Diesel (A MAN APART) didn’t do much to impress me either as I recall. Someone asked me if the exclusion of Brian (Paul Walker) and Mia (Jordanna Brewster) hurt it, but I don’t think adding more characters would have made much difference. Even Scott Eastwood, who is along for the ride during most of the film, feels like an unnecessary addition. It’s possible this is just a case of the franchise finally losing steam and not knowing where else to take itself.

In the end THE FATE OF THE FURIOUS isn’t a terrible film, but it’s far from the quality of the last few outings, and nowhere near the enjoyment or almost magical charm of FAST FIVE (which seems to be everyone’s favorite so far). This one is just a little too dark and gloomy, and it’s getting to where I don’t really know what the villain’s motives are anymore, almost as if the film doesn’t even care to make that aspect clear. And speaking of Theron as the baddie, she looks really weird here – are we supposed to find her appealing? She’s super thin and sporting weird make up in most scenes, making her appear more like a villain’s awkward sister than the actual bad guy. And sure, it’s fun seeing Helen Mirren pop up in one of these films, and there’s a few other cameos from previous outings, but there’s just something missing from this production that makes it feel lacking. All that said, judging by the audience’s cheers and excitement, chances are this will do just fine with fans, and we’ll get at least two more of these before Vin finally decides everyone has had enough. If you ask me, the touching ending of FURIOUS 7 probably would have been the best (and most appropriate) stopping point… even the POLICE ACADEMY franchise knew seven movies was enough.

THE FATE OF THE FURIOUS opens April 14, 2017

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About the Author

Born and raised in Dallas, Mark has been a movie critic since 1994, with reviews featured in print, radio and National TV. In 2001 he started the Entertainment section of the Herorealm website, where he contributed film reviews and celebrity interviews until 2004. After three years of service there, he started, which has become one of the Dallas film community's leading information websites. Bigfanboy hosts several movie screenings in the Texas area, and works closely with film and TV studios and promotional partners to host exciting events and contests. The site also features a variety of rare celebrity and filmmaker interviews, and regularly covers the film festival circuit as well. In addition to Hollywood reporting, Mark has worked for many years as an advertising and sci-fi/comic book artist. Clients have included Lucasfilm Ltd., Topps Trading Cards, The Dallas Mavericks and The Dallas Stars. From 2002 until 2015 he managed the Dallas Comic Con, Sci-Fi Expo and Fan Days events in the DFW area. He currently catalogs rare comic books and movie memorabilia for Heritage Auctions, and runs the Dallas Comic Show conventions, but remains an avid moviegoer and cinema buff.