Vin Diesel’s melodramatic line delivery is just one element of unintended humor in “The Fate of the Furious.” (Universal Pictures photo)

Movie review: ‘Fate of the Furious’ caught between action film and self-parody

  • Wed Apr 19th, 2017 10:00pm
  • Life

“Fate of the Furious” is the funniest comedy this year, but it’s probably not supposed to be.

It’s amazing there was still enough gas left in the “Fast and Furious” franchise for this eighth installment to be made. The stunts defy all laws of physics, and you can almost feel the actors trying not to laugh as they spout the corny dialogue.

As the movie begins, career car thief Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) is enjoying his umpteenth retirement following his most recent government-contracted stunt-driving mission in “Furious 7” along with his wife and carjacking partner in crime, Letty (Michelle Rodriguez).

Momentary bliss is interrupted when Dom is approached by the dreadlocked queen of cyber terrorists, Cypher (Charlize Theron), and extorted into turning against his team of trope-ridden side characters — including muscle man Luke Hobbs (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson).

The ensemble of Dom’s former crew and everyone else trying to take him down is rounded out by government agent Mr. Nobody (Kurt Russell), ex-assassin Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham), cringe-inducing fast talker Roman (Tyrese Gibson), and Ludacris — I mean, uh, Taj. There’s also the bland presence of Scott Eastwood and the pleasant addition of “Game of Thrones” veteran Nathalie Emmanuel.

The movie is so stupid in such a good way that you’ll be grinning or laughing the entire two hours. I laughed at the stunts, the jokes, Vin Diesel’s melodramatic line delivery and Dwayne Johnson becoming a walking tank. (Perhaps Marvel should have Mark Ruffalo morph into a green Dwayne Johnson rather than keep going the CGI route in the Avengers movies.)

This movie is funnier than most actual comedies, though it’s unclear whether most of that is intentional. “Fate” is somewhere between action film and a self-parody, making you wonder: Was that supposed to be funny?

The last four “Furious” movies have been like the Egg McMuffin of movies: They aren’t really fulfilling, but your senses like the overload so much you’ll come back for another one. Substance is completely sacrificed for the maximum amount of stimulation at such a perfect pace that it makes you realize where Michael Bay and the “Transformers” series went completely wrong.

Though you’ll laugh at and forget most of the bad dialogue, you will remember all of the stunts. The movie opens with Dom racing a junker car in reverse jacked up on NOS through the streets of Cuba to settle a bet with a local quasi-gangster.

Even better: Hobbs taking rubber bullets like they’re bouncy balls and bursting through any solid piece of scenery like he’s some kind of demigod.

Statham’s Deckard Shaw is also a hoot, chewing up the screen in every scene, especially the ones where he gets to throw trash talk back and forth with Hobbs — and an entire sequence where he saves a baby while engaging in a shootout on a plane.

At one point, when Theron’s Cypher is at full throttle, she digitally hijacks an army of cars in the middle of New York and makes it rain cars from parking structures on a no-name foreign ambassador target. Yes, you read that right.

Theron, bless her heart, is just awesome in everything she does. When she’s in a good movie like “Monster” or “Mad Max: Fury Road,” she cranks her acting up to 11 — she is devoted, and it’s clear. When she’s in a lesser movie like “Hunstman: Winter’s War” or this one, she lets her B-movie freak flag fly. In that vein, Cypher is stuck in “soulless stare” mode with a viciousness and air of supremacy that would have made her a great pre-Daniel Craig-era Bond villain.

Not much else can be said to endorse this film. If you’re planning on seeing “Fate,” you’ve probably seen at least one of the previous movies and liked it. You’ll know what you’re in for, and this installment of the series ups the fun even more, proving it isn’t burned out yet.

For those who haven’t seen any of the others but are curious to check out the franchise, I have a word of advice: Start with “Fast Five,” where the series changes direction and goes into its current “soap opera with stunts” mode. (The first film is just a melodramatic and ultra-lame rendition of the much better “Point Break,” and the sequels leading up to “Fast Five” aren’t any better.)

There’s no need to race to the theater to see “Fate of the Furious,” either. It’s raking in the bucks, so it will be around for a while. But it is totally worth seeing on the big screen, as the fun is in fifth gear the whole time.