Well here we are…on the doorstep of Fast and Furious 8. Can you believe it? Me neither. After seven testosterone-fuelled adventures, heists, skydiving cars and 36 mile runways is it possible that the Fast and Furious crew have outstayed their welcome? You will be either pleased or dismayed to discover that there is clearly plenty more fuel in the tank for this series.
The Fate of the Furious (also called Fast 8) begins with a long overdue honeymoon for Vin Diesel’s Dom Toretto and his wife Letty Cortiz (Michelle Rodriguez). After a completely unnecessary street race to begin the film Charlize Theron’s villainous Cipher shows up to recruit Dom to do her will. Exactly what kind of blackmail she has on him is unknown at this point but it’s enough to turn the bald muscle-bound car god to her side for the duration of the movie. Cue the first major action sequence when Dom and his team (which now includes series regular Dwayne Johnson) steal an EMP weapon from a military base in Berlin. Dom quickly ‘goes rogue’ steals the weapon for himself and leaves his team in a state of befuddlement, ready to fend for themselves.
I’m a firm believer in the silly joke of the Fast and Furious franchise. I’d like to think I was one of the first to realise that Justin Lin (who began work on the series with the third entry Tokyo Drift) had is directorial tongue planted firmly in his cheek as he undertook directing duties on this wonderfully preposterous series. Of course once you decide that the movies are a hair away from parody they become much harder to review. After all, if the creative team is in on the joke, doesn’t everything become less important when reviewers prattle on about character development and tension? Perhaps, but the thing still has to hold together. This is one of those movies where the heroes have to ‘go to the place to get the thing’. You know, “Get the EMP, or Nightshade device, or God’s Eye or Nuclear Launch codes in the suitcase’. That’s not a bad thing at all but it does cause a smile to break across my face whenever the characters begin explaining the plot to us, which happens all the time. There are a few characters here who are simply there to fill the role of Basil Exposition for us, the audience but you’ll find that as they hack computers and talk about abandoned soviet bases you can simply assume that they will be ‘going to the place to get the thing’ soon. The only thing we as an audience lose is time, and there are multiple scenes of the team ‘working things out’ in secret facilities or Charlize Theron’s Cipher ‘Villian-splaining’ things to Dom in her secret plane-base which cause the movie to feel a little longer than its 136 minute run-time.
But what of the action? Its fine. Certainly the stunts are bigger than they’ve ever been before but unfortunately the touch of computer generated trickery also seems much more evident than it has been in the past. Almost every sequence has a computer generated haze over it which makes the audience question how much of the shot was actually done practically. This takes away much of the fun of the action scenes and the choppy editing of the hand-to-hand combat does nothing to add to the impressive stunts that look like they might be on display…if we could only see them properly.
That said, this film confirms that Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham are the true stars of the film. Any time the two of them are onscreen the audience is having a great time. The prison-break scene early on in the film is wonderful and Jason Statham’s role in the finale brought a smile to my face. The dour Vin Diesel doesn’t come off half as well this time and several of the franchise mainstays just don’t seem to have the same impact that they once did, although my audience certainly appreciated Tyrese Gibson’s ham-fisted humour throughout the run-time of the film. It takes a while for the film to truly hit full-throttle but I was laughing with the wonderful silliness of it all by the time the team of racers/international men and women of mystery were careening crazily across a frozen icepack as they drove away from a nuclear submarine that was chasing them.
This film is silly, over the top, absurd, a little long, has some patchy performances…and doesn’t pretend to be anything else. The rocket-fuelled joke started by Justin Lin is clearly here to stay for a little while longer. Just remember to check your brain at the door, you won’t be needing it here.