Director: F. Gary Gray
Starring: Vin Deisel, Dwayne Johnson, Jason Statham, Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese Gibson, Chris ‘Ludacris’ Bridges, Charlize Theron, Kurt Russell, Scott Eastwood, Nathalie Emmanuel
Written by: Chris Morgan and (based on the characters created) Gary Scott Thompson
Running Time: 136 mins
Release date: 12th April 2017
The Fast & Furious films have almost become impossible to criticise. From their small, now humble, beginnings as B-movie fodder about street car racing, they have grown into one of the most profitable franchises around and they are, like their cast of ever increasing characters, indestructible. They also seem to be getting louder and sillier by each film. Now we are number 8 and after the somewhat sombre ending of the previous movie, this starts with ludicrous and gets increasingly bonkers by the minute.
While honeymooning in Cuba, Dom is stopped in the street by a mysterious blonde woman and tells him he must turn his back on his “family”. When the team are brought back together to steal a sonic weapon from Berlin, Dom does exactly that and takes the weapon for himself. Now the team must fight against their former leader who has joined forces with a cyber-villain, Cipher. The team left almost in tatters, are sent out to bring Dom and Cipher down, with the help from a few old enemies.
I was never a fan of the early movies and neither, as it seems, were many others, especially when Tokyo Drift came on the scene without either of its lead stars. Yet since Fast & Furious, the series has become an automobile version of James Bond. We have a tick list of things to expect from each movie: exotic locations, super fast cars, half-naked women, at least one street race and tonnes and tonnes of destruction. This entry ticks those boxes and then some.
The film starts with the street race in Havana (two boxes ticked there), except the lunacy of the outcome of the race will make even the harden fans say “really?” We then bounce from country to country ending up in the arctic Barents Sea, where the finale is so over-the-top, you will wonder how on earth they are going to top this next time (and there will be a next time, mark my words).
During the middle parts, we get cars being destroyed 19 to the dozen, in scenes that even The Blues Brothers couldn’t have imagined. One particular moment of madness, in the streets of New York, involve self-driven cars by the hundreds, tumbling from a multi-storey car park like confetti. Even my jaw dropped into my lap. Newcomer director F. Gary Gray handles these sequences magnificently. Where he struggles are in the more explanatory moments, when the cast is sitting around looking at giant computer screens and desperately trying to make the nonsense sound believable.
Thankfully, help is on hand in the form of three of its cast members. With Paul Walker sadly no longer with us, it’s up to Dwayne Johnson to take over from his position and he does it with aplomb. Whether it be using his huge bulk to flatten every man who dares tackle him, or even taking on a torpedo (yes, it needs to be seen to be believed!), Johnson comes at it with both guns blazing, while having his tongue jammed so hard into his cheek, it’s amazing it doesn’t force itself out! Add to the equation, last year’s villain, now siding with the good guys (don’t ask), Jason Statham.
The Stath has always been a watchable action star but here he brings a whole new level to his persona. The macho slanging matches he has with Johnson are often hilarious but then he goes an extra mile with a sequence, which borrows heavily from John Woo’s Hard Boiled, that should go down as one of the year’s most memorable. As he did in Spy, Stath has proven he’s a good comedy actor as well as knowing how to kick someone’s teeth in.
Along with those two heavyweights is Kurt Russell. His Mr Nobody introduced in the last film is given a bigger slice of the pie this time, coming in when the rest of the cast struggle to make the contrived plotting even more complex and giving the layman’s version, he brings an air of cinematic royalty to the proceedings that lights up the screen. Along with newcomer to the series, Scott Eastwood, who looks like the permanent replacement for Walker, they bring a normality to the nonsense. He looks like a man having the time of his life.
Oscar-winner Charlize Theron as the baddie, Cipher, is given very little to do but spout the usual bag of baddie cliches and tap away at a computer, which is a shame as we know she’s a decent action actress (Mad Max: Fury Road, anyone), while Vin Deisel is mean and moody as Dom, trying not to give the reasons why he is doing what he is doing away to his “family” while still kicking them when they are down.
There are a couple fo decent surprises thrown in for good measure but while this isn’t as slick as the previous film, deciding to just up the volume and carnage by several notches, this is still a hugely enjoyable popcorn blockbuster that probably has more in its tank to keep going. I, for one, don’t mind going along for the ride.