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'The Fate of the Furious' isn't as nuts as the last one (but it's still nuts)

Vin Diesel's Dom goes rogue, but the franchise is still the same as it ever was.
The Fate of the Furious
Charlize Theron (with Vin Diesel) plays the villain with terrible hair in "The Fate of the Furious." Credit: Universal Pictures

‘The Fate of the Furious’
Director:
F. Gary Gray
Stars: Vin Diesel, Michelle Rodriguez
Rating: PG-13
3 (out of 5) Globes

The only way to go, as they say, is up. But where exactly is up when your last film had the Rock battling a helicopter? Or a sweet ride speeding from one skyscraper into another skyscraper? Or a part where Thai martial arts god Tony Jaa is bested by Paul Walker (or anyone, for that matter)? The “Fast and/or Furious” franchise has grown more ludicrous with each installment. (In fact, the turning point was when they added Ludacris himself to the team in “Fast Five.”) Episode eight in the most confusingly titled series aside from the “Rambo”s can’t top what came before. It’s an auto fetishist saga that’s officially spinning its wheels.

OK, maybe that’s unfair: It does sport the Rock manhandling a torpedo and a race against a submarine and Jason Statham killing untold minions while holding a baby. Stupid thrills are still stupid thrills, and “Fate” at least adds something generally fresh to the series: a story. Rather than the usual Bondian amalgam of set pieces half-assedly strung together, it has Vin Diesel’s Dom — our heroes’ glowering honcho and obnoxious over-user of the word “family” — mysteriously go bad. Turning on his gang of thieves (or whatever they are now), he shacks up with a mega-ultra-super-hacker played by Charlize Theron, who has a yen for stealing assorted apocalyptic MacGuffins.

“Fate” is a little too quick to supply a reason for Dom going Benedict Arnold; it would have been fun to see him spend a little bit longer acting like the Evil Man of Steel from "Superman III." Still, there is Theron, predictably delightful as she orgasmically purrs threats, rising above her credibility-subtracting thin, blonde dreadlocks. And there are action scenes that think outside-the-box, including a prison break that brings back the old quicksilver Statham, and a clever (and, to New Yorkers, harrowing) stretch where a sea of hacked cars speed down 5th Avenue.

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Nevermind that it’s a Hollywood blockbuster where no one bats an eye that the NSA can spy on anyone near a camera. And maybe disregard its eternally uninspired mid-action scene quips. Here’s a limo that comes equipped with a helicopter gun and Dame Helen Mirren swinging by long enough to drop the token f-bomb. Spinning wheels is only a problem when you suck. 

Follow Matt Prigge on Twitter @mattprigge

 
 
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