An impressively persistent beast of sorts, the Fast & Furious franchise has become one of the most lucrative commodities of today’s industry, despite an initial series of less-than sequels that threatened to burn the title out before it had a chance to properly compete.
Whereas most sequels fail to maintain momentum (especially when dealing with the third or fourth in a series) the Fast films miraculously gained traction when the fifth entrant garnered a release, and the street-racing mentality that dominated the earlier titles was swapped out for a more heist-like temperament, allowing the film to embrace the ridiculous and run with this to no foreseeable end.
After Furious 7 appeared to be the most fitting send-off given the tragic circumstances surrounding series staple player Paul Walker, you’d be forgiven for assuming this eighth go-around – which will be referred to as the hashtag-ready F8 for quicker review purposes – is a mere ploy to continue milking the cash cow dry. Well, to be fair, in many ways it is, but when the final product proves to be this much fun…what’s an exhausted udder worth in the long run?
Foregoing any “back to basics” nonsense and upping the insanity levels to 11, F8 starts the way we would expect – with an exotic location and a pointless street race; this time it’s Cuba and Vin Diesel‘s Dominic waxing lyrical on the importance of keeping your word, which naturally results in a logic-defying speeding trip throughout the Cuban roadways. In between tending to his car and whispering gravelly sweet-nothings to his main squeeze (Michelle Rodriguez), Dom is blackmailed into going rogue and betraying those closest to him by Cipher (a wonderfully stoic, and often vicious, Charlize Theron), a cyber-terrorist with an icy gaze and mean set of dreadlocks.
Just what exactly Cipher is using as leverage to keep Dom on her side may prove a surprise to invested fans, and her intentions behind planned global domination is honestly all a little bit too much to successfully translate in writing, but when it brings Dom’s crew together to face-off against him, plot details prove obsolete as we all are really just here to witness the mayhem – and oh, how the mayhem does fly!
New York is turned into a wreckage playground when Cipher literally makes it rain automobiles, Chris Morgan‘s script convolutes enough CSI-type jargon to allow gorgeous hacker Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel) to bypass as many security functions as plot-forwarding possible, previous instalment villain Deckard Shaw (a visibly giddy Jason Statham) is purposely sprung out of jail by puppet master “Mr Nobody” (Kurt Russell) to assist in the proceedings (much to the chagrin of Dwayne Johnson‘s hulking Hobbs), and when it all culminates atop a Russian ice-field where each member is driving a too-expensive-to-be-afforded vehicle outrunning a nuclear-missile-armed submarine, you know the shark has well and truly been jumped.
But therein lies the beauty of F8, and the series in general, it’s completely aware of how ridiculous it all is, and it makes no apologies for it. The dialogue is cliched and quite hard to digest, but the actors involved all make it work (Theron in particular), and none of the stunt sequences practice a lick of subtlety but I don’t think audiences would want it any other way. This is not a good film, but it knows this, which in turn makes it kind of brilliant.
With two more films promised it’s difficult to fathom just how much more insanity the Fast & Furious crew can concoct to outdo all that has come before, but if F8 is anything to go by they know how to create the implausible. While I doubt this series will adhere to the notion that less is more, as long as Diesel and co. stay on this planet then I am all for more inexplicable but always entertaining ridiculousness; and if they’re stuck for ideas, this film’s golden cameo from a Cockney-accented Helen Mirren is a perfect starting point.
Review Score: THREE AND A HALF STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
The Fate of the Furious is in cinemas tomorrow, April 13th