Fast & Furious 8 (2017)

Family Feud

Director: F. Gary Gray
Running Time: 136 Minutes
Starring: Vin Diesel, Dwayne Johnson, Jason Statham, Michelle Rodriguez, 'Tyrese Gibson, Chris 'Ludacris" Bridges, Scott Eastwood, Nathalie Emmanuel, Kurt Russell, Charlize Theron

As the picture opens, with Dom and Letty (Vin Diesel and Michelle Rodriguez) enjoying their honeymoon in Havana, viewers bear witness to the typical hallmarks of the series. The camera regularly ogles girls in bikinis, before giving way to a street race between Dom and a generic adversary. As Dom races in his cousins rust bucket, that's left smoking and set to go boom, one gets the feeling this is all an obligatory inclusion. As though a film in this franchise cannot possibly survive without this crammed into the picture, no matter how tenuously it connects to the overall plot.

After that, Dom is approached by an elusive cyberterrorist named Cipher (Charlize Theron), who forces him to work for her. Shortly after, Dom and his team are recruited to help Agent Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) steal an EMP device. After the jobs completion, he betrays the team, running Hobbs off road and taking the EMP for Cipher.

When it comes to the films central conflict, why Dom betrayed his family, the reasoning is believable and rather understandable. However, this central plot point holds little conflict for the team, with the exception of Letty. Only she has trouble believing the leader of their team would do this, outside of an obligatory "No, that's impossible". By the films end, the screentime focused on this core conflict feels wasted, considering how throwaway the actual plot is. Considering the franchise has an endpoint in sight, this feels like a wasted opportunity.

More interesting are any scenes which have Jason Statham or Dwayne Johnson onscreen, especially when they're together. It's more enjoyable to watch than the morose main plot, and that's thanks to their dazzling chemistry. But this leads into the films most troubling aspect, and that's how easily Deckard Shaw is accepted into the group. Considering he murdered Han, a member of what Dom often called his family, the lackadaisical way the film glosses over this feels dishonest. In fact, considering 2009's Fast & Furious was centred around Dom getting revenge for Letty, this makes the central idea of family seems hypocritical.

Unforgivably, the film wastes the usually magnetic presence of Charlize Theron. After killing it as Imperator Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road, this seemed to be the franchises second best casting decision (the first being Helen Mirren's brilliant appearance). Instead of getting Theron behind the wheel, she's relegated to staring intently at computer screens, while rattling off generic lines. What a shoddy idea.

Scott Eastwood joins the cast as an apprentice to Mr Nobody (mockingly nicknamed Little Nobody). The intention seems to have him fill the void left behind by Paul Walker, which makes it unfortunate how unlikable and bland his character is. It's a contrast to Kurt Russell, who's a hoot as the aforementioned Mr Nobody.

As the franchise has developed from street races into heists, it's also developed an "anything goes" tone over the past few films. Director F. Gary Gray tries to keep this aspect alive, with an early moment resembling Looney Tunes, but the result is a mixed bag. A set piece in New York City sees Cipher controlling multiple vehicles, with it literally raining cars at one point. It's fun to watch, but seeing the characters drive with abandon for innocent bystanders is a tough pill to swallow. At the eighth film, you'd expect them to have some consideration by now.

The climax, set on icy terrain in Russia, involves Cipher attempting to acquire a nuclear submarine. It contains a number of entertaining moments, especially when Dwayne Johnson deflects a torpedo. The character interactions work to maximum effect, but it can't save what's ultimately an overlong sequence, that rapidly outstays its welcome.

From the fleeting nature of the main storyline, to the poor use of Charlize Theron, and especially how it's forgotten what Jason Statham did two films prior, there's plenty of problems in Fast & Furious 8. It may be as subtle as a wrecking ball to the car, but the problems outweigh any sense of fun, resulting in a largely average film.