Tuesday, April 25, 2017

The Fate of the Furious (2017)

You know, it seems as if life is formulated to plague and beleaguer us with regrets. One of mine is that I never got around to reviewing Fast & Furious 6 after I saw it in theaters in Philadelphia. In fact, I never tackled any of the Fast & Furious films. Given how this brand of "dick flick" are heralded as very polarizing and ripe with various perspectives, I'd rather not obfuscate or conceal mine. In summation, I admire them all for what they are and even for what they are not. But back to the sixth installment, I will share that the viewing experience was one of the most enthralling in my life. The whole audience was transfixed and invigorated on a level unseen by me at the time, hooting and cheering the entire duration of the film.

The salient reason I regret not reviewing Fast & Furious 6 is that I can't provide enough substantial context to justify and elucidate my following statement: Goddamn it! Goddamn you, Fast & Furious movies. Goddamn your tricky method of eradicating solid conclusions. Goddamn your brilliantly hypnotic promotion that never ceases to make me instantaneously surrender all currency I possess. And especially, goddamn your penchant for remaining a propulsive, addictive, entertaining franchise. I shall doubt thee nevermore.

The story, as if it matters, begins with Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) enjoying his honeymoon with his wife Letty (Michelle Rodriguez). However, his world is turned upside down when a secretive, ambiguous woman named Cipher (Charlize Theron, rocking a very dubious, bewildering, and sort of uncomfortable hairstyle) convinces Dom to assist her in her objective to steal both an EMF and nuclear football, all the while going against him team. When he accepts, it soon becomes Dom vs. the Furious. Or is it?

I know it's early on, but allow me to revise a prior statement, which was "the story, as if it matters..." It actually matters ever so slightly. Don't get me wrong. The film is laced with its trademark implausibilities, plot contrivances, and especially its strained, baffling lectures on morality and family. However, in the prior installments, the story was on a very rudimentary, innocuous, 13-year-old-compiling level, laying out a very lucid, step-by-step, map for the plot. Here, there's a little bit more going on. 

It actually presents their most multifaceted, intriguing storyline in the franchise. The basic set-up of betrayal and enigma heightens the stakes and the solemnity. When Dom is ensconced in Cipher, Deckerd Shaw (Jason Statham, the most recent villian in the series) is brought in to assist them. While it's not particularly innovative, the route it goes is stocked with more narrative flesh and complexities than expected. Hell, the mere fact that Letty has to deal with her husband going down a villainous trajectory is itself a wistful quandary, delivered gravely and maturely. The story fully culminates, however, with a twist revealed before the second act that is so elemental to the story that it is my obligation to not reveal it, but believe me when I say that it is the most stunning. jaw-dropping moment in the story.

When a story's conflict is fortified and elevated, it creates fodder for greater character development, which begets stronger performances from the cast. The entire cast marry their characters with the ample dosage of doughty heroism, assured guile, stalwart gravity, and audacious humor. Honestly, the majority of the cast play their pre-established roles, but to the nth degree, i.e. Tyrese's energetic comic relief, The Rock's unwavering machismo, Jason Statham's measured minatory, etc. Charlize Theron crafts one of the juiciest, most delicious villains I've seen on film in quite a while, portraying Cipher with a straightforward, calculating authority and a wicked, ferocious gleam in her eye. However, it's Vin Diesel who has shown the starkest amelioration, exhibiting a passionate pain, muddled yet desperate acumen, and a thoughtful tenderness undiscovered through his entire career until this point.

But, fuck it. Let's talk about the good stuff. Ostensibly, these action sequences were crafted by a man with a perpetual snarl and a severe teeth clench, while jacked on cocaine because visually, this film is at the apex of the franchise. If others films can pointedly punctuate their climaxes, this whole film is a climax. Highlights include a chase in Berlin that concludes with a wrecking ball demolishing a bevy of police cars, a bustling, tumultuous fight in a maximum security prison, a moment where the Furious crew has to combat a tidal wave of cars in New York, many of which are in auto-drive, and a 20-minute set piece in Russia...on ice. Every action sequence delivers with such magniloquent awe and tantalizing gusto.

In an era of such ubiquitous technology and continuous Transformers sequels (yeah, I'll be sleeping in that day), this film shows that, yes, fast, snazzy cars, booming explosions, protracted fight scenes, and endless chases can still be surprising and resplendent. It's coincidental that F. Gary Gray directed this, because in 2015, he, similarly with this film, collaborated with Caucasian screenwriters for Straight Outta Compton. With this film, he integrates the grandeur, mettle, and bold, portentous dignity of action films stereotypically marketed to white audiences with the rambunctiousness, color, and inextinguishable energy of films stereotypically marketed to black audiences. 

With this pairing, he helps further the franchise's streak of being racially unified and universal. Given how Gray's cinematic spectrum ranges from Friday and Set It Off to The Italian Job, his touch of this franchise has proven to be the most fitting. This film is a consummate popcorn flick; the most pornographic, non-pornographic film of 2017, and a film that I can proudly ennoble with the honor of being the first Fast & Furious film I've seen that ranks above three stars. Ironic, seeing how it's the first one without the presence of Paul Walker.

*nervous chuckle* R.I.P. bruh.

RATING: Three-and-a-half stars out of four

No comments:

Post a Comment