Review – This F8 Is Gr8 (“Fate of the Furious”)

In all film franchises you have to add a typical movie trope to keep it fresh. Example: a secret twin brother (Despicable Me 3, Now You See Me 2), a villain becoming your ally  (X2: X-Men United, Terminator 2), and this movie’s trope, a trusted family member suddenly, unexpectedly, betrays the others. Gasp!!

IF you’re following along with the Furious storyline (and God knows why you are) the team of law-breaking do-gooders with high-powered cars just saved the world by retrieving the secret computer “God’s Eye” spy-chip. They are: leader Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel), he of the gravel-voice and bald head, his hot wife, Letty (Michelle Rodriquez), manic jokester mechanic Roman Pearce (Tyrese Gibson), and computer wizards Tej Parker & Ramsey (Chris Bridges & Nathalie Emmanuel). Paul Walker who played Brian O’Connor passed away in 2015 and is referred to here as “retired”

We begin in Cuba (yes, they actually filmed there) where Dom & Letty are honeymooning, engaging in a ridiculous fast ‘n’ furious car race, and enjoying life. But evil rears it’s ugly head with the appearance of cyber-terrorist Cipher (Charlize Theron, oozing with delicious venom) who coerces Dom into betraying his family (they say this nine times in the movie–I counted) because she’s got something on him, but more on that later. We shift to DSS agent Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) who calls up Dom and his team to “unofficially” steal an EM pulse device from Berlin, but that’s where Dom turns traitor and takes off with the device for Cipher.

Obviously stunned and confused, the team is arrested, but special agent Mr. Nobody (Kurt Russell) has a plan: spring them all, including the very dangerous Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham), who is the team’s mortal enemy, and get them all to play nice together to stop Cipher and Dom. Yeah, like THAT’S gonna happen! But after all of them suffer a nasty Cipher attack, they’re all on board, including their newest recruit, special agent Little Nobody (Scott Eastwood–son of Clint). Next stop? The Big Apple where Dom is told to retrieve a Russian diplomat’s nuclear launch codes. The car chase in downtown NYC is nothing less than jaw-dropping.

With Cipher ahead in the lead and the team struggling to make sense of it all, we learn why Dom is doing Cipher’s dirty work: she’s kidnapped a blast from his past and is holding them hostage on her flying super-plane. Armed with an EM pulse device and launch codes, Cipher plans to pop a nuclear cap somewhere in the world to prove “I’m the crocodile at the watering hole”. Yeah, she’s nuts. Brilliant, but nuts. Anyway, the team’s last chance to stop Cipher is to go to the Russian frozen wastelands and keep her from cyber car-jack… er, SUB-jacking a submarine. Yeah, it’s as dumb as it sounds.

There’s also a secondary rescue story that takes place on-board Cipher’s plane that’s as crazy as it is unexpected, with some characters showing up that brings in two more typical movie tropes, but is no less fun to watch. In fact, despite the astonishingly silly and hilariously stupid plot of this movie, it’s surprisingly entertaining, witty, and just a barrel of fun to watch.  

The script is by Chris Morgan, who wrote almost all of the other Furious movies, takes a step back and doesn’t try to be as serious this time. Yes, it’s written like a 14-year-old who’d been playing waaaay too many video games, but there are moments of real comedy: the Rock coaching a little girl soccer team by using a Hawaiian battle cry is a riot, Statham and his mum (Helen Mirren in a small cameo) is great, and Kurt Russell showing his young protégé the ropes is perfect.

Oh, and the action! Director F. Gary Gray, aside from his camera’s love affair for the beautiful female posterior and gorgeous automobiles, directs the hell out of this movie like a kid in a candy store. Move over Michael Bay, there’s a new kid in town! No visual angle is wasted as Gray exploits the camera like a Sam Raimi movie, giving us a full-view of the action, without all those idiotic smash-cuts and cut-aways. And the icing on the cake is the amazing stunt work; it’s like watching a live-action Warner-Brothers cartoon come to life. Naturally, in the Furious universe logic, gravity, and laws of physics don’t apply, so if someone drops a 300-lb metal door on you, you just shake it off. Ya gotta love that!

Braveheart (1995)

Say what you will about Mel Gibson and his looney antics, the man can direct a movie! And nothing says that more than this movie that garnered a staggering 10 Academy Awards nominations (and won five). A story about a family of rebel outcasts trying to keep their independence, of secret loves and terrible betrayals, and a bittersweet ending that tore at your heartstrings. You want epic? I got your epic right here!

It’s 1280 in Great Britain and evil King Edward Longshanks (Patrick McGoohan) has conquered Scotland, but the people there want their freedom, despite his troops present everywhere. What’s worse is the King’s doctrine of Prima Nocte, where any English nobleman can have sex with any newly married Scottish wife! Yikes! Young William Wallace grows up and sees his family slaughtered by the Kings men and has a hatred that runs deep. Growing up, William (Gibson) marries his childhood sweetheart, Murron MacClannough (Catherine McCormack), but he goes quite berserk when she gets murdered for failing to comply in Prima Nocte.

William and his Scottish friends wipe out an entire garrison of English soldiers in retaliation and that sets off a whirlwind of hurt towards any English soldiers as William gains not only notoriety, but a sizable gathering of followers who want to join him in killing as many English as possible. News of this uprising reaches Longshanks who orders his weak and narcissistic son, Prince Edward (Peter Hanly) to stop him. But William is unstoppable as he sacks York, killing Longshanks’ nephew and sending his severed head to the king. Nice touch!

To strengthen his growing ‘army’, William seeks the assistance of the powerful nobleman and contender for the Scottish crown, Robert the Bruce (Angus Macfadyen). Robert is hip to the idea and agrees to help William overthrow Longshanks. Meanwhile, Longshanks sends his son’s long-suffering wife, Isabella of France (Sophie Marceau) to negotiate with Wallace, but meeting him in person, Isabella actually becomes enamored of Wallace because of his honor. There are horrible battles and skirmishes where many die, Longshanks enlists the Irish to help him, but THEY join the Scottish instead and, during the fiercest of wars, Williams finds out that Robert the Bruce betrayed him by siding with Longshanks!

During what he things is a innocent parlay with Robert the Bruce, William is captured by the King’s soldiers and taken away to endure unspeakable torture in front of a cheering crowd. William, hanged, stretched, and finally drawn & quartered (Google it–it’s disgusting) yells out,”FREEDOM!!” as his last words, much to the ire of the dying Longshanks. In the finale Robert the Bruce, feeling the guilt of his betrayal, leads William’s men to fight the English, despite his title and the possible loss of his crown.

Stirring, funny, dramatic, grand-sweeping in scope, ghastly battle sequences, and filled with great dialogue, this movie has it all. Written by Randall Wallace (no relation), the saga of William Wallace isn’t historically accurate (since there aren’t very many records) but it doesn’t matter, the movie seriously rocks. The highest grossing film of 1995, it killed at the box office and was a critical delight, despite some naysayers about all the Scottish inaccuracies. Loaded with violence that Gibson loves to throw at the screen (see his Passion of the Christ and Hacksaw Ridge), he actually filmed his final disemboweling, but cut that scene later. Gee, thanks!!

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