Movie Review: “Fate of the Furious”? To be in a film series that never improves and never ends

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Eight films into the “Fast and Furious” franchise, this much is clear. These movies, especially the latest, “The Fate of the Furious,” are not to every taste.

For all the action beats, the over-the-top digitally-augmented car chases, the trash-talk one-liners and the warm fuzzies over “You never turn your back on family,” they’re stupid. The new one? Colossally stupid.

But if you’re in the mood for a cartoon car thriller that defies the laws of logic, smart dialogue, honest plotting and physics, well friend, have we got the movie for you.

“Fate” adds Oscar winners to the cast, Havana and Siberia (OK, Iceland) to the locations and nothing at all to the formula of cars, capers, supervillains, one-liners and “hug it out” “family” conflict.

Still, give director F. Gary Gray credit. He edits Vin Diesel into a passable performance, knows how to film a fight and “fix” a car chase in a computer — or knows how to hire people who do — and tipped the makeup crew so that everybody, from Charlize Theron and Dwayne Johnson to Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese Gibson, Kurt Russell and a certain regal cameo has never looked prettier.

Dom Toretto (Diesel) is on his Havana honeymoon, racing for vintage Cuban pink slips when the cyber-crook known as Cipher (Theron) whispers menacing nothings in his ear. Next thing you know, he’s “gone rogue,” and his old team, led by Detective Hobbs (Johnson) and augmented by an ex-con they thought they’d put away (Jason Statham) are commissioned by Mr. Nobody (Russell) to bring him in.

A weapon’s been stolen which could lead to an “instant stone age,” in terms of digital civilization. The surveillance hack called “God’s Eye” tracks everyone and everything who might try to get that Electro-Magnetic Pulse generator back. And Dom is on the clock, stealing stuff that the whispering, leggy villainess Cipher needs to complete her dastardly plan.

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The plot takes us into prison, where Hobbs and the Brit brawler Deckard (Statham) swap tasty trash talk in adjacent glass-walled cells. Hobbs, in his prison-orange jumpsuit, doesn’t agree that this is “a good color on you.”

“It’ll look better with your BLOOD on it!”

Later, it’s “That tight t-shirt is cutting off blood to your brain.”

The script panders to the lead characters shamelessly, giving fans big Diesel and Rodriguez smiles, Tyrese Gibson and Ludacris barbed banter filled with disrespect and Johnson a hilarious bit where he’s taught his daughter’s soccer team a pre-game Maori war chant.

But most of the action is this or that character knuckling a gear-shifter and grimacing “I GOT this,” dialogue filled with “That’s not GOOD” and “Guys, we’ve got snow mobiles on our right!” The plot ranges from wildly implausible to simply not possible.

But there is one alarming sequence that gives a new twist to “product placement.” Self-driveable cars are hack/hijacked for a heist that you’d figure car companies would PAY to be left out of. Not Jeep, Fiat, VW, Toyota or Dodge, though.

There are disposable characters, and not just the villain’s minions. But one of the dumber elements of these movies is how so few of the actual leads, friend or foe, from previous pictures seem to stay dead. Only Paul Walker has truly exited the franchise. Maybe Djimon Hounsou doesn’t need the money to make a soap opera return.

That also happens in cartoons. In this Charger, Challenger, Bentley, Lamborghini, Corvette and Mercedes world, it’s not just the coyote who comes back to life after a beat down. The Road Runner gets its time in the body shop, too.

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MPAA Rating:PG-13 for prolonged sequences of violence and destruction, suggestive content, and language

Cast: Vin Diesel, Charlize Theron, Dwayne Johnson, Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese Gibson, Kurt Russell
Credits: Directed by F. Gary Gray, written by Ch.  A Universal release.
Running time: 2:12

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