The Fate of the Furious (2017)

Released: April 14, 2017. Directed by: F. Gary Gray. Starring: Vin Diesel, Dwayne Johnson, Charlize Theron. Runtime: 2h 16 min.

After being a series primarily about street racing, The Fast and the Furious franchise is now a different beast entirely – featuring heist films, revenge stories and everything in between.

The franchise keeps things fresh as they display huge action set pieces that defy logic and gravity – but they’re high-octane fun because they’re so ridiculous and it embraces the insanity.

When a mysterious woman seduces Dom into the world of terrorism and a betrayal of those closest to him, the crew face trials that will test them as never before.

The Fate of the Furious, though it pleases, is the weakest film since the franchise shifted direction after the fourth outing. Old characters are brought back that never felt super important, but others like Mia (Jordana Brewster) are left out. She’s off-the-grid with Bryan O’Conner (the late Paul Walker) raising their baby, as Bryan’s alive in the movie universe. They’re in retirement now after the beautiful tribute to Walker at the end of Furious 7. It’s just strange not to have Mia there since she’s actual family of Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel), who’s always saying he doesn’t have friends – he has family.

A new female’s introduced in the form of Charlize Theron’s Cipher, the franchise’s first female villain. She’s a malicious hacker and mastermind who gives hacker Ramsay (Nathalie Emmanuel) a run for her money.

She’s generic in motivation in generally wanting to see the world burn. Everything she says is also a bit of a cliché. It’s totally fine because Theron gives the character such a presence, which makes her a good villain. She’s one of those enemies who does things from the comfort of her high-tech plane and has minions do her bidding, and gets peeved when she needs to leave the office. It doesn’t give her a lot to do, though.

The Fate of the Furious - Charlize, Vin

Charlize Theron and Vin Diesel in The Fate of the Furious. (Source)

She’s able to lure Dom to the dark side, make him betray his family and do her bidding. The story packs surprises in characterization, especially since it’s surprising he’d betray the people he loves. I won’t go further into that, because, spoilers.

Films in the franchise between Fast Five and Furious 7 have good stories, but the eighth offering is the most generic plot in recent years, as the villain endgame is so familiar. The story just feels slapped together to work as a frame for the amazing stunts and nutty action.

The story dissatisfies but it’s not the most important part. The big, glamorous action makes this worthwhile and it’s still a lot of fun. From a street race in Cuba that offers a short trip to the series’ roots, a getaway in Berlin, to a fists-flying prison break, the action is great. Hacking plays a cool role in a big action scene in New York City, the film’s main setting.

After things calm down after the New York action, the finale is where things get most exciting and the crew learn that in Soviet Russia, submarine chases you! The franchise also keeps things interesting with diverse settings, as the globe-trotting team spans three continents this go around.

The Fate of the Furious makes Dom feel fresh by giving a new look at the character, but other characters are becoming stale after eight outings – namely Letty. It makes me wonder if they’ll have enough gas left in the tank for two more films.

Mr. Nobody (Kurt Russell) returns and is good again, and a new character includes Little Nobody (Scott Eastwood). Comic relief Roman (Tyrese Gibson) and Tej (Ludacris) rip on him a lot and they’re generally funny, per usual. Jason Statham as Deckard Shaw is really awesome and even outshines Johnson’s Hobbs, who’s trying to fill the leader role of the good guy team.

Hobbs has memorable lines as talks in puns and silly dialogue. He sees something particularly gruesome at one point and his response is simply “Hmm, nasty.” When he often has such vivid threats and comments, you can’t help but feel disappointed because it’s such a perfect opportunity for a laugh or a pun. It’s almost like the writers stop trying.

Score: 65/100

 

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Brick Mansions (2014)

Brick MansionsReleased: April 25, 2014. Directed by: Camille Delamarre. Starring: Paul Walker, David Belle, RZA. Runtime: 90 min.

If you see Brick Mansions, remove logic from your list of expectations. You might be giving this film a chance for its action. Hopefully the poster doesn’t convince you to see this, because it’s kind-of awful. Instead of putting the poster on a side of a building, the poster is literally a picture of the three actors on a side of a f!#king building! That’s insanity!

You might also be giving this a chance to watch Paul Walker in his final, fully completed film. He’s adequate in his role – silly at times, particularly when he’s warring with co-star David Belle over who gets to take a stolen van; or when he’s unconvincingly saying “Back off. Back off.” The writing is partly to blame, too. He’s getting stronger as an actor, being tolerable and convincing as his character – and only poor once or twice in a film. It’s a shame that we won’t ever be able to see him be truly and consistently great. He does take to the stunt-work of parkour like a champ and his training shines through, in what is easily his most physically demanding role to date. This film surely does not do for parkour what The Raid: Redemption did for the Indonesian martial arts style of pencak silat. That’s a blurb that would probably suit the original District B13, upon which this, an American remake, is based. Now that the Raid is being mentioned, this is sort-of like a dumb version of it, just with a lot less blood because its PG-13 rating holds it back.

Anyway, David Belle’s involvement helps the action film, because he’s considered the founding father of parkour, an instinctive acrobatic style where you can jump off of any surface or object. It’s also really helpful for being untouchable and kicking someone’s ass in a fight. It’s awesome to watch these guys jump around like grasshoppers over people, from building to building and wall to wall. The action is just great, if repetitive – but this is where this film succeeds the most. The first scene where David Belle is prominently featured is a phenomenal action sequence. First-time director Camille Delamarre directs the action well, but he uses slow motion to a fault. The over-utilization of it somehow gives the film a sort-of visual flair in the likes of Gareth Evans’ style, director of The Raid and The Raid 2. Delamarre isn’t nearly as successful directing the dialogue exchanges, because it’s all a bit silly – but that is screenwriter Luc Besson’s fault.

The silliness is found in lack of logic and in the dialogue of the villainous Tremaine (RZA). He says things like “Tremaine ain’t anxious, he causes anxious,” and “C’est la vie!” which shows us that this connoisseur knows French. (It means “That’s life” in French, by the way.) His motivations don’t seem clear, and he’s generic – but he explains at one point that he’s a “politician,” but it must be assumed that he’s speaking of being a politics of all things drugs. He takes a nuclear bomb that can blow up a whole town, if it’s 5 miles in diameter. RZA seems to be a good artist and great composer (most notably for Kill Bill Volume 1), but based on his work in this film, his acting ability is lacking; but he can’t be the greatest actor in a role like this.

He’s usally silly, never intimidating and over-the-top with his violence; like shooting someone because they don’t have any good ideas, or shooting a television when his henchmen are playing a video game, because why the hell not, right? It seems to me that the writers try to write him mildly intelligent dialogue, but it’s so damn stupid. The attempt to make him seem like a smart, complex mastermind fails miserably. They make the guy all fancy; he’s always cooking, and the set design for his office gives him a nice red table and expensive chairs under a red light. He looks like criminal royalty. It’s a character who wouldn’t work for anyone, let alone RZA, who’s never quite believable. Remember him trying to convincingly portray a blind kung fu master in G.I. Joe: Retaliation? Oh dear, I won’t even go started on that. 

Paul Walker’s character of Damien, an undercover cop, has a bone to pick with him because his father was killed in a drug raid. That’s his motivation to take the baddie down when the Mayor asks him to go in to the rundown Brick Mansions to disarm the nuclear weapon. Brick Mansions is a walled-off section of 2018 Detroit (a fictional present day Detroit would work to the same effect because four years is not a jarring difference in time) that was designed to keep the rampant crime of Detroit in one small area. Hospitals, police stations and schools are shut down in this sector of Detroit. Damien teams up with Lino, the same character (named Leito) David Belle portrayed in the original French film called District B13 upon which this is based. He’s okay, and it’s a fine role for him to be introduced to the North American public. He does give off an impression that he’s trying hard to hide his accent – which is distracting. He does a better American accent than Gerard Butler, but I’m curious as to why everyone knows the character is French. He sounds pretty American to me. It’s just a little funny.

Lino and Damien are the only characters you’ll care about because they have clear motivations that, while generic, are mildly well-written. One character you won’t care about is one called Rayzah (awful f@!king name) who is largely the sex appeal of the film. Her distinct, over-the-top attraction to Lino’s ex-girlfriend Lola (Catalina Denis) makes the film have an out-of-place perversion about it. The poor writing of the film is its biggest flaw; it’s usually unintentionally hilarious. At least, most of it until a very bothersome finale. 

The logic is just not sound, maybe because of seriously stupid henchmen. Even though one henchman says that Damien and Lino’s life is worth more than any of theirs, all of the henchmen do not shy away from aiming to kill them anyway! How does that make sense? There’s another occasion which I won’t spoil, but this scene, like the other mentioned one, all happens for the sake of guns being shot. 

It might sound like I’m giving this film a hard time. This is not something I hate, because it’s not well-written by Luc Besson; but damn, it’s entertaining. Even when the action isn’t happening, you might be laughing your ass off because the dialogue is so dang silly. If you can get past the silliness of it all, this is a fun time at the movies – and it’ll make a great rental for a dumb movie that you just want to pop in the Blu-Ray player and sit back and have a drink and a lot of laughs with your buddies. (If you can’t get past silliness in a film, just avoid this like the plague.) This is hilarious in the most unintentional ways, and will make a great dumb-movie double feature with 3 Days to Kill. I’m not sure if Dumb Easy Watching was Luc Besson’s intention but eh, “C’est la vie!” 

Score58/100

Fast & Furious 6 (2013)

Fast & Furious 6Release Date: May 24, 2013. Director: Justin Lin. Stars: Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. Runtime: 130 min.

Dom (Vin Diesel), Brian (Paul Walker) and co. are set for life with the $100 million they took from the last movie. However, they are still wanted criminals, so their family is not intact. Meanwhile, Hobbs (The Rock) has been tracking an organization of lethally skilled mercenary drivers across twelve countries, whose mastermind, Shaw (Luke Evans), is aided by second-in-command Letty (Michelle Rodriguez), the love Dom thought to be dead. Hobbs enlists the help of Dom and his legendary crew to match wits against the mastermind. The payment is pardons for all crew members, an offer no one can refuse.

The earlier additions to the Fast and Furious franchise are mostly just fun movies about criminals who steal merchandise, and enjoy a lifestyle of family, fine hunnies and, of course, fast cars. I think it started to lose steam at the second. Slowly, but surely, each movie improved in terms of quality. It was a change in pace for Fast Five, because it ended up being a great action movie. Since Fast Five is such a good movie, many believed it would be a hard movie to top, as the franchise did set the bar fairly high. That is precisely the one hundred million dollar question… Is this better than the fifth?

You bet your bottom dollar, it is. In fact, buckle up for the best of the franchise. If you weren’t a fan before, you certainly will be now. If Fast Five didn’t make you a salivating fan of this franchise, though, you’re probably just an action movie Scrooge. This has the necessary components that made the fifth such a good movie; and it’s all enhanced. Hobbs is back, and the action is somehow amped up. The fight choreography is more impressive. The film-makers surprisingly make a few scenes that are almost as awesome as the fantastic scene with the vault running through the streets of Rio de Janeiro. How exactly? Well, I mean, there are TWO scenes that feel like finale extravaganza’s!

Luke Evans as Shaw is the best villain of the franchise so far. He is a worthy, ruthless adversary for Dom and his crew. It’s his value of precision against Dom’s value of family. Frankly, no matter how awesome the antagonist is, it’s not such an impressive feat in this franchise. For me, none of the antagonists have really been so worthwhile or memorable. The cast is on-key. Paul Walker is improving. It’s nice to see Vin Diesel trying his hardest to remind an amnesia-stricken Letty of her past life. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson has a blast with Dom’s crew, as well. He’s still the badass he’s always been, and everyone’s probably forgotten about Snitch, where it just felt like normal ole Dwayne Johnson. Han (Sung Kang) is still one of the best characters, because he’s so cool. The chemistry is becoming even better. Justin Lin brings equally good direction to this. I admire how this has equal amounts of fun, action, and its fair share of sheer intensity.

Previously in the series, the dialogue has been pretty silly, but funny. This time around, a lot of it is almost smart – and it has some downright hilarious lines and sequences (mostly with Ludacris and Tyrese Gibson). This is not only the best in the franchise, but it’s also the funniest. The plot is actually intelligent, as well, and not just a bunch of racing scenes strung together. It’s always intense, in a few scenes where you just think they’re certain to run out of road. Some of these guys are great drivers, and equally agile in a fistfight. This is an awesome movie, even it’s often entirely unrealistic. People go places without their cellular phones, and much like that, you’ll have to go to the movie without your brain. You’ll enjoy it so much more. Because this is just pure fun!

A sequel that ends on a cliff-hanger, one that makes me gain respect for earlier installments in the franchise, and a sequel that makes me giddy with excitement for the next one is a truly great movie in my book. This is not only the best in the franchise; but also the best action movie and (arguably) the best movie of the year thus far. This runs on Nos the whole way through; the action scenes rarely stop, and when they do, it’s for a funny scene. If people want a breather from fun, intense, beautifully filmed action scenes, there’s probably a screening of The Great Gatsby over in Theater #2. We fans like our action fast, and, you guessed it, furious!

Score90/100

Fast Five (2011)

Fast FiveReleased: April 29, 2011Director: Justin LinStars: Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Dwayne JohnsonRuntime: 130 min.

Fast Five fills up its gas tank and brings it all to the table. It’s a great heist movie, a great action movie, and lots of fun. It features the finest finale and stunt-work of any movie in the franchise thus far. The cast is ideal and everyone has a great chemistry. Paul Walker is becoming better with experience. I love this crew, and I love the way this crew of criminals are so likeable and human. They hold family dear to their hearts, just like everyone should. The plot is good, and Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) is a great character, even if he often has silly dialogue. The fight between he and Diesel has excellent fight choreography. The runtime feels long, one of the plot holes isn’t patched up until the very end, and the dialogue is often silly, but also often funny. It’s still a fast-paced, energetic, compelling ride throughout, and since I haven’t seen the sixth just yet, this is the best in the franchise so far. It’s not only fun, but a good movie, as well.

Score82/100

Fast & Furious (2009)

Fast & FuriousFast & Furious

Release Date: April 3, 2009

Director: Justin Lin

Stars: Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Jordana Brewster

Runtime: 107 min

Brian O’Conner, now working for the FBI in LA, teams up with Dominic Toretto to bring down a heroin importer by infiltrating his operation.

This tries hard to be intelligent, and it works to a certain extent. This is better than the first two sequels. I certainly don’t groan at this as much as I do with 2 Fast 2 Furious. It really shows that bringing the main cast back together returns the franchise to a fine form. This time around, Paul Walker is tolerable. Justin Lin is a really good director for this type of movie. The racing scenes are fun, and it’s an adequate revenge story. The filmmakers try to hard to give us a great one here, and they don’t quite succeed with that, this isn’t a bad movie by any means. The title is really the only lazy thing about the movie. For an action movie with lots of racing, there’s a lack of non-stop kinetic energy. The ending really does set up something special for the next movie.

65/100

The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift (2006)

Tokyo DriftRelease Date: June 16, 2006

Director: Justin Lin

Stars: Lucas Black, Sung Kang, Bow Wow

Runtime: 104 min

Alabama teenager Sean Boswell becomes a major competitor in the world of drift racing after moving in with his father in Tokyo to avoid a jail sentence in America.

The plot isn’t very strong. It’s a new kid in town formula, with a lot of car racing and drifting. This makes me want to play a video game. The movie manages to feel fresh and somewhat intriguing, and that’s refreshing to see after a poor first sequel. Lucas Black is very bland in this. He has an equally bad chemistry with his love interest, Neela (Nathalie Keeley), the girlfriend of D.K. (Brian Tee), the Drift King. He is the main antagonist, and the son of a high figure within the Tokyo Mafia. Brian Tee isn’t such a good actor, he just goes around looking angry. Hopefully he will be good in this year’s The Wolverine. Sung Kang and Bow Wow are decent. Brian Goodman isn’t good as Sean’s father. Anyway, Black has a better chemistry with his car than he does with Keeley. By going after her, he’s really just asking for trouble.

Paul Walker’s slightly better than Black, and viewers will miss his presence. This is out of place in the Fast and Furious narrative. The only connecting factors are the name, the cars, Han, and a star cameo. The star cameo is one of the only things worthwhile about this bland endeavour. The drifting feels fresh and fun. The cinematography looks the most pristine out of the first three. The setting is great and the Asian pop soundtrack is pretty fun. This works as a below average new-kid-in-town action drama, and there are a lot of fun racing sequences. However, when having a Fast and Furious marathon, either skip this or watch it after Fast Five.

52/100

2 Fast 2 Furious (2003)

2 Fast 2 Furious

 

Former cop, Brian O’Conner is finally arrested after letting his leader escape the law. To avoid the consequences, he must now work with an old college friend and help the police arrest a local drug exporter.

Release Date: June 6, 2003

Director: John Singleton

Stars: Paul Walker, Tyrese Gibson, Eva Mendes

Runtime: 107 min

This is an incredibly inferior sequel. This almost has a brand new cast. Though, Paul Walker is still there. Getting rid of the good actors of the first, but keeping the bad one, truly feels like a squandered opportunity. Tyrese Gibson is often a good actor, but his character is very idiotic. If either he or Walker had any funny lines, they are very forgettable. Eva Mendes really can’t even save this. James Remar’s FBI Agent is truly irritating, but I guess that’s the point. Ludacris and the sexy Devon Aoki are good with what they’re given.

This movie’s predecessor has a good balance of racing, tons of fun and a good story; but this one doesn’t have an adequate story to tell. It has a gas tank for a brain, and it’s empty with new ideas. It’s a retread with a different cast, trying to repeat the spark the first had — but it hits its first charge of Nos early on in the movie, and it really begins to lose momentum as it skids along. (Okay, I’m done with the car metaphors.) The racing sequences are somewhat forgettable. Cole Hauser’s villain gets stupider and stupider as the movie progresses, but I guess an obvious antagonist is better than the first, where the antagonist is never so crystal clear.

One of the most memorable scenes is when a rat gnaws at a detective’s fat belly. The fact that a gritty scene like that is one of the most memorable scenes of a racing movie is inexcusable. The cinematography and production value are really rather trashy, so while it is made in 2003, it looks like a movie made in 2000. There are sexy girls here, and fast cars. And really fast cars. The story’s weak and the dialogue is even weaker. In one scene, Brian hears distant police sirens, and he simply says: “Cops.” Thanks, dumbass, I didn’t realize those are police car sirens. I thought it was a brigade of ice cream trucks! In another scene, one of the villain’s righthand men says to Brian, “You’re a good driver, man.” To which Brian replies, “Thanks, bro.” That’s some redundant dialogue right there. We wouldn’t be watching this movie if he wasn’t good at driving. Anyway, there is still some fun to be had with this. Even if it is hidden way, way under its idiotic surface. It’s silly and it doesn’t usually take itself too seriously. The point of the movie is to get the adrenaline pumping, and I guess the racing scenes are fun at the time.

To thoroughly enjoy this, you will have to turn the logical part of your brain right off. To a point where it might actually cause brain damage; and frankly, this movie just isn’t worth that. I remember this being much better; so suffice to say, this is 2 big of a disappointment.

40/100