Eppler: "Furious" series now on cruise control

Eppler: "Furious" series now on cruise control

Somewhere around movies four and five, "The Fast and the Furious" series broke away from its "Point Break" with cars origins and turned into a series of globetrotting missions against super villains like a new era James Bond except not nearly as good as the actual Bond movies currently being made.

These new Furious movies play more like the Roger Moore-era Bond movies with the awful one-liners, ridiculous action sequences and interchangeable villains. And up til now, it's been a lotta fun for "Furious." But this eighth installment, "The Fate of the Furious" is not among the best and a drop-off from the previous three.

The story in "Fate" is easily the dumbest of the series so far with Vin Diesel's Toretto appearing to switch to the bad guys. It really just feels like a clever way to keep Diesel and Dwayne Johnson separated for most of the movie because the actors reportedly hate each other. And Jason Statham's maniacal murderer from the previous two movies turns into a good, sweet and cuddly wise-cracker for reasons that are dubious at best.

Charlize Theron is the series's first female big baddie. But since she's a cyber terrorist, she spends most of the movie in a room just looking at computer screens, typing and barking orders.

There's still some fun stuff, though. Each of these movies has to up the ante on the insane action and Director F. Gary Gray doesn't disappoint. The highlight is the hacking of vehicle computer systems turning them into a swarming army in New York. The gang fighting a Russian submarine is pure cheese. These action scenes are as cool as they are stupid and they work so well because they're done with a big wink to the audience.

The last "Furious" movie had the emotional weight of Paul Walker's death, which was handled lovingly, and this new movie with him gone proves he was the soul of the series. And with the record-breaking opening weekend ($532.5 million worldwide), we're promised more soulless sequels.

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