Reviews for the Easily Distracted

Reviews For the Easily Distracted:
The Fate of the Furious

Title: The Fate of the Furious

Describe This Movie In One Simpsons Quote:
Kirk: "I sleep in a racing car, do you?"
Homer: "I sleep in a big bed with my wife."
Kirk: "Oh yeah."

Brief Plot Synopsis: You gotta grab the wheel and own it / And drive it like you stole it.

Rating Using Random Objects Relevant to the Film: Three cans of Good Looking Hair out of five.

Tagline: "Family no more."

Better Tagline: "The fast and the Furiosa."

Not So Brief Plot Synopsis: Like sands through the hourglass, so go the days of Dom Toretto's (Vin Diesel) life. But idyllic afternoons spent racing "the Cuban mile" in Havana with his love Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) are short-lived. Dom is approached by a mysterious woman we come to know as "Cipher" (Charlize Theron) who holds a secret to his past that convinces him to betray his team and help make off with an EMP device "liberated" with the help of rogue DSS Agent Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson). Gathered by DSS bigwig "Mr. Nobody" (Kurt Russell), the rest of Dom's team gears up to go against their former leader...with the help of unlikely ally Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham).

"Critical" Analysis:
 If there's a universal truth to the movie-criticism business, it's that nobody predicted the Fast and Furious movies would turn into one of the most successful series in cinema history, as well as Universal Studios' most lucrative franchise of all time (at least until the next Jurassic Park sequel lands). Because if we're being honest, the first three entries just aren't that good (2F2F and FATF:TD in particular haven't aged well). It wasn't until Fast and Furious (which reunited the main cast) and Fast Five (which introduced Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson as DSS Agent Luke Hobbs) that the series really put the pedal to the metal, to use the appropriate idiom.

Credit at least part of this success to how the Fast/Furious movies provide a rare overlap between the way the rest of the world sees Americans and how we see ourselves. To the first point, these movies are dumb, loud and violent, with characters often blundering into situations without fully realizing or considering the consequences of their actions. To the second, Dom and company are motivated by loyalty and love of family, with good and evil starkly contrasted. And if a little violence is necessary to make the world a better place — or at least what we consider "better" — then so be it.

If this review seems sparse on plot, it's because these films have a tendency to blur together, lost in the thunder of blow-off valves and the premature eclipse brought on by The Rock's mighty deltoids (Straight Outta Compton's F. Gary Gray directs this installment, in case you cared). Cipher's scheme is, essentially, to create her own nuclear-enabled NewFreeLand. To do so, she needs Dom to betray everyone (resulting in one of the movie's few surprises) and steal the God's Eye (a.k.a. the MacGuffin from Furious 7), both of which she accomplishes with relative ease. Though in fairness, who *wouldn't* abandon everything they loved for Charlize Theron?

As with each preceding entry, the action is...excessive (if you've seen the latest trailer, you're already aware of the Akula submarine climax). Cipher's plan to steal the nuclear codes from the Russian Foreign Minister is hilariously gratuitous, involving hundreds of slaved auto-driving cars (another first: cinema's first zombie automobile apocalypse) and Dom armed with a circular-saw rig straight out of a Duke Nukem game.

Kranzberg's Second Law of Technology states, "Invention is the mother of necessity." Put another way, technical advances require even more advances to be fully realized. The FATF series, and indeed modern movies in general, can be seen as a perversion of that: The further we advance technically, the more ridiculous cinema's depiction of technology's capabilities becomes. For example, the eventual cyber-duel between Cipher and Ramsay ("They're [hack] fighting!") is a wondrous display of the statest of the art FX, and is actually less convincing than Angelina Jolie and Matthew Lillard reprogramming NYC's traffic signals in Hackers.

And in spite of the fact they're all friends now (Deckard killed Han, goddamnit — NEVAR 4GET), Johnson is the only one who seems to be enjoying himself. Hobbs's near-constant non-sequiturizing pairs nicely with his nigh-superhuman physical prowess (Statham constantly mocks his size, accurately referring to him as "Hercules" at one point). Think Roger Moore's enigmatic "Chief" from Spice World on bovine somatotropin. Unfortunately for us, the agonizingly teased fight between Deckard and Hobbs never materializes.

The Fast and the Furious movies are basically self-perpetuating at this point. After the bombs fall and mutant, man-eating cockroaches rule the Earth, the perpetual motion-picture machine set in motion by hundreds of swirling buttocks will churn them out until the sun goes dark. F8 won't win any awards, but it's loud and distracting and Christ knows we could use that now.
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Peter Vonder Haar writes movie reviews for the Houston Press and the occasional book. The first three novels in the "Clarke & Clarke Mysteries" - Lucky Town, Point Blank, and Empty Sky - are out now.
Contact: Pete Vonder Haar