THE FATE OF THE FURIOUS – We can officially stop taking this franchise seriously

I wasn’t sure before, but I am now – we no longer have to take the Fast and Furious films seriously. I could deal with the luxury sports cars flying from sky scraper to sky scraper. I could deal with cars bursting out of the cockpits of exploding planes. I could deal with characters speaking to each other normally over deafening engines at top speed. I’m pretty sure defended the plausibility of the final action sequence with the safes in Fast Five.

But when I realised the opening sequence of The Fate of the Furious in Havana was basically an extension of the ‘everybody loves Vin Diesel’ propaganda in XxX 3, I had to stifle the laughs. When I saw The Rock’s Luke ‘mini-Hulk’ Hobbs performing the Haka with a bunch of soccer girls, I had to tap out. When it became clear the script had Jason Statham’s Deckard Shaw as a good guy and pretended like he didn’t murder Han, I took out my brain and placed it on my lap because I didn’t carry my “no need to think in this movie” box. Our director, F. Gary Gray even goes out of his way to give Statham the most crowd-pleasing moment of the film, with his impression of John Wick-style action, clearly lacking in finesse.

There are a lot of gags about the next Fast and Furious movie happening on the moon but surely, that is the only conceivable step left after this. Within the first ten minutes, Diesel’s Dom Toretto wins a heated race using a flaming pile of rusted junk whilst driving in reverse. This obviously sets the tone for the rest of the film which features the usual suspects doing their usual things – refer to reviews of Fast and Furious 7. Mia and Brian get a gratuitous mention to remind us that the Franchise hasn’t forgotten about Paul Walker. Another white guy is added to the cast to fill the quota in Scott Eastwood and Kurt Russel continues to get big studio cheques (with Guardians Vol 2 on the horizon) to the glee of 90s kids.

The Fate of the Furious is kicked into gear with Charlize Theron’s bland baddie GOAT hacker, Cipher, who coerces Dom into betraying his team and spitting all over ethos of family (which we, of course, hear a thousand and one times). His team tries to get him back with his wife, Lettie (Michelle Rodriguez) leading the emotional charge. Diesel himself also gets to show some vulnerability as Cipher uses some game changing leverage to control his every move. Cipher’s endgame involves an attempt to acquire some nukes to ensure accountability from world leaders. There’s no reason to her method but that’s understandable under the mind-numbing circumstances.

What may be unforgivable to some is the fact Theron’s villain doesn’t do any driving – sorry Fury Road fans. But why drive when you can turn cars into zombies and ravage the streets of New York or hack into submarines in Russia from a spy plane. Speaking of Fury Road, you know how mediocre action doesn’t cut it in a post-John Wick world? Well, in a post-Fury Road world, the Fast and Furious films’ asphalt action won’t leave any jaws on the floor for the most part, save for some few insane spectacles. Director Gray is capable of sweetly crafted stuff- just check out the opening of Straight Outta Compton. But Fate is bathed in a certain artificiality that just didn’t move my needle.

The characters generally don’t move the needle either. Statham and Johnson have a ridiculously juvenile rivalry going on and I half expected them to whip out their penises for a measuring contest. I reckon Hobbs would have won. He’s basically a superhero here and the film is joyously aware of this, having him do reps with a massive cement table and punch a dent in a steel container. But The Rock has earned being treated like a superhero given the astronomical box office numbers that have followed his debut in the fantastic Fast Five. I wonder if he secretly wants the studios to kill of Dom so we can acknowledge who really anchors the series. Come to think of it, we barely see Dom and Hobbs in any scenes together – I wonder.

Like most modern blockbusters, the script panders to international markets – we globetrot from Havana to Berlin, New York to London, and even a block of ice in Russia gets some action. Still waiting for them to roll through Dar es Salaam or Kinshasa though. All in all, The Fate of the Furious does what it says on the tin. The average person won’t walk away from this film feeling short-changed, well maybe except the Imperator Furiosa fans. Persons like me are perfectly content with seeing this film in a packed theatre, with a social current running through the screening room. Dare I say, the more campy moments will actually make this film more memorable than its predecessors – not bad.

By: Delali Adogla-Bessa/delalibessa@yahoo.com/Ghana

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