A-a-a-and, they’re back. The ever-expanding crew of significant characters in the “Fast and the Furious” franchise — Now! With Helen Mirren in a comical cameo! — returns yet again for the amazement and amusement of its worldwide fan base.
It’s getting harder and harder to keep them all straight and in “The Fate of the Furious” harder still to follow who’s a goodie and who’s a baddie.
Last time around, in 2015’s “Furious 7,” Jason Statham was a really evil dude who killed a bunch of people, beat the stuffing out of Dwayne Johnson’s good-guy enforcer character and beat up Vin Diesel’s Dom Toretto in several epic slugfests. In “Fate,” Statham joins forces with Diesel’s crew of street racers-turned-international spy-type do-gooders. It’s a fraught alliance as Statham and Johnson spend a lot of time exchanging crude insults and threats to do each other massive amounts of bodily harm.
Meanwhile, Diesel’s Dom has gone over to the dark side for reasons left mysterious until past the movie’s midpoint. He’s now aligned with a super cyberhacker played by an unsmiling Charlize Theron in a peculiar long-locked modified cornrow hairdo.
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She’s out to steal a high-tech gizmo that will allow her to hack into every cyber circuit on the planet and basically rule the world. Yes, it’s that standby plot device, reappearing in a big Hollywood action epic for the umpteenth time.
Once again there’s a countdown to doomsday and, aw, … who cares? Nobody goes to these movies for the plot. It’s the stunts that fans want, and the big question here, as in previous “F&F” epics is, “How can they top what they did the last time?” And the last time, you’ll recall, they had cars parachuting out of a airplane and landing on a twisty mountain road to embark on a bullet-punctuated chase. And, of course, there was the pricey red one-of-a-kind car crashing through three, count ‘em, three Abu Dhabi megaskyscrapers. Mind-blowing.
In “Fate” there is the sense that director F. Gary Gray and the gargantuan technical team that creates these movies, were trying a little too hard to exceed expectations. Cars tumble out of a tall building. A convoy of zombie cars, their auto-drive function hacked by Theron, zoom through the streets of New York City, causing havoc. And in the climactic set piece, cars try to outrun a surfacing atomic sub across Icelandic ice, with Johnson momentarily wrestling with an oncoming torpedo. Many are the stupendous crashes, sending vehicles airborne so high, you half expect them to go into orbit. It all feels desperately overdone.
Overdone too is the emphasis the script puts on the family connection Dom and his crew share. That’s been a continuing thread throughout the series. But this time family values take the form of Statham lovingly carrying a drooling infant in one hand while blasting a swarm of bad guys with a pistol held in his other hand. He puts headphones on the tyke to pump soothing music into those tiny ears while he pumps lead into the killers.
Such a thoughtful family-friendly fellow.
The Fate of the Furious
☆☆☆ out of 5
Cast: Vin Diesel, Dwayne Johnson, Jason Statham, Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese Gibson, Chris “Ludacris” Bridges, Kurt Russell, Charlize Theron and Helen Mirren.
Director: F. Gary Gray.
Running time: 2:16.
Rated: PG-13 for prolonged sequences of violence and destruction, suggestive content and language.