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BRAIN-DEAD LAUGHS: ‘The Fate of the Furious’ asks audiences to suspend disbelief indefinitely

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It’s weird to think a 16-year-old “Point Break” clone about illegal street racing has become one of the highest grossing franchises in the history of cinema. The first four “Fast and Furious” films were fairly standard action flicks, set in the world of fast cars and underground criminal cartels. Right around the fifth film, “Fast Five,” the series made a hard turn (snicker) and began a creative transformation that has turned into a multi-billion dollar cultural staple. It’s rare to see a franchise find new, creatively fertile territory to plow five movies into a series. Yet, here we are—staring down the tail pipe of an eighth film.

ONE SAVING GRACE:. The eighth ‘Fast and Furious’ flick has some funny moments with Jason Statham and Dwayne Johnson. Photo credit: Universal Pictures

ONE SAVING GRACE: The eighth ‘Fast and Furious’ flick has some funny moments with Jason Statham and Dwayne Johnson. Photo credit: Universal Pictures

I’m not sure what genius figured out the recipe for success was combining international espionage and street racing, but that person deserves some kind of award. Is there an honor bestowed upon someone who takes two popular things and mashes them together into its own fairly interesting concoction? The International Reese’s Prize for delicious amalgamations, maybe?

This go ‘round our “Fast and Furious” family are dealing with a rogue Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel), who has joined with a cyber-hacker terror group led by the insanely hot Cipher (Charlize Theron). Now, the remaining members of his team have to try and take down their former boss, in order to save the world.

No, that’s not hyperbole.

The fate of the world rests in the hands of a half-dozen poorly developed characters who are insanely good at driving. Can anyone believe it? The fate of civilization left in the hands of completely unqualified people prone to fits of impulsive anger? What a complete work of fiction!

“The Fast and the Furious” films are the most insane cartoons being produced by a big studio today. Each one is a deep dive into the most primitive and nonsensical parts of our brain. Watching them is like experiencing the sunken place from “Get Out.” Folks just kind of lie back, helplessly, into their seats as their senses are assaulted by some of the most thinly plotted and written gobbily-gook they’ve ever experienced. That’s not to say there isn’t any entertainment value, mind you. But it’s the cinematic equivalent of those week-old Peeps still hanging around from Easter: You’ll enjoy shoving them in your face, but eventually you’ll feel regret and shame.  Something I find entertaining here is the quality of actors lining up to appear in the franchise. Oscar winners like Charlize Theron and Helen Mirren do little to sell the credibility of this physics-free world. Instead, they are salient reminders a mouthful of week-old Peeps doesn’t go well with a glass of fine wine.

Yes, I am unapologetically brutal to this film series because it really might be the dumbest franchise that continues to churn out successful sequels. It’s like “Police Academy” of the 21st century. No matter how entertaining the movie is, it’s ultimately an empty experience.

I didn’t dislike the eighth installment of the infinite ignition that is “Fast and Furious.” It’s adopted the Marvel movie model where reality and the stakes are abandoned in favor of crafting insane action scenes that feature likable characters. I mention A-list talent, but it’s the B-listers who make this movie entertaining. Watching Jason Statham join in for the scenery-chewing is loads of fun. He and Dwayne Johnson steal the show every time they share a scene.

My range of feelings is strictly limited to “comical laughter” and “incredulous laughter.” I’m either chuckling at the amusing action movie-style coming from actors who understand they’re making a cartoon, or enjoying the insanity of watching something that not only defies logic but punches it in the face in an act of defiance, while shouting, “Shut your face, logic!” For example, fighting a nuclear submarine with hot rods or having Charlize Theron or Ludacris be two of the world’s foremost computer hackers.

Embracing lunacy has helped “The Fast and the Furious” franchise maintain a level of watchability. However, I’m remiss to assign any level of quality. This is two hours of brain-dead entertainment that manages a few good laughs.

DETAILS:
The Fate of the Furious

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Rated PG-13
Directed by F. Gary Gray
Starring Vin Diesel, Jason Statham, Dwayne Johnson, Michelle Rodriguez

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