Big, brawny and surprisingly heartfelt, everyone's favourite guilty pleasure franchise continues on its roll.
The Fast and the Furious franchise has come a long way since the LA set street racing first instalment way back in 2001. From the Marilyn Manson soundtracked mob bust intercut with a Vin Diesel-Michelle Rodriguez make out scene of The Fast and the Furious, to Dwayne Johnson taking out a drone with an ambulance in 2015’s Furious 7, it’s undergone quite the change and become arguably the definitive action franchise of the 21st century. In Fast & Furious 8 the family are back for their eighth outing and this time they’re up against ruthless hacker Cipher (Charlize Theron) and their de facto patriarch turncoat Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) in a battle that will test them like nothing before.
In a much different and far deeper incarnation of Toretto, Diesel provides perhaps his strongest work as the franchise’s star throughout Dom’s internal struggles and turmoil, inevitably Michelle Rodriguez finds herself up against her man and her performance works in a similarly strong way as Diesel’s. Fast & Furious 8 is deceptively human, Diesel and Rodriquez are a big part of this. Ludacris and Tyrese continue their charming and charismatic work, proving again to be great comedic foils for one another and relief for the film, Nathalie Emmanuel is dropped into their relationship and the family on the whole to entertaining effect. But it’s the alpha male mano a mano between Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham that steals the show. It’s perhaps Johnson’s best performance of the character since his introduction in Fast Five and Statham gets plenty more to do in comparison to his fairly limited tough guy villain role from Furious 7, their back and forths are funny and dripping with manliness that you can’t help but wish to boil over. But Statham gets his chance to snatch the spotlight away from Johnson in the third act, I won’t spoil what happens but Statham finds a new partner with whom to stake a claim to the year’s best on-screen duo. Theron’s Cipher is suitably ruthless and cold, giving the franchise the villain it needs this far into its run, perhaps by Theron’s standards it could possibly be a bit of a sleepwalk but it fits the film perfectly. The deceptive humanity of this latest instalment translates into a whole lot of heart too, in and among the darker tone and rougher edges, Fast & Furious 8 is a startling touching.
Fear not: Fast & Furious 8 manages to up the ante and even possibly match the insane action packed heights of Vin Diesel driving a sports car between skyscrapers of the seventh instalment and the infamous world’s longest runway from the sixth film. It’s cars, cars and more cars, particularly when the gang head to New York, which should appease longtime fans and the explosions come in the truck load. It’s carnage, bedlam, mayhem… there aren’t really enough superlatives to throw at director F. Gary Gray and the family to sum it up, but it’s loud and proud in all that it does, F&F‘s action is at the stage now that it’s futile to doubt it, go along with the gang and you’ll have an exhilarating time.
There are obviously some typical F&F problems here and there, it’s a little rushed into the premise, there’s a bit of filling in the gaps that needs to be done (a given if the rumours of the original near three-hour cut are to be believed) and some of the performances don’t quite hit (*cough*Scott Eastwood*cough*). But alas none of it matters when Fast & Furious 8 hits every expected beat and fulfils every expectation of the franchise, it’s a gloriously entertaining popcorn blockbuster. Family is everything and Fast & Furious 8 is a blast.
Fast & Furious 8, directed by F. Gary Gray, is distributed by Universal Pictures. Certificate 12a.