Starring Vin Diesel, Charlize Theron, Dwayne Johnson, Jason Statham, Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese Gibson, Helen Mirren, Elsa Pataky, Kurt Russell, Scott Eastwood, Nathalie Emmanuel, Chris ‘Ludacris’ Bridges
3 STARS (out of 5)
It’s quite difficult to believe quite how far the Fast and Furious franchise has come – from its early days as a series of cult movies surrounding underground street racing to the critically lauded Furious 7, the big name cast have been thrilling and spilling for big audiences for several years now – perhaps mystifying those who have yet to see an installment. It’s an action franchise that not only benefits from big stunts and big locations, but also from a strong core in its leading cast – this really has become an Expendables cast of sorts – and given that the surprisingly deep Furious 7 resonated well with audiences and even garnered majority approval from Rotten Tomatoes, it was only a matter of time before we’d see the gang back together again. The eighth film, of course, sets off following the untimely passing of series stalwart Paul Walker, who was given a fitting departure in Furious 7 – which he had filmed the majority of scenes for before a tragic accident took his life. But just where can this franchise go?
Everywhere it hasn’t, it would seem. While previous movies may have been grounded in smaller stories, they have been growing more and more dramatic and are even starting to blend in with some of the bigger action franchises out there. This time around, the central crew find themselves pitted against their own leader when Dom (Diesel) finds himself on the receiving end of a blackmail pact offered by the mysterious Cipher (Theron) – she has something on him that is forcing him to work for her, and ergo against his own crew. The twist therefore, this time around, is that the team we’ve come to know and love will now have to pit themselves against the indefatigable Dom Toretto for the first – and potentially last – time. But just what cards does Cipher hold?
The story is big, daft and is pretty much par for the course of any other big-name, big-noise thriller of recent years. Diesel has already resurrected one character in a similar franchise this year – Xander Cage – but the difference here is that the core cast is far better-established and that the cult following that has propelled Toretto and the gang to their eighth movie will likely still be turning out for the latest. Furious 7 tied off the initial run of movies very nicely, with surprising emotional and dramatic depth that simply weren’t on the table – Fast & Furious 8, or Fate of The Furious, is said to be kicking off a whole new trilogy for these guys. While this may be welcome, the eighth installment feels to be going through the motions a little more than it is adding to the mythos. The central twist may seem corny to some, but to those viewers who generally care about these characters, it will likely be interesting to see them interact under strange new circumstances. This is, ultimately, why sequels exist!
The Fate of the Furious (Fast & Furious 8) - Official Trailer (Universal Studios)
Detractors will likely point out that Furious 8 does little here to captivate a wider audience – anyone who isn’t initiated in the franchise will be unlikely to differentiate this from other big, brash action thrillers – but kudos must be laid at the door of its solid cast for continuing to captivate fans. All the actors here continue to bounce off each other well, and there’s even an opportunity or two for one or two of the later newcomers to the franchise to interact. Diesel is still a captivating lead, and Theron, once again, proves that she is one of the most talented antagonist character actors in Hollywood today. The remaining cast – Johnson, Statham et al – know their territory and bluster through with underlying passion that will likely keep the core audience interested – it’s just a shame that neither a more interesting story, nor more interesting conflicts, were established for a new trilogy. It’s unlikely in the long run that Furious 8 will hold up against some of its predecessors (let’s gloss over the early installments), but there’s plenty here for fans of action and the franchise to get their teeth into.
With no end seemingly in sight for Fast and Furious, it is at least humbling to see that there is still creativity and talent being ushered in – while other action franchises such as xXx may opt to flounder around in cliché, this series knows that people love these characters – and therefore, the stunt work, scene-setting and even additional casting remains top notch – they even managed to wrangle Kurt Russell on board for this one! As movies go, I would strongly suggest that this is one which will appeal to fans of the series - though as an entry-level thriller, anyone can dip into this for a bit of escapism without feeling their brain melt away too much.