Fast and Furious 8 - Review
Review by Rob Carnevale
THERE’S a point early on in Fast & Furious 8 when Kurt Russell’s character turns to a rookie recruit on his team and says “you’re forgetting the first rule, which is know your audience”. It’s a piece of advice that incoming director F Gary Gray seems to have taken on board.
As entertainingly absurd as ever, this eighth film in the franchise exists to satisfy the fans and frequently does so with aplomb without ever really mixing up the formula.
Hence, there’s eye candy aplenty, exotic locations including Cuba and New York, OTT stunts (including one grandstanding sequence involving a submarine), the usual sappy sentiment (all based around the importance of family), and a testosterone overload whenever the three main principals – Vin Diesel, Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham – share the screen.
Fast & Furious 8 does have the sad distinction of being the first to have been made without the late Paul Walker but even so continues to honour his memory. Without giving anything away, Walker’s character, Brian, is referenced twice… and once in a deeply affectionate way.
The plot, once again penned by Chris Morgan, opts for the type of credibility straining, world-saving kind of exploits that Pierce Brosnan-era James Bond may even have found a little too ridiculous. It basically pits Diesel’s Dominic Toretto against his own crew after a super-villain, known as Cipher (nicely played by franchise newcomer Charlize Theron), offers him a compelling (and deeply personal) reason to switch sides.
Hence, while Toretto goes rogue in a bid to steal some nuclear weapons, it’s left to his old family – led by Johnson’s Luke Hobbs and Michelle Rodriguez’s Letty – to try and make sense of his actions with the unlikely help of former enemy turned ally Deckard Shaw (Statham).
The ensuing chase takes the team from the Big Apple to some frozen Russian wastelands and grows ever more preposterous by the minute.
Yet, crucially, it knows how to make its audience laugh along with it, rather than at its expense, by embracing its own silliness – a ploy that it has used to such winning effect since Fast 5 (still the best in the series).
Hence, the machismo that informs so many of the exchanges is self-consciously OTT, to the point where even the characters are laughing at some of the lines, while the action knows that it’s having to outdo what has come before by frequently referencing it.
And this time around, there are even nods to other movies that may have informed some of the choreography choices, whether it’s Die Another Day 007 or Face/Off‘s Somewhere Over The Rainbow gunfight, which places a child at the centre of the bullet-ridden carnage.
As if that wasn’t enough, there’s even a sublime extended cameo from Dame Helen Mirren, hamming it up as the Cockney mother of Statham’s character, who has a crucial part to play in proceedings.
Indeed, the good time being had by the cast almost effortlessly translates to the viewer and even helps to overcome some of the inevitable lulls in proceedings and contrivances within the plot. For if you properly lifted the lid and took a peak under the bonnet, there are plenty of holes to be found that could easily bring another franchise to a screeching halt.
For starters, the plot doesn’t really make sense, while the stunts frequently defy the laws of gravity. Most of the characters are wasted (especially Kurt Russell’s still intriguing Mr Nobody), while their story arcs defy logic. It’s perhaps a testament to the continued goodwill surrounding this franchise that the films can emerge so unscathed. They’re now virtually critic-proof.
But therein lies the rub. Fast & Furious 8 does know its audience and delivers the goods in spades. It remains an entertaining joyride that shows little sign of slowing down just yet.
Running time: 136mins
UK Release Date: April 12, 2017