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The Fate Of The Furious

Going In Style

April 13, 2017

The Fate Of The Furious (***) PG-13  

B movies with A movie budgets seem to be the norm today. Even the superhero extravaganzas that fill up the multiplex screens so frequently these days could easily be lumped into that category. Granted, it would be nice to see more A quality movies being made on A budgets, I will admit to enjoying the cinematic equivalent of a candy bar on occasion. The Fate of the Furious is a fairly good example of how this thing should be done if it’s a requirement for movie theaters to stay in business, which it seems to be at this point.

When the first film, The Fast and the Furious, appeared some sixteen years ago, I would have laughed so hard that milk would have spewed forth from my nostrils if someone had predicted that this series of films would still be going strong nearly two decades later. And yet, with the release of the latest in the series, The Fate of the Furious (number eight if you’re counting) I’ll be damned if they haven’t managed to come up with one of the best entries in the entire series. Who would have thought it was possible? Yes, it’s big, dumb and implausible but also undeniable loads of fun.    

The gang (Dwayne Johnson, Michelle Rodriguez, Jason Statham, Chris Bridges, etc.), which seems to keep expanding with each passing entry in the franchise, is recruited for a mission to retrieve a device that will wipe out power grids and such. 

Charlize Theron & Vin Diesel in ‘Fate’

Dom, the character played by Vin Diesel, goes rogue right in the midst of the mission leaving the gang bewildered as to what his motives might be. It seems that Dom has been recruited by a villain, who goes by the moniker of Cipher (Charlize Theron), to assist her in her plans to take control of the device and, later, a nuclear briefcase. Dom has his reasons, of course, which are eventually revealed. Along the way, Helen Mirren and Kurt Russell (returning from the previous entry) also show up and are given some interesting things to do.    The film is directed with flair by F. Gary Gray, who’s an old pro when it comes to helming action films, as evidenced by his work in the 90s on such fare as The Negotiator and Set It Off. He certainly knows how to effectively stage action sequences no matter how ridiculous the circumstance. One need look no further than the sequence in the film where a fleet of driverless cars are hacked and sent literally raining onto the crowded streets.    Another refreshing component found in the film is in its sense of humor, sharper here than in any of the other films in the franchise. There are almost as many laughs as action scenes in The Fate of the Furious. It’s a nice touch when a film knows that it shouldn’t take itself so seriously and figuratively winks at the audience. That’s something that other films of this type would do well to emulate. 

Going in Style (**) PG-13

Director Martin Brest’s 1979 film Going in Style was remarkable in that he wasn’t even thirty when he made the film and yet it so sharply captured the trials and tribulations of growing old. The film’s plot involves three bored retirees with a plan to rob a bank as a cure for their collective boredom. George Burns, Lee Strasberg and Art Carney wonderfully embodied the three central roles and the film left viewers with much to think about after it was all said and done.

I guess it was only a matter of time before Going in Style was remade for modern audiences. Had it been put in the right hands, the potential was there for an updated exploration of the pitfalls of aging in the spirit of the original film. Unfortunately, this isn’t that film. This version of Going in Style replaces more substantive and weightiness found in the original film with sitcom style hijinks. Think of it as something of an extension of the Grumpy Old Men franchise, replete with one of that film’s stars, Ann Margret, returning as the love interest. Well, at least the film does offer three great actors— Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, Alan Arkin, all Oscar winners—to liven things up whenever they’re given the chance.

To be fair the film does attempt to make some semblance of a statement on the current situation that the elderly face in its early scenes.

Arkin, Freeman & Caine in Going in Style

For instance, the character played by Michael Caine, is facing foreclosure on his home due to the ballooning interest rate that he was unaware of when purchasing said property. And Freeman’s character is suffering the last stages of kidney failure and is badly in need of a transplant. The film then throws all credibility to the wind around the time that Arkin’s character begins a romance with Ann Margret and we’re asked to believe that the rate of intercourse between the two is roughly three times a day. So much for taking the high road, I suppose. Of course, the film’s original bank robbery plot is retained although the downbeat ending of the original has been ditched for a more conventional one.

Going in Style isn’t a terrible film. It’s just a mediocre one which is probably the best one could expect from its mediocre director, Zach Braff, who was a critics’ darling for a minute after the release of his first directorial effort the overrated Garden State. In the near decade and a half since he’s helmed a total of two films, with Going in Style the third on his resume. This is one film that could have used a director with more on his mind than pleasing audiences who were weaned on sitcoms. As it stands, Going in Style is a missed opportunity.

Both movies are playing at the AMC 15 theater (formerly the Carmike) in Hickory, and all around the area.

Questions or comments? Write Adam at filmfan1970@hotmail.com.

 

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