The 400-Word Review: Fate of the Furious
By Sean Collier
April 16, 2017
The ever-growing Fast and Furious franchise is mastering the unlikely art of telling stories backwards. If the movements of the surprisingly detailed plot in the last few chapters of the car-racing (bank-heisting, world-saving, pseudo-Marvel) franchise are any indication, there’s never a long-term plan for the direction of fast and/or furious storylines.
Rather, I think that the series’ various handlers gather somewhere — I’m guessing on a rooftop with bottles of Corona — and pitch ideas preceding with the phrase, “Wouldn’t it be cool if.”
This time: Wouldn’t it be cool if Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) was the bad guy? Wouldn’t it be cool if Charlize Theron were in this series? Wouldn’t it be cool if Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) and Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) had to team up?
Sure, all of those things would be cool. So the “Furious” sequel checklist is made, and then the team figures out how to retcon, recast and expand previous and ongoing plots to get the story to satisfy all the cool ideas.
Like, say, there’s actually this international super criminal hacker person, Cipher (Theron), and she’s been secretly pulling the strings on any number of the misdeeds in previous films. (This is known as the Spectre gambit.) And she has some serious intel on Dom — I won’t spoil it — that’s so juicy she can blackmail him into working for her. And ... umm, Mr. Nobody (Kurt Russell) is just going to tell Hobbs and Shaw they’re buddies now. We’ll figure out why somewhere in the second act. Let’s make cars do things!
As ridiculous as the setup is — also involving an escalating series of stolen weapons of mass destruction, the secret technology to activate and remotely control any late-model vehicle and at least two actual Iron Man suits (really) — the undeniable, mindless, supercharged fun of the latter-day “Furious” films is in full effect for The Fate of the Furious. One absurd setup after another arrives, delivers in a considerably more preposterous manner than anyone could’ve anticipated and quickly fades into the background din.
And, while this installment is nominally built around him, someone over at Furious HQ finally figured out that this series needs more reliable stars and less Vin Diesel. With Johnson, Statham, Russell and more around, the story’s original lead will soon enough be pushed fully to the sidelines — and the franchise will be better for it.
My Rating: 8/10
Sean Collier is the Associate Editor of Pittsburgh Magazine and a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association. Read more from Sean at pittsburghmagazine.com/afterdark