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Fast & Furious 8 Review


The longest running franchise sustained only by outrageous stunts and large men flexing at each other is back with Fast & Furious 8 (or the more pun-tactic Fate of the Furious for our American friends), and even if the marketing touts that everything changes with an ‘evil' Dom Toretto (Vin Diesel) taking on his family (say this in a low, guttural growl for the proper effect) of international street racers turned thieves turned extreme spies, it’s pretty much business as usual for the franchise. But while the previous movies (especially the fantastic Fast 7) got by on the virtue of being outrageous, brainless fun, this installment sees the cracks begin to show as you can feel that maybe everyone involved is taking the movie a bit too seriously.

After a brief detour to Havana to remind viewers that this franchise was once solely about street racing, the story kicks into high gear (......y’know what? I’m not sorry) when cyber terrorist Cipher (Charlize Theron doing nothing more than whispering menacingly and standing in front of a computer) coerces Dom into working for her to steal a trio of McGuffins that will result in her ....well, that part is never really explained. All you need to know about the story that it’s an excuse for  some outrageously inventive set pieces, and on that front, this movie delivers in spades. New director F. Gary Gray (The Italian Job, Straight Outta Compton) has a wonderful eye for action, infusing each set piece with a boundless kinetic energy that will plaster a huge smile across your face (especially when Jason Statham delivers the best action scene involving a baby since Hard Boiled) and remind you yet again how far this franchise has come from the first movie. Hell, this is even a million miles away from dragging a safe through the streets of Rio De Janeiro, as ‘zombie’ smart cars swarm the streets of New York City or a nuclear submarine chases our heroes across a frozen lake. Sequels always go bigger and better, and eight movies in, this feels like the natural evolution of the franchise.

But as much fun as these sequences are, there are huge swaths of narrative between them that go a long way to suck the fun out of the movie, going above and beyond logic and twisting itself into pretzels to actually work. Now, I know we all disengage our brains when it comes to a Fast & Furious movie and never even think that they have screen writers beyond two guys shouting “....and...and...then a tank comes out!!!!” in a room together, but the other movies knew they were mindless fun. Fast & Furious 8 tries to go dark and serious, and that’s its biggest misstep. It tries to make a gigantic deal out of Dom going rogue, but we all know it’s a swerve and by the end of it he’ll be sharing a meal with his family at the back of his house like he always does. This robs the story of the tension it clearly wants to build. I have to give kudos to the story for reaching back into the franchise’s past to explain his heel turn, but the movie grinds to a halt to address this, sapping the energy that was built up with the set pieces that came before out of the movie, and the audience. I didn’t want to mention this, but there is a giant Paul Walker shaped hole in this movie. He was the heart of the franchise. He kept it grounded even when it went way over the top. Without him, the movie doesn’t have that human anchor as all the characters have now become action movie caricatures.

That cast does go a long way to plastering over these problems, but even they struggle with making sense of the movie. Diesel emotes as you would expect Diesel to emote, evil Dom not really that much different from good Dom. Dwayne Johnson is charismatic as ever, and the rest of the usual crew, including Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese Gibson, and Chris Bridges, are fully comfortable in their roles. Despite his turning to the side of angels being incredibly convoluted (involving retconning the events of the last two movies to somehow be masterminded by Cipher), the addition of Fast 7 villain Deckard Shaw to the team is a welcome one, and Jason Statham is clearly having a blast in the role. As is Kurt Russell as government stooge Mr. Nobody, flashing us a huge, infectious smile whenever he’s on screen.

The Fast & Furious franchise was always about having fun, and there is plenty of that to be found in Fast & Furious 8, but serious narrative missteps stop this from being as great as fans want.


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The Movie Bit: Fast & Furious 8 Review
Fast & Furious 8 Review
The Movie Bit
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