Directed by F Gary Gray
Starring Dwayne Johnson, Vin Diesel, Jason Statham, Charlize Theron, Michelle Rodriguez, Helen Mirren, Scott Eastwood.
Released on 12th April 2017
Hey, we all know what to expect from the Fast And Furious franchise – and it’s not plot or dialogue – but have we really reached number eight? And is there any juice left in the tank. Its latest director, F Gary Gray, seems hell bent on proving there is – so he’s not just thrown the kitchen sink at it, but just about anything else to hand, including a nuclear sub.
You might have read some recent media coverage about Dwayne Johnson and Vin Diesel having some sort of on-going feud. I’m not going to speculate as to how true that is, but it makes a neat bit of publicity for this instalment, which sees Dom (Diesel) breaking away from his “family” and going rogue, under the influence of international terrorist Cypher (an ice blooded Charlize Theron). And that means it’s down to the rest of the crew to bring him back to the fold, at any cost.
They have a bit of help as well. Jason Statham is back as Deckard, this time on the right side of the prison bars, and there’s new arrival Scott Eastwood who goes by the name of Little Nobody – Kurt Russell is Mr Nobody. Eastwood looks to be here to stay as he’s clearly intended as the replacement for the much missed Paul Walker, whose character Brian started out as a cop and proved to be more than a little adept at what the gang gets up to. The set-up is the same for Eastwood, so not only have they used much the same storyline as before, they’ve picked an actor who isn’t exactly dissimilar to his predecessor.
It all gets off to a colourful start in Havana, with a race between Dom and local gangster Santos (Don Omar). There is, of course, no doubting the outcome, it’s just a question of how the winner goes about crossing the finishing line first. It’s as spectacular as you would expect – the usual car carnage – but that’s just the start. Because there’s car chase heaped upon car chase, enough wreckage to keep the whole car insurance industry in business for years, explosions and plenty of bloodless violence. There’s only one moment when somebody bites the dust that shows any sign of blood – and because of the nature of their particular death it has to. Otherwise, it’s as sanitised as usual, both in terms of the violence and the language.
There was a point in the film where I was getting perilously close to thinking “not ANOTHER car chase!” and at that moment the antidote arrived. It was Jason Statham, playing the hard man and winding up Dwayne Johnson like nobody’s business, but also giving The Rock a serious run for his money in the comedy stakes. We all saw in Spy that he had comedy chops, but there he was sending up himself. Here he’s just required to be funny – and he’s terrific. His finest hour is decking at least 30-odd adversaries one handed: in the other hand is a baby carrier containing one insufferably cute gurgling tot. Not that Johnson doesn’t show yet again that he has a neat line in comedy as well, only he does it earlier on. Especially when he’s been coaching his teenage daughter’s soccer team – and has also taught them a haka, which scares the beejesus out of the opposition!
It’s preposterous. It’s ridiculous. And it’s massive slice of entertainment. One that, thankfully, doesn’t take itself too seriously. It daren’t. It would look too silly for words. You don’t watch a film like this for the acting, although Theron is good as the icy villain. You can only assume that Helen Mirren isn’t taking herself seriously either as Mama Stath: she clearly wasted her money at the Dick Van Dyke School of Cockney Elocution. And she only has a couple of scenes, so it’s not much more than a cameo.
It doesn’t matter too much if you’re not au fait with the rest of the series. The moments that hark back to other episodes are so loudly telegraphed that they’re impossible to miss. And it all goes to show that there’s plenty of juice left in the Fast and Furious tank. It doesn’t look like running out of Diesel either.
Fast And Furious 8 (USA title: The Fate Of The Furious) is out now.