UK Release Date: 14th April 2017
Runtime: 136 minutes
Director: F Gary Gray
Writer: Chris Morgan
Starring: Vin Diesel, Dwayne Johnson, Charlize Theron, Michelle Rodriguez, Jason Statham, Tyrese Gibson, Ludacris, Kurt Russell, Scott Eastwood, Nathalie Emmanuel, Helen Mirren
Synopsis: When Dom goes rogue in the clutches of a cyber-criminal mastermind, his ‘family’ must take him on in their biggest challenge to date.
The Fast & Furious franchise is one of the more unusual blockbuster money-spinners in the Hollywood firmament. Universal has watched carefully over its testosterone and nitrous-fuelled cash cow as it has morphed from a grubby crime thriller about street racing into a globe-trotting box office behemoth with save-the-world stakes and a limitless budget. These movies just keep getting bigger and Fast & Furious 8 is yet another step into the stratosphere, with nuclear submarines and mass hacking on the agenda. Thankfully, it’s just as fun as its predecessors and is a mammoth blockbuster that wears its silliness on its oil-stained sleeve in pursuit of pure popcorn entertainment.
Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) and new wife Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) are honeymooning in Cuba when he bumps into the mysterious cyber-terrorist Cipher (Charlize Theron), who seems to have something in her power that brings Dom under her spell. Dom later betrays ally Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) and the rest of his crew. Under the watchful eye of Mr Nobody (Kurt Russell), the crew are forced to join forces with former foe Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) to track down Dom and stop him before Cipher can carry out a plan that threatens the entire world.
If there’s one thing that can be said about the Fast & Furious movies, it’s that they are sure of their own identity. The revolving door of directors, this time landing on Straight Outta Compton helmsman F Gary Gray, repeatedly produces people who really know their way around an action sequence in which Dwayne Johnson destroys something with his bare hands. This movie is no exception and, at almost two and a half hours long, it’s a beautifully indulgent action epic that is content to just relax and have fun.
Like the films that came before it, Fast & Furious 8 is built on the twin pillars of stupidly huge action moments and the surprisingly well-honed chemistry between the central ensemble. We have a built-in love for many of these characters and the scraps of personality they have all accrued over the last 16 years are coalescing into rounded characters, with whom we empathise and therefore want to survive. Almost everyone involved knows that they aren’t in an Oscar-winning prestige picture, so the likes of Johnson and brilliant new addition to the team Jason Statham are on hilariously bonkers form. Vin Diesel, meanwhile, continues to play everything stoically straight and is therefore the glue holding everything together.
Charlize Theron does some solid work in the villainous role, which feels like an audition to be the next Bond baddie, but she is saddled with many of the film’s more serious moments. It’s people like Johnson who get to stretch their comedic muscles, or Helen Mirren in a brief but memorable cameo as Statham’s foul-mouthed Cockney mother. Fast & Furious 8 is at its best when it embraces this silliness and particularly when it allows Johnson and Statham to punch things – or each other. A prison riot sequence in which the duo square off and Johnson shrugs off rubber bullets like spitballs is a delirious highlight. Their, presumably hyper-macho, rumoured spin-off vehicle cannot come quickly enough.
This is a film that comes alive when the gas pedal is down and the soundtrack is cranked as loud as possible. The twisted metal is ludicrously entertaining, from Johnson throwing torpedoes around with his bare hands to dozens of self-driving cars throwing themselves out of a multi-storey car park. At this stage, Fast & Furious movies are so divorced from reality that nothing is too ridiculous and this is a movie that completely owns that. As a result, it’s almost certainly the best entry in the franchise to date.
Pop or Poop?
There’s very little room for directorial nuance or political subtext in Fast & Furious 8, but the indulgent running time allows plenty of space for carnage and chaos. The cast is uniformly at the top of its game and aware of how silly it all is, particularly Johnson and Statham, and the climactic action sequence is a nonsensical delight from hyperactive start to ridiculous, noisy ending. Rumours of the franchise’s imminent death would appear to have been greatly exaggerated.
Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.