“Fate of the Furious” stutters past the finish line

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The latest in the “Fast and Furious” franchise, “Fate of the Furious” delivers on the series’ signature action and outrageous scenarios but lacks the heart of previous films.

The film follows the “Fast family” (Dwayne Johnson, Michelle Rodriguez, Ludacris, Tyrese Gibson) as they must work to stop the mysterious hacker Cipher (Charlize Theron) and a now rogue Dom (Vin Diesel).

This image released by Universal Pictures shows Charlize Theron, left, and Vin Diesel in “The Fate of the Furious.” (Universal Pictures via AP)

“Fate” works best when it’s serving as a bookend to the story of the previous four movies. The film does a great job of forming connections to these previous events and plotlines while also answering questions that have been left open since the franchise rebooted in 2009. Unfortunately, the newer material brought into the franchise doesn’t blend with the old. There’s also a lack of emotion due to the absence of Paul Walker, which makes the film’s over-reliance on Dom’s story more apparent and awkward. This means that while the film is the same stylistically, the drive behind the characters and their decisions is incoherent.

The subpar plot is emphasized by the lackluster performances by most of the film’s cast. The “family” phones it in for the most part with performances ranging from ok to poor, making it seem like the actors have stopped caring about the franchise they’re in. Diesel himself ends up being the weakest link of the cast, coming across as robotic for most of the film.

This image released by Universal Pictures shows, Chris “Ludacris” Bridges, seated left, and Nathalie Emmanuel, seated right, and Tyrese Gibson, standing from left, Scott Eastwood, Dwayne Johnson and Michelle Rodriguez in “The Fate of the Furious.” (Matt Kennedy/Universal Pictures via AP)

Thankfully, the newer additions to the cast keep “Fate” from being a complete burnout. Johnson puts forth the most effort, fully embracing the cheesiness of his role to great success. This is enhanced by his interactions with Jason Statham, whose charm and snark works well with the tone of the franchise and compliments Johnson perfectly. Rounding out the newcomers is Theron, who puts forth an over-the-top and generally sleazy performance as the film’s villain.

Despite their performances, the film still feels empty due to a lack of character development. Diesel’s turn against those he loves, despite having a logical reason, defies the values of the series and his character’s development thus far. This turns into a bigger issue when the film leans heavily on his arc to force emotion from the audience. The same goes for the crew, whose decisions seem random and often times unwarranted when compared to the development they have seen over the franchise.

The film’s other strength lies in its visuals. The constantly changing locations keeps the shots vibrant and fun to look at. Some well-planned and executed action scenes also help make the film more interesting. There are, however, too many uses of slow-mo and some poorly done CGI that sticks out compared to the rest of the film’s more natural look.

This image released by Universal Pictures shows Dwayne Johnson in “The Fate of the Furious.” (Universal Pictures via AP)

Overall, “Fate of the Furious” is a popcorn flick by all definitions. Fans of the series will enjoy the action and throwbacks, though some may be a bit put off by the noticeable lack of heart. Meanwhile, those not already invested in the series won’t find much to convince them to the join the roller coaster ride of the “Fast and Furious” franchise.

Verdict:

Despite its fun over-the-top action, odd character choices and lack of emotion cause “Fate of the Furious” to lose a little momentum.

6/10