Director: F. Gary Gray
Cast: Vin Diesel, Dwayne Johnson, Jason Statham, Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese Gibson, Chris Ludacris Bridges, Scott Eastwood, Nathalie Emmanuelle, Kristofer Hivju with Kurt Russell and Charlize Theron
Plot: Toretto (Diesel) is blackmailed by a mysterious hacker (Theron) into betraying his friends, destroying the family he cherishes so much.
The trailer of Fast and Furious 8 was pretty mind-blowing, a solid bullet-point version of the film, throwing several shocking twists and set-ups into the mix to entice audiences to sit down and watch the film. Jason Statham is a good guy, Vin Diesel betrays his friends, Nathalie Emmanuelle has enough of a character to justify a second film (spoiler alert: she doesn’t). However, the truth is none of that matters. That’s what we call a story and if you try to make sense out of a Fast and Furious story, you are setting yourself up for disappointment.
We are here for the action. And while Fast and Furious 8 is downright stupid and baffling, with a story with more plot holes in it than it has cast members, no one is here for the story. Fast and Furious is at its best, when the narrative is left at the starting block, the dialogue is reduced to a few amusing quips and it is simply about the next car or explosion. The weird story about a woman who can hack into cars is forgotten as soon as the movie throws in a chase involving a tank taking on a nuclear submarine. And in true Fast and Furious fashion, there are some gloriously outrageous bits of nonsense. One sequence that sees Vin Diesel come up against his old team must have cost a fortune to film. Bad guy Cipher reveals the daft power to tap into car’s sat nav and use them as ghost cars. Suddenly driver-less vehicles are filling the roads, crashing into anything in their way. It is Fast and Furious at its daftest, cars torn to shreds as pile-up after pile-up fill the screen. This sequence plays out alongside Diesel using his super-powered Corvette to break out of a harness trap, sending his friends’ crashing into walls in panic. Outside the cars, the action is just as fun. Dwayne Johnson pretty much steals the show, tossing his way through enemies like they were made of paper. A prison fight scene that sees rubber bullets bounce off his chest harmlessly is great fun, filling the audience with squeamish delight. However, the stand-out scene of the film is easily Jason Statham punching his way through a plane. It’s much more than Statham using his Transporter fight moves to impress audiences. Gray throws in a factor into the mix which adds a bonus bout of hilarity to the fight, which I am not going to spoil for you. All I am saying is that this scene will go down in the Statham highlight reel. Even when the scenes are totally bogus, like a cringe-worthy opening street race with leaden dialogue and cheese-ball characterisation, they are never as bad as they should be, because this is a Fast and Furious movie. What more did you expect?
What the end result is though is a movie that is only as good as its current explosion. Whenever the bullets stop flying and all the movie has left to go on is the terrible dialogue and paper thin characters, things begin to fall to pieces very quickly. The final few plot points are meant to come across as an Oceans Eleven kind of thrill, with everything falling into place clearly, but the script just isn’t smart enough to make it work. That also goes for the techno mumbo-jumbo spoken by the “smart” members of the team. You just don’t buy into it. Fast and Furious has been getting better with every instalment. The fifth topped the charts, until the sixth introduced Luke Evans twisted villain. And then the seventh blew everything out of the water with an outstanding piece of cinematic fun. The eighth just stops the improving trend: not necessarily weak, but weaker. It’s enough to hit the brakes on the franchise for the time being. It gives the Fate of the Furious the sense of ‘just another entry’. It is an excuse to spend one more film with these amusing characters (although we enjoy the respective actors more than the characters), and the madcap stunts. Cue the actors salvaging the day. Vin Diesel takes everything far too seriously, but is so paramount to the tone and feel of the series that it is impossible to imagine him doing anything else. Charlize Theron is lumped with a generic villain role, but provides a stellar turn, making the terrible dialogue mean something. She is growing into one of the hottest actresses on the block, purring out maliciously logical hard truths. Seeing as Statham is now apparently a good guy, Theron could be the new best villain of the series. Best of the bunch though is easily Dwayne Johnson who has this talent for entering struggling franchises and simply improving them. His introduction to his movie is the biggest laugh of the movie, maybe even the series, and he goes from strength to strength, whether through his over-the-top fight moves (see him getting Scott Eastwood in a grapple), or trading insults with Statham. “I am going to beat you like a Cherokee drum!” growls the Rock. “Calm down, Hercules!” replies Statham, breaking the fourth wall in a delightfully fun way.
Final Verdict: It’s nonsense fun, but we’ve seen a lot better from the series. However, at worst, this is a sufficient topping up of the car-nage we end up craving each year.