Ridiculous ‘Furious’ franchise shifts gears

‘Fate of the Furious’ gains traction despite the loss of Paul Walker

Cat Frink // The Torch
With Dom (Vin Diesel) and Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) married, Brian and Mia retired and the rest of the crew exonerated, the globe-trotting team has found some semblance of a normal life. They soon face an unexpected challenge when a mysterious woman named Cipher (Charlize Theron) forces Dom to betray them all. Now, they must unite to bring home the man who made them a family and stop Cipher from unleashing chaos.

After eight films, you know whether or not you’re a fan of the “Fast & Furious” franchise. These films are obviously not high art, but offer a ton of amusement to those who can enjoy the absurd nature of the films. “The Fate of the Furious” — directed by F. Gary Gray (“Straight Outta Compton”) — gives fans exactly what they’ve come to expect.

Part of the fun with the “Fast & Furious” films is that they know what they are. They’re cheesy popcorn flicks with over-the-top action scenes and ridiculous storylines. These films never try to hide these goofy tropes, but rather they embrace and have fun with them.

The chemistry between the actors is given an interesting evolution as Dom (Vin Diesel) is forced into turning on his group of friends. This action has an impact on the team and leads to scenes where Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) has to convince herself that there’s still good in Dom. A welcome addition to this film, that will hopefully carry over into future entries, is the rivalry between Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) and Deckard (Jason Statham). The two characters start off hating each other (given their interactions in “Furious 7”) and throw insulting one liners at each other, but end up making amends and working together. The weakest cast member was Scott Eastwood. His performance was bland and his character only existed to be mocked by Roman (Tyrese Gibson)

The action scenes are, for the most part, cheesy in the best way. The highlight is in the second act, where the antagonist, Cipher (Charlize Theron), hacks into the autonomous cars of New York City’s population to chase the Russian Minister of Defense. There’s even a moment where a handful of self-driving cars are hacked and forced to drive off of parking garages raining onto the minister’s escorts in an effort to slow them down. It’s hilarious to watch an army of empty cars chase this one car, and the filmmakers know it.

Another memorable sequence is where Deckard has to plow through Cipher’s henchmen, while protecting a baby. Statham has a few great moments where he humorously checks to see if the baby is alright.

However, the final set piece, where the team has to stop a hacked nuclear submarine, felt stale in comparison to the final sequences in “Fast Five” and “Furious 7.” Gary overused “slo-mo” shots interrupting the flow of the sequence and pushing the viewer’s sense of disbelief.

Despite the fact that “Fate of the Furious” is entertaining, the absence of Paul Walker cast a shadow over the film. After his tragic passing in 2013, “Furious 7” had to add an emotional weight in order to give Walker and his character, Brian, a proper send-off. Could the franchise move forward without him? While the creative team did stay true to the emotional weight presented in “Furious 7” and provided a solid reason why Brian isn’t involved, it would’ve been smarter for the producers to stop after seven.

All in all, “Fate of the Furious” is a good example of dumb fun done right. It has a nice balance of overblown action sequences and dramatic moments to create an engaging film, something Michael Bay should take notes on.