Fast & Furious 8 review

Title: Fast & Furious 8
Director: F Gary. Gray
Starring: Vin Diesel, Dwayne Johnson, Charlize Theron, Jason Statham, Michelle Rodriguez
Genre: Action
Runtime: 2 Hours 16 mins
Music: Brian Tyler
Studio: Universal Pictures
Certificate: US: PG-13
UK: 12A
Release Date: US: Apr 14 2017 UK: Apr 12 2017
See If You Like: Furious 7
Cars Vs. Logic – again…

Like a classic clubland remix stuck on repeat, a DnB anthem which which keeps the crowd bouncing with repetitive note, after repetitive note, all the while audiences go gaga for the ‘best thing ever’, Fast & Furious 8 (or The Fate of the Furious) is more of the same – again. Keeping the crowds hooked with a steady stream of fast cars, beautiful women, and a restored Soviet-era submarine-load of testosterone it’s yet another indulgent two hours of logic-defying schlock guaranteed to thrill and amaze its mystifyingly loyal fanbase, but fail to win over its detractors.

Fans will delight at the sight of more impressively well-organised street races, a number of flashy cars, enough explosions to win World War III, cheesy dialogue, an all-but irrelevant (and basically non-existent) plot which amounts to “driving fast means saving the world”, and the way the word ‘family’ is crowbarred in every two minutes – meaning anyone who’s playing one of the now famed Fast & Furious drinking games will be smashed within minutes.

The action begins in Cuba where Dom (Vin Diesel), on honeymoon with Letty (Michelle Rodriguez), is turned to the dark side by cyber-super-terrorist Cipher (Charlize Theron, Mad Max Fury Road) and quickly turns on his team (sorry… family), leading to a round-the-world goose-chase where all of Dom’s former friends (except the bull-headed Letty) start to distrust him and have to figure out ways in which they can stop him, and Cipher, from taking over the world.

It’s an interesting premise – “what if Dom went bad?” – but one which is unfortunately ruined early on; as while anyone watching (from hardcore fan to complete newcomer) could tell Dom’s turn to the dark side would only be temporary, there’s nary a hint of mystery, or has he/hasn’t he flipped, as we’re shown exactly how Cipher has coerced him almost from the get-go; and so we’re simply left blithely waiting the better part of two hours for him to inevitably flip back.

And while Dom spends the film with the same sulky, scolded-toddler, look on his face (he’s furious the rest of his team are getting to drive so fast without him), it’s up to the good guys to keep things light; Letty’s a touch miserable herself, but Roman (Tyrese Gibson) continues to bring the laughs, Ludacris’ Parker is still fun, Nathalie Emmanuel’s returning Ramsey is a welcome (though paper-thin) return, and Dwayne Johnson’s Luke Hobbs makes another appearance in order to maintain the quota of bald-muscly-men-in-tight-tops (it’s just a shame his ‘comedy’ falls flat, and his constant whining and empty threats towards an old adversary diminish the character’s beefcake persona). But by far the best addition to the team, is not the return of Kurt Russell’s Mr. Nobody, or his sidekick Little Nobody (Scott Eastwood, Gran Torino), but Furious 7 villain Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham); an antagonistic Englishman who can outwit, out-fight, and clearly out-perform everyone else on screen in both the action scenes and comedy moments (The Rock’s caveman shouting simply can’t compete).

Other newcomers include a brief appearance from Helen Mirren (The Queen star who puts in a forgettable, sigh-inducing, turn with a fairly poor mockney accent), and Game Of Thrones’ Kristofer Hivju (better known as Tormund) who’s acceptable enough as Cipher’s head henchman but doesn’t get chance to deliver much outside the cliched role of look/sound gruff and obey orders awarded to most forgettable baddie-sidekicks.

It doesn’t help that the acting is almost universally wooden and uninspired throughout, though given the despicably poor script the actors don’t really have much to work with here. Aside from  Russell (who seems to be enjoying himself), Statham’s scene-stealing showing, and the energy provided by Charlize Theron, the entire cast seem to be phoning it in, and even Theron, an undeniably brilliant actress, is unfortunately wasted; given a character who sounds impressive on paper (despite the unbelievably on-the-nose name – Cipher), but is sadly reduced to simply barking commands/expletives like “hack them all”, “now I’m pissed off”, or “fire” at computer screens, or unnamed red-shirts sitting in front of computer screens.

Still, while not as memorable as driving out of a plane, driving after a plane, driving out of a skyscraper window, or driving down the streets of Rio dragging a giant safe behind the car, the stunts stack up well. They’re well choreographed, well shot, and just as ridiculous as you’d expect; we not only have every car in NYC hacked and attacking a visiting dignitary like a wave of zombies chasing Brad Pitt, but a full-on ice-fight with our heroes racing a military submarine across the frozen waters of northern Russia; it’s just a shame director F. Gary Gray struggles so much with the hand-to-hand combat scenes (relying far to heavily on excessively quick cuts), and fails to keep the exposition interesting.

Yet despite it being nothing but a flashy facade masking yet another a mediocre movie; with an absent plot, average direction, and appalling acting failing to bring the fun of previous instalments; franchise fans will flock to tell you how fantastic this new Fast & Furious film really is; and with all the explosions, cars, cheese, muscles, and grandiose pomp, it’s difficult not to appreciate at least part of it (basically every part with Jason Statham – as his natural charisma shines through, makes you miss the times when Jason Statham movies were a thing, and screams of spin-off potential), even if you’re not a fully fledged member of the Fast family.

Matt Wheeldon@TheMattWheeldon.

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Matt Wheeldon is the Founder, and Editor in Chief of Good Film Guide. He still refers to the cinema as "the pictures", and has what some would describe as a misguided appreciation for Waterworld.