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The Fate of the Furious (2017)

Universal Studios Home Entertainment
4K UHD Released: 7/11/2017

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Review by Mike Long, Posted on 7/5/2017

When you visit your favorite restaurant, you most likely want the experience to be the same as it was the last time that you were there. You had a good meal, and you go back wanting the exact same thing. Things can be somewhat similar with movie franchises. When a series of movies reaches a certain number, two things are clear -- A) someone likes these movies, and B) there's something about them that they like. Therefore, for the powers that be in Hollywood, they know that they have an audience to please, but they also don't want also don't want to be accused of making the same film over and over. So, how does one keep the filmgoers happy which also maintaining some semblance of credibility? This is the challenge facing the makers of The Fate of the Furious.

The Fate of the Furious opens some time after the events of Furious 7. Dominic "Dom" Toretto (Vin Diesel) and Letty (Michele Rodriguez) are in Cuba celebrating their honeymoon, which consists of challenges locals to street races. (Apparently I don't know how to do honeymoons.) Dom is confronted by Cipher (Charlize Theron), a mysterious woman who states that Dom now works for her. Next, we see government agent Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson), who is approached concerning a stolen EMP generator. Suddenly, the action shifts to Berlin where Hobbs, along with Dom, Letty and the rest of their crew -- Tej (Ludacris), Roman (Tyrese Gibson), and Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel) -- are recovering the piece of equipment. Then, suddenly, Dom breaks off from the pack, causing Hobbs to be capture. Dom has gone rogue and it's now up to his crew to try to learn why and stop him from committing other crimes.

At this point, does anyone remember The Fast and the Furious? That 2001 (was it that long ago?) film dealt with a group of street racers who used their skills to commit crimes. An FBI agent was asked to go undercover, infiltrate the group, and stop them. While the crime angle was certainly there, the movie focused much more on the racing and the cars. (Who can forget pitting Dom's Motor City classic against Brian's import? Oh...everyone...?) So, how did this franchise go from such a simple premise to blossoming into stories about globe-trotting spies? While the movies may still feature some of the same central characters, racing on the streets has morphed into a sort of thug-centric James Bond thing in which these former criminals now jet-set around the world foiling foreign baddies. Not only is this transformation bizarre, it's also incredibly non-sensical at times, as the writers attempt to shove race cars into any scenario. "Hmm...should we send a team of expert stealth soldiers into Berlin to retrieve the EMP, or, and hear me out, should we send in a large group of idiots driving conspicuous race cars? Which one makes more sense?" And yet, we get scene after scene of the group driving exotic cars and military vehicles into situations where they really aren't necessary.

Placing that issue aside, one can see the appeal of something like The Fate of the Furious. There's no denying that the chase scene in New York or Jason Statham's (yes, he's in this too) fight scene during the finale show some clever ideas and fun ingenuity. (Although, Statham's fight reminded me of John Woo's Hard Boiled.) As for the much ballyhooed submarine scene, sure, it's an interesting idea, as the franchise has clearly run out of vehicles for the cars to chase/flee from, but it so stretches reality, even for this series, that it's a bit hard to swallow. The problem with The Fate of the Furious is that one has to sit through the rest of the movie in order to reach the action scenes, and, let's face it, that's why the audience is here. The story here is wafer-thin, despite all of the "twists" which emerge in the third act, and the narrative relies far too much on Vin Diesel "emoting". The movie also assumes that the viewer has a clear memory of the other movies in the franchise. Several characters, who are clearly important, show up here and I had no idea who they were or how they fit into the story. And why don't they use headsets instead of driving with walkie-talkies? 10 & 2 people! 10 & 2!

Of course, my nitpicking isn't going to change the fact that these films are monster hits and the crowds keep coming back. But, at this point, I think that it's fair to ask why. I can certainly see how the first few movies would have appealed to those who follow street racing or who have a love for exotic cars, but the series has really gotten away from that. Sure, there are still unique cars in The Fate of the Furious, but they take a backseat to the spy focus of the story. In my opinion, the modern-day espionage featured here pales in comparison to something like Kingsman. But, that doesn't matter, as there is no end in sight for the Furious. The ending of Furious 7, which had Paul Walker literally driving off into the sunset, felt like an ending...until the box-office receipts showed up. Similarly, The Fate of the Furious has an ending with a definitive feel, but you know that they will be back.

The Fate of the Furious takes advantage of lower gas prices on 4K UHD courtesy of Universal Studios Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains a HEVC 2160p transfer which runs at an average of 50 Mbps. The image is notably sharp and clear, showing no grain and no defects from the source materials. The quality of the transfer is obvious from the outset, as the opening scenes in Cuba look razor sharp and show great colors. These colors look fantastic and the image is never overly dark or bright. The image shows an impressive amount of depth, as the actors are clearly delineated from the backgrounds. The level of detail is good, as we can make out textures on objects. The Disc carries a DTS-X 7.1 audio track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 4.5 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. As one would expect, the action sequences deliver palpable subwoofer effects as the roar of the engines and explosions shake the walls. We get very detailed surround and stereo effects, with individual sounds filling the speakers.

The lone extra on The Fate of the Furious 4K UHD is an AUDIO COMMENTARY from Director F. Gary Gray. The remainder of the extras are found on the included Blu-ray Disc. "The Cuban Spirit" (8 minutes) takes us on-location on the island where Gray and Diesel discuss the process of getting permission to shoot in Cuba. We then hear about the challenges of shooting in a country which has so little resources. "In the Family" contains four sections. "Betraying the Family: Cipher and Dom" (7 minutes) contains an interview with Theron who discusses how her character fits into the story. "Leaderless: A Family Lost" (5 minutes) examines how Dom's shift in loyalty changes the story. "Shaw Family Values" (4 minutes) spotlights Jason Statham's character. "Meet the Nobodys" (6 minutes) brings us closer to Kurt Russell and Scott Eastwood. "Car Culture" is also split into smaller segments. "The Hero Cars of Fast" (10 minutes) allows us to go behind the scenes to get a better look at the cars, which honestly aren't in the car very much. We get more information on the reality of hacking cars in "Zombie Cars" (6 minutes). "The Ripsaw" (5 minutes) introduces us to the new military vehicle featured in the film. "Extended Fight Scenes" features longer cuts of two action scenes from the film.

Review Copyright 2017 by Mike Long