Del reviews ‘The Fate of the Furious’

Image courtesy of Universal Pictures.

“The Fate of the Furious” Starring Vin Diesel, Dwayne Johnson, Michelle Rodriguez, Jason Statham, Ludacris, Tyrese Gibson, Charlize Theron, Kurt Russell, Scott Eastwood. Directed by F. Gary Gray. 136 minutes. Rated PG-13.

Del’s take

“The Fate of the Furious” is like that big dumb dog you loved as a kid. It didn’t have the sense to come in out of the rain, and chased its tail until it got sick and threw up. But it was loyal to a fault and would have protected you from the end of the world.

After watching this spectacle unfold before our eyes, Dusty commented that he could not believe a simple movie about street racing had grown into a monster franchise where globe-trotting villains threatened to bring about that very event your childhood mongrel would have protected you from.

Yet that’s what it has become, however improbable, and like that dog we loved, we remain faithful to the franchise. Worldwide “Fate” has already raked in almost $1 billion, more than earning back its $250 million production cost.

Does that mean “Fate” is a good movie? I don’t know. What’s your definition of “good”? If you’re looking for depth, metaphor and nuance, you should probably stay out of American movie theaters.

But if silly escapist action movies are your bag, “Fate” isn’t bad. If you can turn off your brain and accept the plot holes big enough to drive a turbocharged Mack truck through, avert your eyes to the impossible physics, and appreciate the reality that the good guys never miss and they never die, “Fate” will reward you with two hours of solid movie entertainment.

Otherwise you’ll need to move to France.

The story kicks off in Havana where Dom (Vin Diesel) and Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) are enjoying their honeymoon and making new street-racing friends when an unwelcome intruder, Cipher (Charlize Theron), shows him something on a phone that compels him to turn on his team during their next job, that of stealing an electronics-killing EMP device. The EMP theft is only the first of a series of jobs Cipher has in mind for Dom, all of them leading to the theft of … well, let’s just say if the theft is successfully carried out, the fate of the world hangs in the balance. Isn’t that always the case?

Dom’s team is called in to track down their now rogue ex-boss and thwart Cipher’s scheme, which takes them around the world driving any and all manner of sexy (and costly) vehicles, shooting big guns, and trading very funny quips.

The plot is less “The Fast and the Furious” and more “Thunderball,” which I suppose is what the series was doomed to become when each installment was required to surpass the previous. I wonder what’s next – hotrods in outer space?

 The action was itself fast and furious, and the carnage epic. I for one cringed at the thought of Bentleys and Lamborghinis meeting the wrecking ball, but Dusty assured me the cars were being destroyed in CGI so I got over it.

All the old characters are along for the ride and they gamely soldier on. Newcomer Scott Eastwood did an OK job but did not quite pull off the comically bumbling understudy to Kurt Russell’s Mr. Nobody. Paul Walker’s absence did seem to leave a hole in the cast and perhaps affected the group dynamic, but other relationships rose in Walker’s absence, including a hilarious feud between Jason Statham’s Deckard and Dwayne Johnson’s Hobbs. Theron’s Cipher was not as cool, slick, and organically evil as, say, an Ernst Blofeld or Hans Gruber.

Overall the movie thunders toward its predictable conclusion amid a cloud of operatic destruction and comically over the top action, which is not a bad thing if you’re looking to kill 2 hours of a Saturday afternoon with a fuel-injected dose of turbocharged fun.

But “Fate,” like that dumb old dog, has not learned any new tricks, so don’t be disappointed if you come out of the theater feeling you’ve seen it all before.

I would grade this movie a B-.

Del Stone Jr. is a former journalist and author.