RECAP: The Fate of the Furious

The Fate of the Furious (2017): F. Gary Gray

After directing the smash success N.W.A. origin story Straight Outta Compton, F. Gary Gray earned the helm of the biggest franchise of the 21st century: a story about people who drive quickly.

The Fast franchise has always been about family. And cars. But mostly family. Dominic Toretto, hero of the street-class,  turns bad guy in this eighth installment, an inspired choice that gave the series an edge it needed.

ONE SENTENCE PLOT SUMMARY: Dominic Toretto’s crew faces its toughest enemy yet–Dominic Toretto.

Hero (3/10)

“Dominic Toretto just went rogue.” Those words come from Hobbs, the Diplomatic Security Service hulk (Dwayne Johnson) after he watches Dom (Vin Diesel) steal a electromagnetic pulse (EMP) weapon. Dom spends most of the movie’s running time as a henchman, following Cipher’s (Charlize Theron) orders for three missions. He’s mostly a bad guy in The Fate of the Furious.

However, this is Dom’s franchise until Diesel quits, dies, or demands too much money. All the characters act to save and/or oppose Dom, and he ends up the hero, as we knew he would. Here he is.

Dom driving under the influence of Cipher, that’s why he looks so mad.

Dom opens the film on his honeymoon with Letty, driving and racing around Cuba. One morning, returning to his hotel, Dom meets a friendly American with a malfunctioning engine. Turns out she’s not friendly, and her engine isn’t flooded. Cipher shows Dom a video that we never see, and that video makes him do whatever Cipher wants.

As soon as Dom agreed to help Cipher, I knew it was about a child. What else could make him endanger his selected family than his actual blood? Turns out I nailed it.

Constantly tracked and threatened by Cipher, Dom drives on his own and completes the following missions: stealing an EMP from his buddy Hobbs’s vehicle, threatening to murder Russia’s Minister of Defense in New York City and subsequently stealing Russia’s nuclear launch codes, singlehandedly infiltrating a base of rebels in Russia to set off said EMP device disabling a nuclear submarine, and, as a bonus, evading Cipher’s sight for a few minutes one afternoon in New York City.

En Cuba, el auto de Dom esta en fuego. Dios mio!

Throughout Dom’s heel turn he wears a grim face. Some of his most gravelly speech he delivers to Cipher as he watches his son behind glass, as if he can’t form the words; they fall out more than are spoken.

Dom’s preformed impressive, spectacular, and unbelievable acts in his long movie career. Opposing Cipher might be his strongest work. The terrorist hacker can instantly access any camera anywhere, and Dom knows this. He finagles a five minute window, in New York City of all places, to block two camera views from a clandestine meeting with the mother of Deckard and Owen Shaw. He does this knowing that if he fails his son will die. You got guts, guy.

Diesel’s acting range is on full display here, from grim-faced to slightly yelling. Though spoken roughly, Diesel speaks classic Dom lines. “The only thing that matters is who’s behind the wheel.” “Your respect is good enough for me.” “You want to see the old Dom, watch.” We have to wait a while, but we get the old Dom back.

Villain (4/10)

You know Theron was loving her role as bad hacker. With hair on the fringe of dreadlocks, Cipher hosts a band of merry hackers with as many piercings as hacking skills, in each case many. They fly through radar dead zones, hacking the world’s systems instantly and with no trouble.

Need a nuclear sub? Cipher can drive it for you, seconds after gaining access to its navigation systems. Need to find someone? No camera is off limits to her when she needs access. Want to create a flowing river of self-drive cars in lower Manhattan? Cipher can manufacture that for you wholesale.

Dreads, or not dreads?

Cipher shows up in Cuba near Dom’s hotel, feigning a bad engine. That attracts Dom’s attention, since he’s a nice guy. Quickly Cipher drops the pretense and shows Dom a video of his forgotten paramour and her son. Who is also his son. Dun dun DUUUUUNNN.

If Cipher is less than certain she can control Dom she never shows it. If Cipher ever played a staring contest she never lost it. She doesn’t blink once, and that physicality translates to her work. Early in Dom’s tenure under her, he warns Cipher that the trouble with ensnaring people like him is that she can never take her foot off of his neck. For an hour forty-five she doesn’t.

Dom’s baby, name TBD.

Cipher subscribes to interesting philosophies. She loves choice, specifically choice theory, which posits that we can only control our own behavior, and the only thing we can give a person is information. Cipher gives Dom bombshell information when she hands him that phone in Cuba, but she also offers opposing viewpoints. “This is fate,” she says. “Funny thing about fate. It’s cunning.” She believes in fate and in choice? Such confusion likely pushed her to a life of crime.

For someone who lives high above the chaos she enacts, Cipher enjoys living on the edge. On her plane she hands Dom a gun and walks her head into the barrel, knowing that he won’t pull the trigger, because at that his son will die. “I’m ready if you are,” she says.

The Hacker Supreme holds Dom’s baby before he does, calling him an “adorable little thing.” The boy, hands on the glass encaging him, says “Dada.” Immediately Cipher orders Elena, Dom’s lover from Fast Five and mother of the child, murdered.

The unfolding family tragedy doesn’t bother Cipher because, she says, family is “a biological lie,” a sense of fear wired deeply into our brains to force us to care about our DNA propagation. That sense of loss Dom’s feeling after watching his baby mama murdered? It’s not real.

The smooch that was hot, but only from Charlize’s end.

All that’s quite sinister, but why is Cipher doing this? She wants to launch a nuke at a world power and force accountability of its leaders. Why? Great question. When I find out I’ll let you know. If you get a hold of the next script, throw a brother a bone. Nuking a major city is a dramatic way to get some answers about your tax returns.

Action/Effects (4/10)

Dom’s stealing of Russia’s nuclear football comprises Fate‘s big action sequence. Cipher knows the the Russian Minister of Defense is in Manhattan, and she and her merry band of hackers locates him in seconds using God’s Eye and some ground-level cameras to identify the correct car. She informs Dom.

Ready to hack into self-drive cars, Cipher utters the one phrase that makes all hackers wet worldwide: “Hack ’em all.” Cipher ruins self-drive cars for millions of people by easily hacking their controls. Parked, idling, riding; with or without drivers, Cipher turns their cars from autonomous systems into drops in a river.

A taxi driver bails out as his car moves. Innocent bydrivers ride in terror without control of their cars. Cipher uses the dozens of cars to destroy other cars in their path. Cop cars and parts of the minister’s motorcade flip. A favorite tactic of the filmmakers finds them rotating the camera as cars and humans flip. In this case a camera is affixed to a car’s roof as it flips.

The minister realizes what’s going on. A minigun pops out from a security vehicle and starts shooting any cars driving toward them. I smell a diplomatic incident. Dom lurks nearby like a shark sniffing blood.

Dom’s crew hears the police wire going nuts, and they know it’s Dom. They roll out in fancy cars, but not the fanciest in the toy shop.

Cipher asks her crew to “make it rain.” Cars parked in a mid-rise parking deck crank on and start flying out of the side of the building. These cars crash and surround the minister’s limousine, exploding and not killing the minister.

Dom, out of his car, wears a black Jason-style mask and carries a bulletproof shield, which he deploys as a bodyguard leans out the car to unload a clip at him. No trouble for Dom.

Now, Dom brings out his enormous saw to slice through the car chassis, exposing the gas tank. He lights a flare, and that’s enough of a threat to take the nuclear football. Back in his car, Dom drives toward a meeting point.

Missions calling for bulletproof shields might not be the best missions.

Not so fast, Dom. Your crew is about to mess you up. Lots of slick driving ensues, endangering thousands more people without mention of their peril. Why would anyone try to capture Dom behind the wheel of his beloved GTX? It’s madness.

The crew has a solid plan. They surround him in an intersection and start shooting grappling hooks into the car. Five hooks in all form a star with Dom in the center. Should be enough, right?

Dom’s spins his tires enough that they catch fire. He’s also got 5,000 horsepower under his hood. Roman’s is the first car to lose its grip on the road. Dom elbows his door off to knock Hobbs out of the game. The other three cars easily fall over, but so does Dom’s. He bails out of his car and takes the case.

Deckard (Jason Statham) pursues Dom and runs him down on the sidewalk. The camera switches to Hobbs’s point of view. Dom shoots Deckard twice. Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) takes the case and runs. Dom follows, finding her in an alley and firing into the air. “I know one thing,” Letty says. “You love me, and you are not going to shoot me.” Cipher’s number two man says hello and takes the case, ending the scene.

Visual effects strained credulity in The Fate of the Furious. Cipher’s car river stunt featured many real cars at staggering cost. Gray said the producers looked at him like he was nuts, demanding new-ish vehicles to smash after one use. Imagine the cost. Cipher’s plan was as insane as it looked.

Sidekicks (5/8)

The Fast franchise expands its roster faster than a Nox-infused engine. Letty, Tej (Ludacris), and Roman (Tyrese Gibson) are their old selves. Hobbs has many bones to break for Deckard. Let’s discuss new and changed players.

The gang’s mostly here.

Deckard Shaw spent the entirety of Furious 7 trying to kill Dom. By the end of Fate, he hands Dom his son for the first time, having killed dozens of trained killers to rescue the boy. That’s as fast and as dramatic a 180 as can be turned. His best line: “These assholes aren’t going to kill themselves.”

Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel) and Tej hack their way across the world. Cipher might be the world’s best and most accomplished hacker, so good that people think she’s an organization, but Ramsey matches her tap-for-tap, click-for-click. I loved Ramsey’s eye rolls whenever Tej or Roman hit on her. Women in tech deal with that crap all the time.

Henchmen (1/8)

Cipher has one goon who does the dirty work on the ground. You might recognize him from Game of Thrones. Dude’s name is Rhodes (Kristofer Hivju), and he’s a sniper, the exact opposite of the way Dom likes to kill people, which is by looking ’em in the eye. Rhodes never fears Dom; he even gets into Dom’s car, which I would never do because I’m not stupid.

Stunts (6/6)

Hobbs and Deckard bust out of an ultra-maximum prison somewhere. A brawl starts, and dozens of guard flood the chambers. These guards wear body armor and helmets and carry batons, tazers, and guns that shoot rubber bullets. The following are some of the things that occur in this fight.

Hobbs about to bash two guys at once.

Deckard chokes a guard from inside his cell, using the taser to short out his door lock mechanism. For some reason this opens all the cell doors. Deckard free runs down flights of stairs. Hobbs lifts a guard and throws him sideways into two other guards. Deckard uses a baton to bash a guard in the helmet, a blow so vicious that the guard twists in the air like a fidget spinner. A prisoner armed with a knife tells Hobbs he’s waited much time to take vengeance on Hobbs. Hobbs grabs the knife hand, turns it backward, stabs the prisoner, and says, “Keep waiting, bitch.” Deckard uses a prisoner as a shield for rubber bullets. Hobbs gets shot by rubber bullets, which only make him mad. Hobbs, wanting to go down a level, slides off a walkway and hits a fence wall. That wall slows him, and he bounces off it to hit the floor. A guard shoots Hobbs with rubber bullets, which makes Hobbs so angry that he throws away the gun he took from another guard, yelling at the shooter and slapping his gun away. Deckard free runs around and over three guards. Hobbs head butts a guard who is wearing a helmet. All this is a build up to a fight between Hobbs and Deckard, which we never even get.

Fast movies never mess around with stunts for the lighthearted. The Fate of the Furious is no exception.

Climax (4/6)

If you ever needed a cue that an end is coming, how about this? “You just took your foot off the tiger’s neck.” That’s Dom, speaking to Cipher, and shit’s about to get real bad real fast.

Dom put two killers on Cipher’s plane. Cipher doesn’t know it yet, but it was over for her the moment she interrupted Dom’s honeymoon. Dom, who’s just killed Rhodes and knows Deckard has his son, says to Cipher, “You just took your foot off the tiger’s neck.”

On the ground. Dom’s crew flees a Russian submarine base with a multitude of enemies chasing. These rebels drive dozens of trucks, some armed with rockets. All the cars are racing to a sea gate, the only manner in which the good guys can stop the other vehicle chasing them.

Below the frozen surface of the ice water lurks a nuclear submarine, the object of Cipher’s eye and now under her control. Cipher plans to launch nuclear missiles at major powers with this submarine, but first she has to get the sub into open water.

The drivers on the ice flee the Russian separatists and their endless supply of men and trucks. One of them has 16 rockets to fire, enough to kill them good. Hobbs, driving a dozer truck, offers to take the blows if the team drives in front. He shifts the dozer to guard his rear and takes one rocket that destroys it. They won’t survive another shot. Their only hope is to start praying.

Hobbs’s truck in the finale.

Who better to pray for than Dom? Dom flies over a cliff to land on the ice and join the fray. He clips the rocket car, and the driver nudges a control joystick that fires all the other rockets. As the truck spins it shoots the separatist trucks and not Dom’s family. Makes sense.

Cipher has lost Dom, and she’s finally mad. The tiger is loose. In her plane, she shouts for action. The sub she still controls fires torpedoes. Now it’s Hobbs’s turn to show some strength. Isn’t it always Hobbs’s turn? He asks Roman to take the wheel as he steps onto the ice, sliding at the truck’s speed. Hobbs grips the sliding torpedo and nudges it left to strike another rocket truck.

Up in the skies, the Shaw brothers wreak havoc on Cipher’s plane. Owen holds the pilot hostage while Deckard does most of the dirty work. He’s rescued Dom’s kid and interacts with him in a series of interminably adorable shots. First, Deckard puts headphones on the kid because it’s about to get real loud. Then, he turns on Alvin and the Chipmunks Christmas songs. The kid loves it.

Next, Deckard wrecks the highly paid, well trained killers while holding the baby carrier. I’ve never seen that, and I applaud the filmmakers for, eight movies in, continuing to push the bar of stunt work. He shoots, he punches, he drags a guy’s face through glassware. Deckard turns his back and is shot multiple times in the back, with no after effects. After Deckard kills the shooter he smells poop and asks the baby if it’s him or the other guy.

Cipher isn’t finished. She directs the sub to crack the ice, and it does, sending several separatist trucks flying 20-plus feet high in a slowed down, legitimately awesome shot. Hobbs, with no sense of irony or credit to a masterpiece film, says, “We’re gonna need a bigger truck.”

The sub catches the cars, sailing beneath them and breaking ice like a mole digging through earth. The team nimbly avoids the largest chunks. Letty uses her vehicle’s tricky devices to launch her car off the leading edge of breaking ice.

Cipher is apoplectic now. She launches a heatseeking missile, which all nuclear subs must have, at the cars. Dom, overloading his 5,000 horsepower engine, orders the others away. Dom speeds toward a hill as the missile shrieks toward him. Dom turns the car on an embankment, causing the missile to skim upward, yet it reverses course and follows Dom.

Dom ain’t running. He drives toward the sub, ramping over ice and thudding the sub’s bulkhead. The missile explodes the sub. Why didn’t Cipher dive the boat when she realized what he was doing? She did realize it.

The fireball enshrouds Dom’s car. Dom bails out of the car for a second time in this movie, this time while the car is airborne. Sorry for the double italics in this section, but the Fast movies engender outlandish description of outlandish acts. Dom braces the expanding fireball. His family surrounds him and absorbs the worst of the fire.

Jokes (2/4)

Tyrese Gibson as Roman fulfills the comic relief. Fate was the first time I thought he was actually funny.

Roman’s mad about being outside the top 10 on Interpol’s Most Wanted list. That’s funny. Later, he tells Ramsey that they would make a sexy pair. Ramsey responds by asking if he or Tej know her last name. That was damn funny. Finally, Roman invents a new word. Concerned about the sub beneath them in Russia, he fears the “nuclearism” happening nearby.

The Fight That Almost Was and Then Wasn’t.

Hobbs and Deckard can’t stand the sights of each other, and they try to out shit-talk the other. Hobbs claims he will beat Deckard’s ass like a Cherokee drum.

Setting (2/4)

Havana, New York City, and Vladovin, Russia. Two gorgeous, happening cities at the moment and one frozen wasteland that doesn’t exist.

The United States government recently lifted some travel restrictions to Cuba. The Fate of the Furious became one of the first big budget movies to film in Havana. Director F. Gary Gray fills the screen with overheads of the Cuban capital, the better to make certain we are there.

Cipher’s plane features heavily in the film’s final act. Do you like sliding gun racks and glass prisons on you jumbo jets? Has Cipher got the plane for you!

Commentary (1/2)

Cipher’s attack on the Russian Minister of Defense in New York displays the primary fear of self-drive cars: what if someone hacks them? Through 2017, most hacking endangered your well being, but a hack into your car, while you’re driving it, that endangers your life.

The river and rain of cars in Manhattan bequeaths lessons: never drive in Manhattan; don’t take a job for which you must carry a nuclear football; and never, ever try to blackmail Dominic Toretto.

Also, don’t buy self-drive cars.

Offensiveness (-2/-2)

Fate has a woman problem. A common trope in movies, especially movies featuring male characters, demands a woman to suffer, often die, so the man can experience character development.

Elena, a Brazilian cop Dom hooked up with after the series’s fifth installment, mothered Dom’s child. She wanted to wait until after Dom’s and Letty’s honeymoon to tell him about it (Letty was thought dead, which complicates a relationship).

Cipher murders Elena to make Dom suffer. So the filmmakers would have us believe. I believe they wanted Dom to “go rogue,” and he would only do that if he had a kid, and they didn’t want Letty to have a kid yet. The mother had to be Elena, but Dom and Elena is not the love story viewers want, so she bit the bullet. Shame. Minus one point for that.

Minus another point for Jordana Brewster. Mia, Brian O’Connor’s love, lives out her days with Brian somewhere glamorous and raising their child. You might recall the news about Paul Walker‘s death before Furious 7. Universal retired Brian’s character instead of killing him off.

That makes sense, but Jordana Brewster is not dead! Dom’s crew entertains and dismisses recruiting her to drive for them in Fate, meaning that Brewster likely will never feature in the series again, not because she can’t or won’t play the part of Mia, but because the actor playing her husband died. That’s beat up.

Others

  • Letty and Dom breathe the air in Russia after resolving the conflict. Their cold breath is obviously fake.

Summary (30/68): 44%

Only six movies have earned $1 billion outside the United States. Though it earned not even two-thirds the domestic take of Furious 7The Fate of the Furious is one of those billion earners. Fast cars, muscled dudes, booty-licious babes, and extensive, insane fight scenes seamlessly translate into most languages.