Tag Archives: Michelle Rodriguez

The Fate of the Furious (2017)

Like a sizeable portion of its fans, I didn’t really “get” The Fast and the Furious franchise until about the fourth entry or so, when the films started to embrace the cheese and its own ludicrousness. The crazy action kept ramping up unapologetically as the cast became a likable “family” fans could root for. The fun culminated in a Puthy climax in Furious 7, where we bid a tearful farewell to Paul Walker (“It’s been a long day without you my friend…”)

I thought it was a good place to end the franchise, but of course that was never going to be the case when the Furious 7 made over 1.5 billion dollars at the box office. And thus when Mini-Me on steroids (Vin Diesel) announced that Fate of the Furious would kickstart the “final trilogy” of the franchise (who the hell does that?), no one was surprised. The question was, would they be able to continue upping the action and stakes when things were already cranked up to 11?

The Fate of the Furious is a lame name, but I was still optimistic because they were bringing back Jason Statham and adding Charlize Theron as the villain. If you’ve seen the trailers, you’ll know Dom (Diesel) turns to the dark side this time around for some reason and takes on his old “family” alongside Charlize. You also knew that the reason would be incredibly contrived.

The film starts off in Havana and appears to be paying homage to the franchise’s roots with an exciting drag race featuring Dom, but very soon the film returns to the heist formula that has worked so well for it in recent years. Kurt Russell is back as Mr. Nobody, and Clint Eastwood’s offspring, Scott, is introduced as a new comic relief character to add a bit of freshness to the cast. Familiar faces such as Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese and Ludacris are also back, as is The Rock and the aforementioned Statham.

There are a lot of things to like about The Fate of the Furious, directed by F. Gary Gray (Straight Outta Compton) which does pare things back a little but manages to add some very creative ideas to make up for the relatively less intensive action of its predecessors. There is one lengthy sequence featuring unmanned vehicles that should end up as one of the best action scenes of the year, albeit with some shaky CGI at times. To satisfy its core audience, there are still sexy girls in skimpy clothes and plenty of cheesy humour, neither of which really worked for me most of the time because it comes across as trying too hard.

My favourite dynamic of the film remains the feud between The Rock’s Luke Hobbs and Statham’s Deckard Shaw, who somehow goes from irredeemable villain (for killing Han) to just another lovable member of the family. The prison sequence in the trailer is as good as advertised, and Statham has a well-choreographed solo sequence later on that stands as probably the most fun part of the film.

My biggest problem with the movie is still the character of Dom and Vin Diesel, whose head just keeps growing bigger and bigger with each installment of the franchise. Diesel can’t seem to stop playing these characters who have no flaws and are supposed to be so righteous, suave, cool and sexy all the time and loved by everyone. When The Rock does it, I can almost let it go because he has the charm to pull it off. When Diesel does it, I just find it cringeworthy. It’s almost embarrassing because we all know he only gets to play such characters because he’s a producer. I had just watched Diesel take his insufferableness to another level in the latest XxX movie, so perhaps that heightened my aversion to Dom even more than usual.

In the end, The Fate of the Furious turned out better than I had expected, largely due to Statham and Theron, but it’s still a step down from both a pure action level as well as an emotional level compared to the last couple of entries in the franchise. I enjoyed it overall, though I’d say it was probably one of the weaker installment in the franchise since Tokyo Drift (which I liked more than most because I’m a fan of drifting and I love Tokyo and Lucas Black).

3.5 stars out of 5

Movie Review: Battle: Los Angeles (2011)

After Skyline last year (and to a lesser extent, the overrated Monsters), the alien invasion movie was not high on my list.  On Friday night, I had a choice of either Battle: Los Angeles, The Adjustment Bureau and Red Riding Hood.  Some would probably advise to stay home and not waste my money, but these were all films that I was curious about.

Following a consultation with some friends, I decided to go with Battle: Los Angeles. The consensus was that The Adjustment Bureau was painfully average and Red Riding Hood was most likely trash (which would reflect the review I quickly glanced at from that morning’s paper).  Battle: Los Angeles had Aaron Eckhart and Michelle Rodriguez, and it received some decent buzz in movie mags in the lead up to the premiere.  Besides, if all else fails, at least I get to see LA being blown up.

While Battle: Los Angeles was not fantastic, I probably made the right decision.  It was entirely predictable, with an archetypal progression for alien invasion movies and your usual host of characters.  The surprise of the attack, the carnage, the despair, the retaliation, the jubilation — it could not have been more ‘cookie cutter’.

However, I must admit I found it rather enjoyable.  Thank goodness for Aaron Eckhart, who delivered a bunch of cheesy, melodramatic lines so well that I wanted to believe him.  Kudos to the special effects team, who made the action look absolutely seamless.  And the action was relentless, loud and explosive.  It reminded me of a gritty war movie (say Saving Private Ryan or Black Hawk Down or Letters from Iwo Jima), except with aliens.

Unfortunately, I would have enjoyed it even more had it not been for two problems.  The first is that the film was waaaay too long.  It was 116 minutes but dragged on in parts and could have easily been a more compact and manageable 90 minutes.  The second, which almost killed the film for me, was the handheld camera crap.

Man, it frustrated me to no end.  I understand the idea of the handy cam — it makes you feel closer to the action — but there needs to be a balance.  This was not Cloverfield, where the entire film is supposedly shot by amateur cam.  There is no point in having a shaky camera for a two-man conversation.  No matter how close it makes you feel to the action, no film is worth vomiting over.

On the whole, Battle: Los Angeles still exceeded my relatively low expectations.  In some ways it could have been better, but in other ways it could have been a lot worse.

3.25 stars out of 5!