REVIEW: ‘Fate of the Furious’ thrills but that can’t save it

The Art of Nerding Out

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A long time ago, in a multiplex not so very far away, “The Fast and the Furious” made its initial bow, a relatively plausible little flick about car-racing criminals. Fast forward a decade or so, and now the flicks of the “F & F” serve as a template for modern popcorn movies.

These movies have grown into the nitrous-fueled offspring of James Bond and a Wacky Races cartoon. “Fate of the Furious” is packed with pretty women, exotic locales and eye-popping stunts. But that stuff all comes at the expense of good writing, acting and storytelling.

“Fate” finds Dom (Vin Diesel) and Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) living it up in Cuba. Things are peachy until he crosses paths with a gorgeous, all-powerful cyber criminal named Cypher (Charlize Theron) who blackmails him into working for him. Before you can say “burning rubber”, Dom is doing thievery work for Cypher and (apparently) betraying Letty and the rest of his family.

What follows is a massive globe-trotting chase, as Letty, Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson), Deckard (Jason Statham) and the rest of Dom’s nearest and dearest try to save him from Cyper’s influence and thwart her scheme for world domination. This means a lot of ridiculous car chases and gun fight. Better strap in.

To a cinema snob in me, the cat who loves Akira Kurosawa, Jean-Luc Goddard and films like “The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie”, “Fate” is almost offensive. It’s full of bad writing, action scenes that shatter the ability suspend disbelief and plot holes big enough to drop the planet Neptune through. Oddly enough, this seems to be the target for most big blockbuster movies these days.

But that’s only half the story. To the 12-year-old who still keeps a room in my brain, “Fate” is about two steps from cinematic Nirvana. He doesn’t care that the dialogue is all exposition and lame-brained quips. He doesn’t care that the acting in this movie is less acting and more actors looking determined while delivering their lines. And to him, the insane action sequences aren’t just stupid, they’re stupid awesome!

There’s the rub. “Fate” is clearly not a good movie. Not even close. And judging by the other flicks in the series, I wasn’t expecting a good film. But holy cow, is it ever entertaining! Where else can you see cars rain down from the sky? What other movie will show you Vin Diesel crossing the finish line of a race driving backwards in a car that’s completely engulfed in flames? Plus, they get chased by a submarine!

All that is well and good, but anyone who hasn’t completely given over to “Fate” and its potion of hot chicks, cool cars and action all the time is going to find this film severely lacking in depth and emotion. The plot is the kind of disjointed assembly of climaxes a couple kids might come up with while playing Hot Wheels in some suburban bedroom. Johnson’s dialogue is so bad, all you can do is laugh at it. But you can’t feel good about doing so.

I can’t lie. I had fun with “Fate of the Furious”. But I could feel my brain cells dying off the whole time. And after seeing so many “dumb but fun” movies, I’m starting to feel like a movie has to offer more than just a lot of silly action scenes for me to get behind it. If you’re a fan of the “F & F” movies, you’ll dig this. If you like a little art with your spectacle, you should skip it.

2 ½ Indy Fedoras out of 5

MPAA Rating: PG-13

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