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“The Fate of the Furious”
It’s telling that Diesel and Dwayne Johnson virtually never appear onscreen together, because at no point does it feel like Gray’s sprawling cast of characters is all in the same film. Dom is in a Hitchcockian thriller, Johnson and Statham are in a balls-out buddy comedy, Theron is in the “Swordfish” sequel that no one wanted, and Tyrese Gibson and Chris Bridges are wisecracking about the whole thing in the distant background. Whereas the previous movies were galvanized by a very real sense of camaraderie, “The Fate of the Furious” is more disjointed than a ten-car pileup, and just about as much fun. This family has officially become dysfunctional.
And while the problems might originate with the human stuff, the fallout is most obvious during the lifeless action scenes. The film’s signature stunt finds the gang racing through the streets of Manhattan, chasing after a Russian diplomat because… don’t worry about it. But Cipher, safely tucked away in the military airplane where her character spends most of her time, hacks into every car in New York City, reprogramming them like the polygonal renderings that they are and flinging them across midtown in perfect formation (“It’s zombie time,” she says as she presses the magic button). They pour through the streets like a tidal wave, the obvious CG distracting from the fact that half of the sequence was clearly shot in Cleveland.
As much a mess of conflicting tones and styles as it is of locations, this setpiece — like the rest of Gray’s movie — feels like a heap of random parts that were thrown together in the hopes that fate might somehow weld them into a roadworthy vehicle. It’s exhausting.
“F8” may be a good 20 minutes shorter than either of the last two chapters, but the parade of dull action beats make the movie feel as long as the never-ending runway from “Fast and Furious 6.” Only the climax, split between Siberia and the stratosphere, displays the cartoonish ingenuity required to take advantage of the “anything goes” tone — it’s so dumb that it almost swings back around to being smart again. Almost. By the time we arrive at the film’s festive final moments, the underlying problem is painfully clear: It’s not just that this franchise has lost any sense of itself, it’s that “The Fate of the Furious” doesn’t find anything to replace it with.
“The Fate of the Furious” opens in theaters on Friday, April 14.
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