FATE OF THE FURIOUS (7.5 out of 10) Directed by F. Gary Gray; Written by Chris Morgan, Gary Scott Thompson; Starring Vin Diesel, Jason Statham, Dwayne Johnson, Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese Gibson, Chris 'Ludacris' Bridges, Charlize Theron, Kurt Russell, Nathalie Emmanuel, Luke Evans, Elsa Pataky, Kristofer Hivju, Scott Eastwood; Rated PG-13 for "prolonged sequences of violence and destruction, suggestive content, and language"; Running time 136 min; In wide release April 14, 2016.
If you've loved living your movie life a quarter-mile at a time to the tune of the previous seven (yes 7) movies in the Fast and the Furious franchise, you're going to love this newest installment. And for those who have never met the "family" of always fast-driving sometimes outlaws, this is not the worst jumping in point. Here's what you need to know:
Dom (Vin Diesel) and Netty (Michelle Rodriguez) are celebrating their honeymoon in Cuba -- just doing normal honeymoon stuff like street racing through Havana so hard you make cars catch on fire (like ya do). And then Dom is approached by a mysterious hacker named Cipher (Theron) who shows him something disturbing enough to blackmail him to come work for her. After betraying his crew during a daring heist, he gets away with an EMP, and the rest of the crew find themselves on the wrong side of law enforcement. After an intervention from mysterious G-man "Mr. Nobody" (Kurt Russell), they will be freed and exonerated if they work with a former enemy (Statham) and track down the hacker and their former leader.
And car chase wackiness ensues.
There is a single word to describe this movie: "Ridiculous." It stretches the bounds of plausibility so far you simply have to laugh at it. Things explode. Lots of things explode. And hundreds of cars chase them through the streets of Manhattan and even rain from the sky.
In short, it's a Fast and Furious movie.
But it is competently written -- not to mention funny -- and extremely well-directed by F. Gary Gray. In lesser hands this might have been awful. But somehow everyone seems to pull it off.
And then there's The Rock. Somebody really let Dwayne Johnson out of his cage on this one, because he is beyond ridiculous. He -- and everyone else in the movie -- are having such a good time, it's hard not to enjoy it with them.
This ain't Shakespeare, people. But it doesn't need to be. And when compared with some of the other braindead pablum being marketed alongside this (like that new Transformers trailer, or last year's unbearable Independence Day sequel) that seem to be trying to inject some sort of self-importance, this is far superior. Fate of the Furious completely rejects all deeper meaning and exchanges it for more wiseacre one-liners and impossible car explosions.
And, on a completely personal note, this movie has cured me of a problem I've had for over six months. I simply haven't been able to purely enjoy any movie, even if it should give me more pure enjoyment. I apologize to my previous reviews of Rogue One, La La Land, Get Out, Logan, and The Lego Batman Movie, all of which likely deserve a point or two of grade inflation -- a fact which my colleague Adam has been pointing out to me as we review movies every week on the Bored as Hell podcast. (Also, go read Adam's review of Gifted and go check out that movie.) But back to the matter at hand:
What happened in early November was like an attack on my ability to enjoy media of almost any kind. It was like losing most of my sense of smell or taste-- things just weren't good or enjoyable any more. The last movies I really enjoyed as a fun, visceral experience were Doctor Strange and Arrival.
And Fate of the Furious was like a giant needle of atropine and adrenaline jammed right into my heart. It may have fixed the depressive funk I've been feeling, and that's no small feat. (Or maybe it was that Thor: Ragnarok trailer.) Anyway, hats off to the filmmakers.
One thing is clear, though. It doesn't matter what I say or what I think about this movie. If you love these movies, these characters, these stunts, these explosions-- you're going to love this. And if you think these movies are the downfall of Western civilization, you're not going to see it. Go see Get Out. It's still playing.
Everyone else, rev your engines.
7.5 out of 10