Saturday, April 15, 2017

Rogue One: The Pleasingly Ridiculous “The Fate of the Furious” Offers Total Vehicular Mayhem

Being the last person in the world who gives a crap about cars let along cars that go fast, I'm just as surprised as you are that I've found the recent movies in the “Fast & Furious” franchise to be strangely intoxicating and highly entertaining. “Furious Seven” was probably the highpoint of the series so far (Though “Fast Five” was the real turning point). It featured top-notch direction from “Conjuring” helmer James Wan, spectacularly staged action, and an unexpected emotional draw as a the result of the unfortunate real-life death of star Paul Walker. It was actually a fit ending to the franchise. But this is Hollywood and a million dollar franchise won't die just because one its actors has. So hence we have the most awkwardly titled of the series - “The Fate of the Furious” - and it's a completely fine addition to the series. It's still leaps and bounds better than where this franchise began and offers frenetic mayhem, destruction, and fast cars. Like the others, the movie remains paradoxical to me; it's unabashedly silly and stupid and yet there's something so compelling and fun about it all.

Does anyone really care about the plot of a Fast & Furious film? I didn't think so. For the three of you who do care, it has something to do with Russians and nuclear weapons. Timely right? Oscar winner Charlize Theron is the newly minted franchise villain, and she sports dreadlocks and her best Bea Arthur-approved outfit. And fun fact, Charlize isn't the only Oscar winner to show up but I won't spoil the fun.This time Vin Diesel's Dom apparently turns on his “family” - including the love of his life Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) - for reasons that aren't fully clear until the midpoint. It's been the selling point of the film's marketing. Like it's core audience gives a crap about that. THERE IS A SUBMARINE. Oh and one point cars are hacked and literally come driving out of buildings. It's utterly ridiculous but that's why it's so fun.

The film has a new guy in the theoretical driver's seat: F. Gary Gray, whose last film was the outstanding NWA biopic “Straight Outta Compton. His direction of action is fine and competent. His biggest strength seems to be the upping of humor from Chris Morgan's paint-by-numbers script. Chris 'Ludacris' Bridges and Tyrese Gibson buddy comedy bromance is always a highlight as is scenes featuring Dwayne Johnson's Hobbs and Jason Statham's Deckard (the latest villain who takes a turn towards “the good side”). When is the Hobbs & Deckard spinoff happening?? The film isn't flawless. The film's cast is delightfully diverse but since the absence of Walker is felt the filmmakers felt the need to give Scott Eastwood the role of “generic white guy.” He's as bland and vanilla as they come. Kurt Russell looks more embarrassed acting opposite him than he does actually being in these movies.

“The Fate of the Furious” is loud, crazy, and fun. It's exactly what you expect from these films but they always try to up themselves. What began as story of illegal street racers has become a full fledged James Bond-like globe-trotting action-adventures series. The story features a few fun twists and turns as this franchise usually does and some really over the top action. The ending action scene aboard the airplane with Statham and an unexpected passenger is a perfect example of the mix of ridiculous and balls-to-the-wall fun. As crazy as these movies are they're at least somewhat competently made and generally coherent. Take note Transformers!  GRADE: B+