Fast & Furious 8

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If you are one of those that reads my blog to help you decide whether to watch a movie or not (rather than feeling obliged to do so because you are a close friend or family member) then this review may be a bit redundant. If you’re a fan of the Fast & Furious films then you’ve probably already decided to catch this one, if not then you are unlikely to be starting here. I guess the only question, for those of you that have previously boarded this seemingly never ending ride, is does this latest instalment match the quality of those that came before it? Well in this case quality is a relative term but the answer is yes, this film pretty much gives you what you would expect. The script is still as corny as hell, the gender politics continue to be all over the place, Vin Diesel still seems to think he’s in a serious drama and Tyrese Gibson clearly still thinks he is funny but to counteract this the action scenes remain consistently brilliant, the stunts are as audacious as ever, some of the cast have the same great screen presence and the whole thing is just a huge amount of fun. It is true that since the high point of number five these movies are getting progressively worse but that’s okay. It’s like saying that after Off the Wall each of Michael Jackson’s albums wasn’t quite as good as the last one. The early output was so much better than what anyone else was doing in the same field that it doesn’t matter, these guys remain the best at what they do. I’m not saying that the Fast & Furious films are better than Christopher Nolan’s Batman Trilogy, for example, but when it comes to pedal to the metal, bonkers, roller coaster action adventure flicks these guys are still way out in front.

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The angle with this one is that after years of going on about how nothing is more important than family, this very ethos causes one time protagonist Dominic Torreto to betray his crew and turn to the dark side. The reason for his apparent shift of allegiances is thankfully revealed early on and it kind of works although the conundrum it presents could fuel a series of philosophical ethics classes for a year. Clearly none of this is explored here though. He’s turned on his friends, cool, let’s throw some more cars around.

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There aren’t quite so many stand out set pieces here as there were in part 7 and nothing matches the prolonged plane chase of 6 but a couple of moments are truly jaw dropping. I mean who wouldn’t be excited by seeing suped up motor vehicles pursued by a nuclear submarine? There is also one point involving a deranged hoard of feral zombie cars that doesn’t make a lick of sense but is one of the most thrilling things I have ever seen on screen. It makes the end of The Blues Brothers look like Driving Miss Daisy.

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In between all of the automobile action we have a now largely familiar cast posturing and spouting cliched one liners with a commitment that you can’t help but find endearing. Sadly Paul Walker has now gone but he has been replaced by Scott Eastwood (now if they could get his Dad to cameo that would be spectacular). Most of the other usual suspects have returned though including both Mr Dwayne Johnson and Mr Jason Statham. Interestingly Johnson was quite vocal about how he reinvigorated this film series when he joined in Fast 5 (to be fair he did) but Statham is now unarguably the star of the show. There is a moment when the two of them are in prison together, locked up in opposite cells, and they spend five minutes arguing about which of them is the greatest. Once the doors open though the truth becomes plain. During the ensuing breakout Johnson’s Hobbs punches his way through every obstacle but Statham’s Shaw spins, somersaults, glides, windmill kicks and karate chops his way to freedom and it is a moment of beautiful, violent grace that The Rock could never hope to match. Statham also has the film’s best bit later on in an extended sequence that references the end of John Woo’s Hardboiled but to say anything more would spoil the surprise. Needless to say, the Fast & Furious films still have their treats for those that have enjoyed this particular flavour of cinematic candy before.

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The Ripley Factor:

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Unfortunately one returning character, who had previously been a really strong female combatant, is now totally disempowered and reduced to a lazy sexist trope for the sake of progressing the male’s narrative. With Gal Gadot and Jordans Brewster gone the responsibility for maintaining the Ripley Factor falls to Michelle Rodriquez and Imperator Furiosa herself Charlize Theron but it isn’t enough on this occasion to make up for all close ups of bikini bottomed butts. Helen Mirren briefly joins the party this time but she does the worst English accent done by an English person since Daphne in Frasier so the less said about that the better.

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Is this one for the kids?

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The film is a 12A of course. The parent’s guide says there is ‘some immodest dressing’, which is a delightful expression I’m going to steal for future posts, and there is some swearing. There are some fairly grizzly deaths implied but the editing trips over itself in its efforts not to show these. I would imagine the producer has a version on his computer somewhere that is a 15 but doesn’t have any of these clumsy cuts.

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