I’ve got a theory about the Fast & Furious films. I call it the ‘Vin Diesel pub theory’. My suggestion is that the Fast & Furious films as we see them aren’t the events as they take place in the Fast & Furious cinematic universe (FFCU). Rather, they’re the events as told by an aging Vin Diesel in a pub in the FFCU. Every time he tells a story he gets further and further from the truth. Perhaps it started with him playing up his street racing experience in the first film. As the crowds have gotten bigger, now he’s a superman flipping cars through the snow and fighting Charlize Theron over a bastarding great submarine.
That would at least offer some explanation as to why so much of the film is dedicated to another overwrought plot involving Diesel’s motorsport enthusiast Dominic Toretto’s relationship with Michelle Rodriguez’s laughless Letty. The clumsy melodrama of these scenes makes you want to grind your teeth. Surely even the series’ most dedicated fans would concede that the relationship drama between the two (which has involved death, resurrection and memory loss, and that’s before this film) finished serving its purpose some time ago. The story between the two surely means more to the team behind the film than it does to their audience.
Fast & Furious 8 finds the Furious gang reunited. But as charming wall of muscle Hobbs (The Rock), slick talking Roman (Tyrese), techie extraordinaire Tej (Ludacris), Letty and computer hacker Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel) flee the scene of their mission, Dom turns on them and teams up with evil computer lady Cipher (Charlize Theron). Jason Statham’s villainous Deckard is back too, forced to work with the Furious crew. If the film had retained its US title, The Fate of the Furious, we could’ve said that he’s the mate of the furious, but Universal didn’t want us to enjoy that joke.
The crew must track down Dom and find out why he betrayed them.
The eighth Fast/Furious movie continues the trend that started with the fifth film, the franchise high point Fast Five, of each movie being a weird mishmash of elaborate plotting, big characters, melodrama, comedy, tragedy and flying cars with no respect for the laws of physics. They’re all these different elements shunted together, a sort of Frankenstein’s blockbuster.
With the characters from the early Fast/Furious movies bogged down with serious stuff, it’s perhaps not surprising that The Rock once again stands out, elevating the film significantly with a turn that draws equally from his action hero chops and his comedy prowess. He forms a spectacular double act with Den of Geek favourite Jason Statham, and the two steal the show. We suspect someone involved in Fast & Furious 8 saw Spy, because Statham is given more humourous material to work with here. As in that film, he’s very much up to the task. Him and The Rock crack heads and crack jokes and crack each other up. It seems impossible after their showing here that a buddy cop movie isn’t in their future. We’d be there opening night.
As with the other Fast/Furious films, the supporting cast is bulging, both with big names and big muscles. Tyrese and Ludacris’ continue to bicker back and forth to great effect. Kurt Russell looks to be enjoying his time on the film and swaggers across screen, lifting the film up every time that he does.
Most likely, you’ll come out of Fast & Furious 8 talking about Helen Mirren’s brilliant performance. In a film where around a car explodes roughly every three minutes, Mirren’s hilarious turn is easily the most memorable part.
The character interactions in Fast and Furious 8 are such fun that, at times, they’re able to carry the action sequences. This is where Tyrese and Ludacris have always proved to be at their most valuable, and they do so again in Fast & Furious 8. They have to, actually, because the action set pieces aren’t all up to scratch. Jerky camera work mars the action sequences and, perhaps unsurprisingly eight films in, they all start to look alike. The films in the Fast series have been allowed to be quite different at times, but the action cinematography seems to be exempt from experimentation.
This is the first Fast and Furious film since Mad Max: Fury Road, and it just doesn’t feel like this cuts it after that film. The action sequences in Fast & Furious 8 are still thrilling times, but they feel a bit samey. It’s when the film is focusing on comedy that it really thrives.
At times it even gets sombre or quite nasty, which it is towards the end of the second act, you question why they’ve dragged the film off into such murky territory.
Still, if the car chases are a bit jittery at times, there’s something to be said for a film that’s able to put together such an exciting final 20 minutes as this one. It is thrilling and funny and packed full of fan-service. It is full-on joyous and silly and brilliant.
So, the latest Fast film is more of the same with an unexpected lunge towards comedy and some great performances. They’ll need to pick up some if the series is going to continue to compel audiences to turn up, but Fast & Furious 8 is another enjoyable big noisy blockbuster. Recommended for fans of the series.