The Fate of the Furious, clocking in at two-and-a-quarter hours, is an ambitious action movie that is at least forty-five minutes longer than it should be. The action scenes — the true stars of the movie — will no doubt excite die-hard Fast and Furious fans looking for car chases, muscle cars and chiselled men.
The movie opens with Dom (Vin Diesel) and Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) celebrating their honeymoon in Cuba. While there, Dom has an obligatory road race along the city’s streets with a local hustler. Complete with over-the-top car speeds, dangerous car stunts and fires, it’s the least busy action segment in the entire movie. Coincidently, it’s also the movie’s only comprehensible and watchable action segment.
After Dom wins and he and Letty have their obligatory sex in their hotel room (where Letty, in a blatant case of foreshadowing, asks Dom if he wants kids, even if the kid isn’t hers), Dom is confronted by the mysterious and technologically suave Cipher (Charlize Theron), who blackmails Dom with a reason initially unseen by the audience. Meanwhile, Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson), who’s clearly as much a family man as his equally muscled teammate Dom, is approached by government agent Mr. Nobody (Kurt Russell) to assemble a team to obtain some kind of nuclear football coveted by Cipher.
During the recovery, Dom crashes into Hobbs’ car, takes the football, and gives it to Cipher. The team, which also includes Letty, Roman (Tyrese Gibson), Tej (Ludacris) and computer whiz Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel), is shocked at Dom’s betrayal. The team, along with Deckard (Jason Statham), helps Mr. Nobody prevent Cipher from arming herself with nuclear weapons. But along the way, they’re confronted by Dom, who proves himself an admirable enemy.
And that’s the movie’s plot. It’s not deep; in fact, if anything, the film should be complimented for having a straightforward and simple plot that doesn’t take itself too seriously. The filmmakers and actors know that people are watching The Fate of the Furious for the cars and action sequences, and most of the actors are having fun, in particular Gibson, Ludacris, Statham and Russell (who clearly recognizes that he is now too old to be Snake Plissken).
Since this is an action movie, it’s too bad that the action scenes are so fast and poorly edited that it’s at times hard to follow what’s happening. One segment, during which Hobbs and the team are chasing Dom through the streets of New York, Cipher, from her plane, hacks into parked cars’ computers and controls them remotely, turning them into road blocks and falling bombs from multi-storey parking garages. The scene, despite it’s exciting premise, is an overstretched and unfocused segment. The action is so fast and the editing so poor that it can be a challenge to figure out exactly what is happening. And there are so many action scenes! It’s great that action fans are getting their money’s worth, but is it really necessary to have so much action that it bloats the movie’s running time to almost two-and-a-half hours? At a certain point, you’re wishing the movie will just end. (Although the last action scene, set on the frozen Siberian seas, is somewhat of a pleasurable climax.)
But as an afterthought, it’s a shame that the movie (and perhaps the movie series in general) relies on so much grand idealization of maleness and femaleness. The Fate of the Furious‘s two male leads, Diesel and Johnson, are so overrun with steroid-induced muscles that they look like balloons (Diesel in particular looks like he’s going to pop). And women’s bodies are, sadly, demoted to the male gaze, as in the opening Cuban sequence when the camera zooms in to women’s bums, or in the Siberian scene, when everybody but Letty is dressed in winter jackets, presumably to show Rodriguez’s ample chest in the tank top she’s wearing. The Fate of the Furious is a fantasy, yes, but do the movie’s and franchise’s fans really need such antics to indulge in their fantasy? Judging by the success of the series, it would seem so.