Warning: This review contains spoilers.
The Fast and the Furious 8, a.k.a The Fate of the Furious, a.k.a. bald men arguing over a bomb, is yet another instalment of what now looks to be a permanent biennial event, like Comic Relief only with better jokes.
This Wind in the Willows on growth hormones, has morphed from a mid-budget Point Break ripoff to a progressively more ridiculous set of mega-budget blowouts, which were it not for the mass audience friendly constraints imposed by Universal’s suits, would be the closest thing we have to the testosterone fuelled action spectaculars of yesteryear. They’re certainly as ridiculous and misogynist as old summer hits and just as silly when it comes to the values allegedly espoused. Family is what it’s all about, as Vin Diesel’s mob never stop telling us (to the point where we’d gladly see them all killed). This just happens to be a family movie that also features extortion, murder, theft, mass destruction and nuclear submarines.
By the time you get to movie no. 8, there’s the problem of repetition. How to keep the engine purring? Writer Chris Morgan, whose been copying and pasting ideas from movie to movie for some time now, employs a wheeze. Have team leader and talisman Dom, turn on his friends and join the villains.
Now Paul Walker’s retired on screen (deceased off), that would put our Top Gear mercenaries at quite the disadvantage. But Morgan, perhaps fearing his audience can’t handle two hours of evil Diesel, doesn’t have the courage to hide the main man’s true motives from the petrol-head crowd. Consequently, we understand he’s been coerced by hacker villain Charlize Theron from the get go, and later, inevitably, that her hold on him is based on a child he never knew he had – that all important family once again. Thus, Fast and the Furious 8 wastes the potential of its best idea and all the tension that could have been generated in its wake.
But this alas, was never a movie designed to take the audience on an emotional and psychological rollercoaster, just provide lunatic setpiece action, hand-to-hand combat and a little Bond-like cartoon spycraft. If that’s the bar for success, F8 vaults over it early on and keeps on climbing, with one nonsensical smash up after another, held together with a maguffin, a megalomaniac, and Helen Mirren’s outrageous cockney accent.
The giant ensemble, including a beefed up part for Jason Statham, earn their money with plenty of broad quips, muscle flexing, kinetic chases and brio. And as ever, said madness is cut with the kind of synthetic sentimentality we enjoyed a generation ago, now frowned upon by those more brooding, serious franchises that the Fast and Furious team thankfully ignore.
Ultimately, despite the fun and style-free histrionics, there’s the sense that just about everything that can be done with this group, has been done. That won’t stop more movies of course, but those revving up the next entry will need to dig deep; balls deep; for new elements before audiences catch on to (or should that be catch up with?) the fact that this unlikely juggernaut was creatively bankrupt two movies ago.