With The Fate of the Furious, easily the most stupidly titled installment in the Furious franchise—yes, even more stupid than the name Tokyo Drift—you get to see the single most disgusting, stomach-churning, horrifying moment in cinema so far this year.
That would be when Charlize Theron plants a big, sloppy kiss on Vin Diesel, the image of which is some kind of “Woman from Monster Meets the Pillsbury Dough Boy On Steroids” nightmare. Some five years ago, I made up a list of five things I never wanted to see, and that came in at number three, right under “Donald Trump as President” and “Spiders in My Scrambled Eggs Being Served to Me By a Man with Weeping Hand Sores.”
Somewhere along the way, the Furious franchise went completely bonkers and became less about cars racing around and more about dudes who think hair on the top of their heads is total bullshit, and also think upper arms should be the size of a bull’s torso. It also went off on some sort of international spy team tangent, something that worked to a hilarious degree in Furious 7.
In The Fate of the Furious, the franchise trajectory becomes ridiculous without being much fun. It’s just dumb and plodding. The big thing here is that Dominic Toretto (Diesel) has gone rogue and turned on his family, which has something to do with a cyber villain named Cipher (Theron) and her crazy dreadlock extensions.
The film opens with Dominic and Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) having a good old time in Cuba, where we last saw them. Dominic gets into a car race that involves his vehicle catching fire and him speaking in a growling, marble-mouthed manner. Post-race, he’s approached by Cipher wearing a stunning dress-down outfit involving denim shorts. Dominic takes a look at something on her cell phone, mumbles and groans a bit, and the international intrigue begins.
Cipher is after nuclear launch codes and electromagnetic pulse contraptions, and Dominic becomes her pitbull. Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) and Deckard (Jason Statham) are eventually employed by Mr. Nobody (Kurt Russell) to go get with Dominic and see what’s going on in that big Barry Bonds-sized head of his.
Let it be noted that the portions of the film that involve Johnson and Statham are good, good enough to inspire thought of a spinoff film where their characters join up and solve crimes while fighting Batman, Sylvester Stallone, Godzilla, etc. A very real chance at something like that apparently may have been squashed because Diesel screamed, “Mine, mine, mine, all mine!” and put the kibosh on it.
The biggest problem here is that things are taken a little too seriously this time out, with heavy doses of drama being ladled into the mix. The movie even makes way for Diesel to have his Denzel-Washington-in-Glory-tear moment, that moment when a single solitary tear rolls down the cheek while the actor does his best to remain stone-faced.
The whole premise of Dominic going rogue has zero dramatic tension to it for reasons I won’t give away, but I’ll just put it out there that there’s little mystery behind his “traitorous” actions. Also, and this goes without saying, he mopes a lot, Diesel-style.
Theron is a great actress, but her supposed computer genius Cipher is a character who stands in a room barking out commands while everybody else does the legwork. Yes, there’s a scene or two where she types real fast on a keyboard, but the notion that she is a cyber terrorist goddess gets lost somewhere in those crazy dreadlocks.
The Furious franchise will go on, obviously. Hopefully, producer Diesel will remember what makes the whole thing occasionally fun and shift the emphasis from him squirting tears back to cars going “vroom, vroom!” and jumping between skyscrapers and over the Grand Canyon.