“The Fate of the Furious”


            It's the eighth installment, and the narrative was never really the point, anyway.  At first it was just about the fast cars and the beautiful young women, but over time Dom (Vin Diesel), though still in default mode as the stare-'em-down tough-guy, is not afraid to show us his gentler side, as well, particularly when it comes to his team of rough-and readies, which he calls his “family,” and especially Letty (Michelle Rodriguez), with whom he has developed a palpable affection.  But their lovemaking is awkwardly tender, and remarkably non-explicit.  For so much action-violence (bloodless bad guys falling everywhere) it's tame enough to still warrant the PG-13 rating, which keeps it on its adolescent, juvenile point of view: pretty girls are eye candy, being tough is important and muscular even better, but what really matters most is skillyfully driving an impressively fast car.  And if your favorite girl happens to be a great driver, also, well, that's pretty much puerile heaven.

            We've grown up just enough to know that not all beautiful girls have hearts of gold.  Enter the villainess, Cipher (Charlize Theron), never without her full makeup, hair styled, and wearing something provocative.  Her particular talent is cyber-hacking.  She's so good at it that not even the CIA can track her, and so they ask our intrepid team for help, because she's definitely a threat to international security. Insert Kurt Russel as the mysterious government agent who knows how to appeal to our garage gang's sense of bravura and patriotism.

            The wrinkle is that Cipher has something on our hero, Dom---enough to cause him to appear to work for her, and against his “family.”  They are distraught about that, obviously, but somehow the action steers just clear of putting Dom in direct conflict with his “homies”---at least until the tension is resolved.  Then it's Dom to the rescue once more, achieving impossible stunts with his vehicle and just managing to bail out right before the fiery crash, with nary a scratch on him.  And Superman has to wear blue leotards and red boots, whereas our pal Dom gets to parade around in torn muscle shirts to show off his biceps.

            But at least they have a sense of humor about it.  Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) gets kidded about his tank top being so tight to show off his muscles that it's cut off the circulation to his brain.  And they revel in the incongruous humor:  like an assassin carrying an infant seat in a gunfight, making sure to put earphones on the little guy so all the noise won't disturb him.  And who doesn't like the tribute to their fallen comrade at the end, and how many action movies end with the heroes all sitting around the table holding hands while they say grace before the meal?

            Well, if you enjoy spectacular action sequences, exotic locales, homespun repartee, and you don't mind a little mindless retro Cold War plot, you could do a lot worse than “The Fate of the Furious.”


Questions for Discussion:

1)                  Who's our country's greatest enemy?

2)                  What could make you turn against old friends?

3)                  Have you known a beautiful woman with a heart of stone?


Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, DFW Film Critics Association