Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Fast and Furious 8 - Movie Review

It’s absolutely astounding to think that The Fast and the Furious, a mediocre rendition of Point Break with cars, would lead into a complete global sensation. Indeed, following two sequels that led to diminishing critical and commercial returns you would think that this franchise would simply burn out, maybe continuing a second life on straight to DVD sequels. But star Vin Diesel truly believed in the series and pushed to have it continue. Things remained mediocre in the fourth film, even with the return of the original cast, but everything roared to life with Fast Five; the super charismatic Dwayne Johnson joined the crew and the movies switched from the street racing plotlines to be more crime based and featuring some epic car stunts. Rejuvenating the franchise, the sixth film got even bigger and the seventh film, perhaps bolstered by curiosity over the sudden tragic death of star Paul Walker, became one of the biggest films of all time, with each film getting bigger, more insane with the stunts and adding on more big stars, including Jason Statham and Kurt Russell.

As such it’s a tall order for Fast and Furious 8 to top the insanity of its predecessors. This time around Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) and his crew have retired and settled down following their exploits from the seventh film. However, their lives change when Dom meets cyber-terrorist Cipher (Charlize Theron) who convinces Dom to move back into criminal behaviour. This requires his fellow crew members, including secret service member Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) and Dom’s wife Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) to go after him and stop Cipher’s plan whilst requiring the assistance of their previously captured foe Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) who’s after Cipher for vengeance.

It may feel bizarre to say in a movie series that’s as ridiculous and over-the-top as this one but Fast and Furious 8 really has an issue with being farfetched. With the previous three movies the stunts were crazy but they at least had a semblance of being based in reality. This time however things are getting horribly ridiculous as it appears that the series is trying to move into science fiction territory with the plot threads of cars being hacked for grand setpieces. Add on an ending climax that involves Russian submarine missiles and you have a clear sign that the franchise is jumping the shark; don’t be too shocked if Fast 9 leads to the gang going to space. Meanwhile the story seems significantly more convoluted than it needs to be; Cipher’s plan is under explained and confusing, leading to the main plotline of the movie falling flat and the story feeling a drag. It doesn’t help that many of the plot points are predictable, allowing you to guess the result of a piece of dialogue and emotional moment, making the movie feel rote as a result. Even the action scenes and car chases aren’t amazingly inspired this time around with no real big fun in the cars until the final sequence in Russia, which is dumb but manages to get some excitement racing. The fact that some of the better action sequences, such as a prison breakout and a fight out in a plane, take place away from the cars don't help. It really doesn’t help that no main character can ever seem to get into any real peril, which takes away from the suspense big time – even after one character seemingly gets offed you know they’ll be back for more later on. As such this makes this entry unengaging.

As for the actors, it’s always been clear that there are few action stars less charismatic than Vin Diesel (the fact that his best and most suitable roles are as the voice of a robot and the voice of a talking tree that says just three words says it all) and here he’s as dull as ever, barely being able to come out of his slumbering mumble and rarely changing facial expressions. On the rare chance that he does put a bit of emotion into his acting he merely comes across as appearing slightly constipated. He’s always been one of the weakest links of the franchise and this continues to prove it. The positive is that his screen time is slightly reduced as the movie spends more time on Hobbs and Shaw, which is excellent given that Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham are two of the most charismatic action stars out there. Both actors have a great antagonistic chemistry together, trading barbarous insults with glee and both manage to get some enjoyable moments on their own that show off their action star abilities very well. Dom’s team all do well enough, with the exception of Tyrese Gibson’s Roman who’s still annoying, saddled with all the worst one liners and contributes nothing – it’s not enough lampshading the fact that Roman is useless, movie, actually give him something to do or drop him. Elsewhere, Charlize Theron is good and sinister even if her character and her motivations are very weak, Kurt Russell elevates the movie simply by being Kurt Russell and there’s a hilariously surprising cameo by none other than Dame Helen Mirren – if you ever wanted to see her as a Cockney crime lord a la the Krays, here’s your chance. As such, the cast is overall solid but it does miss the relatability of the late Paul Walker from the previous movies.

Fast and Furious 8 really is just business as usual and it’s really wearing thin at this point. The fact that science-fiction elements are being added into the plot in order to spice things up seem to indicate that the team behind the films are truly running out of ideas, which is worrying given that we have at least two more films to go before the franchise maybe comes to an end. Though it has its moments, most of them involving Johnson and Statham, it can’t help but feel like an unnecessary sequel that can’t build upon the fun of the previous three films. Let’s all hope that everyone involved can refuel and come up with some better ideas for Fast and Furious 9 (and for the love of God, people, don’t send them to space. I beg of you.)

Fast and Furious 8 – Directed by F. Gary Gray, written by Chris Morgan, produced by Vin Diesel and Neal H. Moritz, starring Diesel, Dwayne Johnson, Jason Statham, Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese Gibson, Chris “Ludacris” Bridges, Nathalie Emmanuel, Scott Eastwood, Kurt Russell and Charlize Theron. An Original Films/One Race Films production, a Universal Pictures film

1 comment:

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