MOVIE BUFF-ET: “Fate of the Furious” gets head start on summer-movie season

Universal Studios

Check your brain at the door, and hold on tight to your popcorn. The eighth movie in the Fast and the Furious franchise hit theaters last weekedn, and it’s everything you would expect from a summer blockbuster even though we’re still in the middle of spring.

“The Fate of the Furious,” directed by F. Gary Gray, is big, loud, dumb, and fun. It is an action extravaganza in every sense of the phrase, and if you liked the previous four movies in the series, then you probably won’t be disappointed with this outing.

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While Paul Walker, who died in a single-car accident prior to finishing filming on “Furious 7,” and Jordana Brewster’s (Brian O’Conner and Mia Torretto) characters do not return after having their storylines completed in the previous movie, most of the familiar faces are back as “The Family” struggles to take down not only one of their own but also their leader in Dom Torretto (Vin Diesel).

Yes, Dom goes rouge in the movie while on his honeymoon with Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) in Cuba. He’s enticed to turn his back on his family based on information shown to him on a tablet screen by a criminal mastermind and terrorist known only as Cipher (Charlize Theron).

Dom turns on his crew while they are attempting to confiscate an electromagnetic pulse device. He steals the EMP on the deep cover mission the ends with Diplomatic Secret Service agent Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) being imprisoned in the same maximum security lockup as Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham), a rouge special forces assassin whom the family battled in a previous movie.

Also returning from previous films are Kurt Russell as high-ranking intelligence operative Mr. Nobody/Frank Petty, Tyrese Gibson as Roman, Chris “Ludacrise” Bridges as TeJ, Nathalie Emmanuel as Ramsey, Luke Evans as Owen Shaw, Elsa Pataky as Elena Neves. Joining the happy band are Scott Eastwood as agent Eric Reisner and Helen Mirren as Magdalene Shaw.

The plot’s a bit convoluted, but then again it is bargain-basement material for anyone who enjoys spy-type movies. The crux of the movie is what did Dom see on that tablet that would make him turn on the people he loves most?

The action in the movie is fantastic, featuring a half dozen vehicle races and chases that involve everything from a beat-up, old hoopty to a nuclear submarine and everything in between. However, my favorite action set was a bombastic yet cartoonish prison break, featuring Johnson and Statham cracking heads and taking names.

The movie is all about the fun, and characters, that are as stereotypical as they are familiar, serve it up hot. Each one gets as least a couple moments to shine, and that fan service is what will make the movie worthwhile with diehards and possibly even new viewers.

The movie doesn’t even try to be clever, nor does it make its audience wait too long to find out why Dom is working with the bad guys.

Action movies of this type can become tedious, particularly when they have a two-hour and twenty-minute running time. Personally, the Furious’ fate could have been settled 20 or 30 minutes faster and been better for me. But then again, if the eighth movie in a franchise can’t be excessive, what can be?

One of the franchise’s greatest assets is that it does not take itself too seriously. The humor and heart push the movie over the top despite the fact that the plot’s high stakes can’t really be taken seriously.

If you are looking for a movie that’s witty, intelligent, or challenging, then you’ll want to skip “The Fate of the Furious.”

But if you’re hankering for some big, dumb fun, “The Fate of the Furious” should have enough to tide you over until the summer movie season kicks into high gear.

(PG-13) 2 hr. 17 min.
Grade: B-

Classic Corner

“The Enemy Below”

The “Enemy Below” is a taut war thriller pitting a U.S. destroyer escort against a German U-Boat during World War II. Dick Powell directed the 1957 film which he adapted from the 1956 novel of the same name.

Robert Mitchum stars and Lt. Com. Murrell, the captain of the USS Haynes, who matches wits with U-boat Kapitan von Stolberg, played by Curd Jürgens, a German actor who was imprisoned during World War II for his dissent against the National Socialist Party (Nazi).

Murrell is a former merchant marine officer who recently gained command of the Haynes, despite the fact he is recovering from injuries suffered when his previous ship sank. The crew questions his command based on rumors, but Murrell gains their trust, and it’s needed when the Haynes begins stalking the U-Boat commanded by von Stolberg.

The two commanders take turns at outfoxing each other until von Stolberg gains the upper hand, all but crippling the Haynes. Murrell is not done, though, as he designs a desperate ploy that if it works could do in the U-boat, as well.

If the plot sounds somewhat familiar, then you might be fans of the 1960s TV shows “Star Trek” and/or “Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea.” Both adapted the screenplay for episodes in the mid 1960s. Many “Star Trek” fans consider “Balance of Power,” an episode in which the Starship Enterprise engaged a Romulan Warbird, as one of the series’ very best.

The movie earned a 1958 Oscar for Best Special Effects and was one of the first WWII films to tell the story from both sides of the action.

Mitchum and Jürgens offer standout performances as two honorable adversaries who gain grudging respect for one another despite the circumstances.