Should I Watch..? 'Fast And Furious 8'
What's the big deal?
Fast & Furious 8 (also known as The Fate Of The Furious) is an action thriller film released in 2017 and is the eighth instalment of the Fast & Furious franchise. The film sees the stars of the previous film reunite to tackle a ruthless cyberterrorist who has recruited Dominic Toretto to work for her instead. The film stars Vin Diesel, Dwayne Johnson, Jason Statham, Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese Gibson, Chris "Ludacris" Bridges, Scott Eastwood, Kurt Russell, Nathalie Emmanuel, Elsa Pataky and Charlize Theron and was directed by series newcomer F. Gary Gray. The film is the first in the series after Tokyo Drift not to feature Paul Walker who was killed in a car crash during filming of the previous movie or Jordana Brewster whose story-line was concluded in Fast & Furious 7. Released to a mixed reaction from critics, the film proved to be one of the most successful in cinema history as it became only the thirtieth film to earn more than £1 billion worldwide. A sequel is due in 2020 but the film was followed by a spin-off, Hobbs & Shaw, in 2019
What's it about?
Enjoying his honeymoon in Havana with his new wife Letty Ortiz, Dominic Toretto is approached by a mysterious woman who offers him a job. Initially declining her offer, Toretto discovers that she is a cyberterrorist known as Cipher who has been keeping a very close eye on Dom and his associates. After presenting Dom with a photo, Cipher forces his hand into accepting her work. After Dom and his crew are recruited by DSS and former running mate Luke Hobbs to recover a stolen EMP device, Dom betrays his "family" by causing Hobbs to crash and steals the EMP device for Cipher.
With Dom now considered rogue, the team meet up with the enigmatic Mr Nobody and his new associate to discuss their next step. Incredibly, Nobody suggests that they team up with Deckard Shaw - the criminal mastermind from the previous movie - to track down Toretto and bring him and Cipher to justice. But Cipher always seems to be one step ahead and with Toretto as her pawn, is there any chance that he can be stopped by those who know him best?
Trailer (contains language that may be offensive)
Dominic "Dom" Toretto
Chris "Ludacris" Bridges
Little Nobody / Eric Reisner
F. Gary Gray
Release Date (UK)
12th April, 2017
Action, Adventure, Thriller
What's to like?
If you're anything like me then you would have loved playing with toy cars in your infancy, especially the vividly designed Matchbox sports cars. I used to race them around furniture in my bedroom and living room, bouncing them off walls and skidding away from vast explosions as my young mind fuelled such antics with meaningless narratives - if there was a narrative at all. Don't ask me how but Fast & Furious 8 appears to have been lifted straight from my childhood memories as it is positively stuffed with more big-budget set pieces involving high-end exotica than fans of the series have come to expect. It's big, noisy and clearly ridiculous but that's precisely why people continue flocking to see these films. Maybe I'm not the only one who enjoyed their Hot Wheels.
To a large extent, these films have now become critic-proof in the sense that the films are going to become successful regardless of the flaws in the film, which I'll get to in a minute. Most viewers aren't going to be interested in narrative complexities or why a character from a previous film has returned for this outing. One advantage this eighth film has is that it's largely devoid of the emotional shadow cast over the seventh film following the death of Walker, even though his presence is still felt here through dialogue and subtle visual clues. Even the cast themselves, who exchange some witty banter in between yelling and issuing comical threats, are largely irrelevant because these films sorta play out by themselves. They just need people to speak the words so that's what they do. There's no character development here (although Rodriguez gets closest) but again, is that what fans really want? Somehow, I don't so.
- While the film didn't quite match the $1.5 billion Fast & Furious 7 made, this film did break the record for the highest grossing opening weekend when it earned more than $541 million in its first 48 hours of release. It has only been broken by two films since: Avengers: Infinity War in 2018 and Avengers: Endgame the following year.
- A week before filming finished, Johnson posted a message on his Instagram account that confirmed rumours of serious backstage issues between himself and Vin Diesel. Diesel apparently showed up late to set on several occasions, causing delays in filming as well as using his executive producer's influence to cut several of Johnson's scenes. Things got so bad between Diesel and Johnson that they didn't even shoot their scenes together.
- At the premier of Fast & Furious 7, Helen Mirren spoke enthusiastically about the film and expressed her desire to appear in the next film. Word of this got back to Diesel who then wrote a part for her in this film although she was uncredited in the role.
What's not to like?
As critic-proof as the series has now become, the film still has a great deal of issues that are begging to be addressed. We are all aware that these films exist in a universe that twists physics and logic at will to fit the story or action sequence but Fast & Furious 8 takes it to an even more obvious level. Take the end sequence when a submarine can catch up to numerous sports cars despite crashing through sheet ice but a heat-seeking missile can't. The film is littered with moronic moments like this which are so obvious that it's as though the film is daring you to point them out. But like I say, the film isn't concerned with such trivial matters as reality or story cohesion - which is good because this film's story makes absolutely no sense whatsoever.
I do applaud the film from moving away from the series' origins of street racing although there is a call-back to it at the start which is almost laughably bad. The series initially decided to become a series of heist flicks but this is proper spy territory now, full of Mission: Impossible style gadgets and misdirection that a posse of car racers would never be able to conceive of, let alone utilise. Every time they end up working for the authorities, they are given a video-game garage full of the sort of high-end dream machines that only Jay Leno and the Sultan of Brunei actually possess. All the while, as the stunts got sillier and the action scenes got dumber, I wondered how these characters got into this situation in the first place and how used to the chaos they are, given their humble origins. I wished I could see them react to the madcap danger they are in, however oblivious to it they appear to be.
Should I watch it?
This is the film where the series becomes only for fans now. Those of you who have enjoyed the franchise up to now will enjoy the trademark blend of stunts, action, monosyllabic delivery and casual sexism towards the female characters who are either love interests, former love interests or potential love interests. Those of you who are tired of the series will find everything they dislike on display here - a ludicrous level of violence and destruction that will depress and annoy you. However well made this film is, it is still tosh.
Great For: fans of the series, testing the tolerance of hearing aids, street racers with vast imaginations or ambitions
Not So Great For: brains, common sense, the Russian military
What else should I watch?
There are few film franchises that get eight films in but continue to rake the dollars like this series does - I can only think of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (if that counts), the Bond franchise and Star Wars. Lofty company indeed but I know which I'd rather watch. As for this noisy and explosive series, I believe the best film so far to be Fast Five which bravely dumped the street-racing theme to become more of an action-orientated heist film - breathing fresh life into the series and turning it into one of Hollywood's biggest earning. Fans, however, will either prefer the very first The Fast And The Furious or the poignant Fast & Furious 7 which bids a loving farewell to Walker and his character.
However, there are plenty of driving movies that do require an IQ greater than 70. Some of them have become iconic like Steve McQueen in Bullitt which may only have one driving sequence but it's possibly the greatest such scene in any movie. Vanishing Point and its spiritual predecessor Easy Rider may be somewhat foggy with the amount of purple haze in both movies but both have become seminal road movies in their own right. And more recently, Baby Driver was a loving tribute to films such as those with its multiple chase sequences and possibly one of the best soundtracks for a long time.
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© 2019 Benjamin Cox