By now we’re all familiar with the premise of the Fast and Furious franchise. It started out about an undercover cop infiltrating a car thieves group, and morphed into a Mission Impossible-eque, save the world from global destruction all-out slugfest.
Ever since Fast 5, each new installment has tried to outdo, out-ridiculous the previous one. In this 8th installment, they tried it again, introducing ‘zombie’ car hordes, submarine-jacking, torpedo kicking and even bigger explosives.
All said, the film achieve what it set out to do, which is give its audience a fast paced, non-stop, car and explosive-filled, fun, no-brainer popcorn blockbuster. While entertaining throughout, this certainly was not the best this franchise has seen. The plot to have Vin Diesel turn against his family, while very effective in spiking interest in the trailers, worked against the film in the end. The Fast films have always been more enjoyable with Diesel being the cool, carefree leader of the family, exchanging banter and showing love with everyone. This time they pretty much showed him scowling, sulking and yelling for pretty much the entire film other than the opening and ending, which sucked a lot of the usual fun out of it.
The new cyber villain Cipher, played by Charlize Theron, she who portrayed the iconic Furiosa in Mad Max Fury Road, fell way short of expectations. Cipher spent most of the film in the control deck of an aircraft in an unknown location, distant from the scene of action, dishing out simpleton instructions like ‘hack all of them’ to nameless henchmen or making threats that lacked urgency to Vin Diesel. There was definitely a missed opportunity here to create one of the more special villains in the franchise by featuring Theron in a more Furiosa-type female action role, by throwing her into the middle of the action sequences, be it a car chase, a fight scene or the all out war zone in the end. In the end it was a waste of Theron’s talent in a role they could have cast any second tier Hollywood actress in.
The dwindling crew was another problem that immediately stood out in this edition. With Gal Gadot off to play Wonder Woman, Han killed off, and Brian and Mia written off due to the untimely death of Paul Walker, the ‘family’ just didn’t feel the same. New recruits Scott Eastwood and Natalie Emmanuel (Ramsey) were decent but never stood a chance if the intention was to replace their predecessors.
The banter between Tyrese and Ludacris was the main comedic element of the film as usual, and the transformation of Jason Statham from all-out bad guy to a Jackie Chan-type martial artist/babysitter added a new humorous twist to the film. So the old guys pretty much still delivered. Maybe with the exception of The Rock, whose act of ‘I’m The Rock, rubber bullets just bounce off my chest’ is getting rather old. We’ve seen The Rock move on to much more computed, advanced roles in other films, so the constant reversion back to his WWE wrestling superhero style character in the movie was rather annoying, though he did have a couple funny lines and moments, especially in his exchanges with Statham.
All in all, there still were enough crazy sequences and funny exchanges in the movie to make it enjoyable for all. For the type of film it set out to be, it was a reasonable success, though it could have been that much better if a few parts were done right.
VERDICT: Grab your popcorn and Coke, much and laugh away to an enjoyable Sunday afternoon.