Wednesday 18 October 2017

Fast and Furious 8 review - A car chase scene that never ends

The latest franchise instalment is flashy, funny, loud, and undeniably entertaining

Subterfuge: Cipher (Charlize Theron) drives a wedge between Dom (Vin Diesel) and the rest of the gang in the latest Fast & Furious flick
Subterfuge: Cipher (Charlize Theron) drives a wedge between Dom (Vin Diesel) and the rest of the gang in the latest Fast & Furious flick

Paul Whitington

If you had never seen a Fast and Furious film before and happened to wander into this one, you might conclude that you'd concussed yourself somehow and urgently needed a lie down. Loud, crass and tinny as an empty Coke can, the F&F movies unfold with a brash confidence that seems entirely at odds with their semi-literate scripts.

A sprawling cast of street types and former cops has been whittled down over the years by deaths actual and fictional, but the franchise makes so much dosh that well-known actors are always game for eye-catching appearances.

Kurt Russell, Helen Mirren, Charlize Theron and returning villains Jason Statham and Luke Evans are among Fast and Furious 8's impressive cast, and as Fast 7 made a staggering $1.5bn, their efforts have no doubt been well rewarded. At the heart of it all, of course, is Dom Toretto (Vin Diesel), the former street racer and reluctant criminal who has settled down in Havana with his lady love Letty Ortiz (Michelle Rodriguez) when trouble comes calling, as it inevitably must.

After a terrifically silly opening sequence in which Dom wins a street race driving backwards in a burning car, he's walking home looking pretty pleased with himself when a chancy looking female emerges from nowhere to buttonhole him. She is Cipher (Theron), a badly dressed international terrorist who has a bone to pick with Dom as his actions have interfered with her grand plans.

What does she want? It's never really made clear, but when she shows Dom an image on her phone, it's enough to cloud his brow and force him to betray his team and enter her service. Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson), Roman (Tyrese Gibson), Tej (Roman Pearce) and co are baffled and not a little hurt when Dom helps steal a suitcase containing Russian nuclear codes from under their noses. And while Letty remains convinced he's being blackmailed, Hobbs declares war and vows to stop him at any cost.

In doing this he's persuaded by US intelligence boss Frank Petty (Russell) to work with his detested rival Deckard Shaw (Statham), who's encountered Cipher before and could help bring her down. Hobbs and Shaw spend most of their time butting chests and trading ridiculous threats for comic effect (some of them are actually funny). But Dom's predicament is no joke, and Vin Diesel is regularly forced to shuffle through his slim Rolodex of facial expressions for the entry marked 'anguish'.

Like all its predecessors, Fast and Furious 8 is a kind of masterclass in bad acting. Dwayne Johnson, while immensely likeable, will never be mistaken for Marlon Brando: Jason Statham can't act, Michelle Rodriguez can't act, and Diesel's 'acting' defies description. Even the good actors are dragged down to their level: the normally excellent Charlize Theron seems glassy-eyed, wooden, while Helen Mirren's turn as a Cockney criminal matriarch would have got her kicked off the set of EastEnders.

Somehow, though, none of this seems to matter. I'd boo someone if they acted well in one of these films, and a franchise that began with a certain urban edginess has long since descended into knowing campness. In fairness, the actors seem to be in on the joke: Johnson misses few opportunities to take the rise out of himself, while Statham has great fun during an extended fight sequence conducted while holding a baby. Scott Eastwood (the spitting image of his daddy) is the butt of many jokes playing an officious young agent, and acquits himself well.

But the action sequences are the real star, particularly an epically ridiculous climactic battle on Russia's frozen Arctic shore between a small army of flash cars and a nuclear submarine (don't even bother to ask). Absurd? You betcha, but boy do director F Gary Gray and his cameramen handle the whole thing well. Even better is a highly amusing scene in which self-driving cars are hacked remotely to cause chaos in mid-town Manhattan. What does it all mean? It means the last one made a fortune, and this one will surely do the same.

Fast and Furious 8

(12A, 136mins)

3 Stars

Films coming soon...

Rules Don't Apply (Warren Beatty, Lily Collins, Alden Ehrenreich); Their Finest Hour (Gemma Arterton, Bill Nighy, Sam Claflin); Handsome Devil (Fionn O'Shea, Nicholas Galitzine, Andrew Scott); The Zookeeper's Wife (Jessica Chastain).

Irish Independent

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