Synopsis – When a mysterious woman seduces Dom into the world of terrorism and a betrayal of those closest to him, the crew face trials that will test them as never before.
My Take – Can you believe that it has been 16 years since Vin Diesel‘s character Dominic Toretto and Paul Walker‘s character Brian O’Conner broke the big screen with their car chases quarter mile at a time? After clearly teaching us that in this world where the characters of Fast & Furious reside in, every character has a cool car & no one believes in the laws of physics, but I guess this series was never about logic, and just pure entertainment in the form of crazy chases, ridiculous survivals and total destruction along with an underlying theme about being a part of a family. Following its semi reboot with 2009s Fast & Furious (the 4th installment in order of release), each entry of this franchise has managed to rake to rake in more box office receipts along with some surprising critical acclaim, but following the tragic death of its star Paul Walker in 2013, it seemed like Furious 7 would be the end of the road for a series that had gone from a small-budget street-racing film all the way to a big-budgeted, globetrotting, scene-smashing, logic-trashing, car-trickery based heist film. However, with the 2015 film making over a billion dollars at the worldwide box office (currently standing at no 6 in the list of Highest-grossing films), it was inevitable that another film would be released, and this news did initially disappoint me. However, I can safely say this 8th installment of this absurd franchise has rightfully lived up to that mark, in my opinion I would probably consider this the most enjoyable entry into the franchise, despite how different it feels at times. The film has everything what you have come to expect from the ‘Fast and Furious’ films – Latino songs, sexy cars, breathtaking action, top-notch humor and some ‘wow’ moments indeed and of course our reassurance of the code that Dominic Toretto lives by. Be it the race in the opening sequence, the prison riot, hacked cars or the submarine, the film has all the expected adrenaline filled moments, but what separates this film from its predecessors, is its focus on the fracture in the loyalty of its lead team of players, and partly due to the vision from director F. Gary Gray (Straight Outta Compton, Italian Job remake), who has made sure that film, while keeping its humorous tones intact, move towards a bit more darker territory along with just being spectacular, resulting in something, which might differ according to the taste of every spectator, but for true fans this is ride is going to be completely fulfilling and worth a visit to a theatre near you.
The story follows Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel), who along with long time partner and now wife, Letty Ortiz (Michelle Rodriguez) is enjoying a quiet honeymoon in Havana, Cuba, and talking about possibly starting a family. However things change the moment a cyber terrorist named Cipher (Charlize Theron) enters the picture with a leverage over Dom herby forcing him to work for her when the moment arrives. Meanwhile, former DSS agent and current Toretto “family” member Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) is busy enthusiastically coaching his daughter’s soccer team when he’s approached by a government agent who tells him about an EMP (electromagnetic pulse) generator that has been stolen in Europe. In order to keep the mission off books, Hobbs calls Dom to assemble his team consisting of Roman (Tyrese Gibson), Tej (Chris “Ludacris” Bridges) and the brilliant computer hacktivist, Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel) to carry out the mission in Berlin. However, after the team recovers the EMP, Dom shocks everyone by suddenly running Hobbs off the road, taking the EMP, putting it into his vehicle and leaving Hobbs behind to get arrested. Confused by the situation, the team is quickly assembled by the mysterious government agent Mr. Nobody (Kurt Russell) & his new assistant (Scott Eastwood), who along with arranging Hobbs’ breakout also forces them to join hands and work with their old enemy Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) and to try and figure out how to stop Dom & Cipher, before they get their hands on something way more powerful. Well, no matter how it’s perceived there’s no denying how this 8th installment represents a far different film, in the sense of the sheer scale and budget, mainly as it is without a doubt the biggest and craziest film in the franchise. Here, director F. Gary Gary handles the directorial duties very well, blending the action and heart into its 136 minute runtime and while the story doesn’t veer much from the already established formula, another new threat that tries to divide and conquer, giving ample opportunities for the myriad of action heroes to fight, as well as collaborate, with each other, I think the writer Chris Morgan was quite smart to make the story intriguing with the betrayal of Dom to his family. Even though the narrative itself is full of some interesting plot points as we learn why Dom has turned dark, I think the important thing is that the revelation is very much in line with the character’s behavior and moral code, in this regard, the whole scenario of Dom becoming the antagonist feels less surreal, plus also created an interesting dynamic as to how each member of the team handles his betrayal. For the better parts, this works in creating a minimal drama even though there’s bound to be slight disbelief concerning the plot, or just disregard of simple physic in general. I also thought the pacing of the film was decent, however after the first act, the film sort of just doesn’t stop, this is arguably a good thing, as we don’t watch these films for intricate narratives, but rather the spectacle, even though, it gets confusing at times on why some things were happening or characters choices were made as the film progresses quite quickly. I also enjoyed how the text was overlaid onto the film to help establish the locations. The message of the franchise has always been ‘family’, despite a couple of additions and subtractions (the most noticeable unfortunately being Paul Walker after his fatal accident and his co star Jordana Brewster) we’ve gotten to know these characters better, and I was pleasantly surprised at how some of the plot twists we’re done.
We get some tossed in subplots that barely hold any weight: e.g. the Roman/Tej/Ramsey love triangle or Little Nobody trying to fit in with this gang of outlaws. Some of the characters also got more of a chance to play off each other and of course my favorite part of this film being the jailbreak scene where Hobbs has to stop Deckard from escaping prison and wreaking havoc. Seeing the two action stars fighting their way out of prison and preparing to duke it out is exhilarating and had me pumping my fists in the air with excitement. This scene is over-the-top and outrageous but I was having too much fun to care. The most surprising thing about the film was also the amount of humor induced here, in comparison to its predecessors, which I think was quite significant to keep the general audience hooked, especially with moments revolving around Tyrese Gibson and some around Jason Statham. And of course, with the F&F films, it’s not just about the numbers; it’s about the creativity. Yes! Embracing its silliness is an understatement here. While, ‘Fast 5’ showed us the destructive power of a large safe being dragged up city streets at high speeds, ‘Fast & Furious 6’ was the film when a bunch of cars took down a plane and ‘Furious 7’ included a car driving straight from the upper floors of one skyscraper to another – and a bunch of cars “jumping” out of an airplane! Is it even possible to top those scenes? Apparently it is! As Cipher and her minions hacking into dozens of smart cars which they crash all around a limo on the busy streets of New York, in order to help Dom complete his mission. Plus we got sequences of cars dodging a submarine, redirecting a torpedo with your hand, arm curling a steel bench, and pretty much stopping World War 3 etc are only a few of the things the team have to do. However, there’s a clear difference with this franchise than most. The F&F series has made it clear from the get-go that these stories always come down to family. So it may not seem like there are any consequences when they come out of fights without a single scratch, but if you buy into them as a family than it doesn’t really matter how unrealistic & loud the film can get. As I said earlier, the film has some twists you might not see coming, which leads to some unexpected cameos, while some of these moments are impressive, or spot on timed to maximize their appearance, yet there are others that were wasted and could have greatly been expanded upon to further amplify their involvement. I can’t say much, but I will admit that almost all the guest appearances held pertinence to the story, they just needed more time. Yet the biggest flaw is still the editing of the films, while the film may have lots of excitement to keep the film going, but there are plenty of moments that could have been left for an extended cut. A random cousin at the beginning for an almost pointless race, an overdramatic taunt that gets lost in the scheme of the film, and even a few punch fests just weren’t needed. In addition, some of the characters felt a little robbed, until that one factor comes in where they are needed. These sloppy moments feel disjointed, unnecessary, and dilute the story into those eye-rolling moments that could have been so much better; perhaps these moments will be strengthened in the next two apparently final films. Coming to the performances, the film features an ensemble cast, featuring actors mostly known for their non acting skills, many seen before in the franchise, who clearly share great chemistry together, leading to a more enjoyable viewing experience. Well of course with the exception of Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham, who genuinely share some funny moments together, while they get to deal with some awful dialogues the two of them really do make it work, and Statham gets some awesome moments in the climax of the film, seriously, it’s hilariously brilliant and I hope Statham remains a franchise regular from here on in and as expected Johnson is a natural. Helen Mirren & Luke Evans have a brief appearance and it was well worth it. Scott Eastwood was also a fun addition as a rookie to Mr. Nobody, while Kurt Russell continues to ooze his awesomeness. Charlize Theron as the villain was a perfect choice! Walking the line between being cheesy and subtle at the same time, the Oscar winning actress is excellent, but sadly, she does not have much to do besides her menacing threats and being in a command room throughout the whole film. Despite drawing the shortest end of the straw, Nathalie Emmanuel plays her part well. Franchise regulars, Vin Diesel & Michelle Rodriguez seem comfortable in their long lasting roles and still manage to share a nice dynamic. Tyrese Gibson and Chris “Ludacris” Bridges still continue to be hilarious, while Kristofer Hivju & Elsa Pataky are wasted. On the whole, ‘The Fate of the Furious’ aka ‘Fast & Furious 8’ is the aisle stomping entertainment you expect it to be thanks to its absurd yet enjoyable spectacular feats.
Directed – F. Gary Gray
Rated – PG13
Run Time – 136 minutes