Director: F. Gary Gray
Cast: Vin Diesel, Dwayne Johnson, Jason Statham, Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese Gibson, Chris “Ludacris” Bridges, Helen Mirren, Nathalie Emmanuel, Elsa Pataky, Scott Eastwood, Kurt Russell, Charlize Theron
Runtime: 2 hrs 16 mins
Rating: PG13 (Some Violence and Coarse Language)
Released By: UIP
Official Website: http://www.fastandfurious.com
Opening Day: 13 April 2017
Synopsis: Now that Dom and Letty are on their honeymoon and Brian and Mia have retired from the game—and the rest of the crew has been exonerated—the globetrotting team has found a semblance of a normal life. But when a mysterious woman (Oscar winner Charlize Theron) seduces Dom into the world of crime he can’t seem to escape and a betrayal of those closest to him, they will face trials that will test them as never before. From the shores of Cuba and the streets of New York City to the icy plains off the arctic Barents Sea, our elite force will crisscross the globe to stop an anarchist from unleashing chaos on the world’s stage…and to bring home the man who made them a family.
Coming off ‘Fast and Furious 7’, this eighth instalment was always going to pale in comparison – not because this latest would not be able to top its predecessor with even bigger stunts (oh no, for the record, the three major stunt pieces here are, in our opinion, accomplished even better in terms of planning, pacing and plain exhilaration) but because it would simply be impossible to echo the latter’s emotional poignancy brought on by the sudden and tragic death of lead star Paul Walker. To newcomer director F. Gary Gray and recurring writer Chris Morgan’s credit, ‘Fast and Furious 8’ has the dignity to leave the honorable departure of Walker’s character intact. Indeed, there are only two mentions throughout the whole film of Brian: one, when the newly wedded Mrs Toretto (Michelle Rodriguez) reminds their peacockish supporting player Roman Pearce (Tyrese Gibson) to leave Brian and Mia to their idyllic family life; and two, Dom (Vin Diesel) makes a personal dedication to Brian.
If you’ve seen any of the ubiquitous promotional materials, you’ll know that this first chapter of a brand new trilogy intended as the grand finale of the series is premised on Dom turning his back against his ‘family’, joining hands with a mysterious cyberterrorist named Cipher (Charlize Theron) to steal an EMP device, a suitcase of Russian nuclear launch codes and last but not least a nuclear submarine. Oh yes, we’re a long way from the street racing-centred action/ crime thrillers of before; in the words of former federal agent Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson), no less than World War III is at stake here. How such a save-the-world mission would fall in the hands of a couple of street racers and some career criminals defies logic or explanation, but neither need be present in order to enjoy the testosterone-driven pleasures which this movie offers; in fact, this joyride is all about indulging in utterly over-the-top action amidst some infectious cast chemistry, both of which it delivers in spades.
Demonstrating from the get-go that it is worth every bang for your buck (and we mean ‘bang’ very literally), the movie opens with a terrific street duel in Havana, Cuba, where Dom is honeymooning with Letty. As you may imagine, the race is uneven – whereas his opponent is driving the ‘fastest car in Havana’, Dom is stuck in a stripped-down jalopy with a tank of nitrous oxide hooked up to the engine. By the end of the chase, Dom will be driving the car in reverse, its engine fully engulfed in flames. It is ridiculous no doubt, but inventively conceived and impeccably executed, and you’ll not only find yourself on the edge of your seat by the time Dom crosses the finish line but also pumping your fist in the air. Most race and chase adventures would probably be content to end on such a high note, but it speaks to the spirit and ambition of ‘Fast and Furious 8’ that this is only warm-up compared to the later two even more outrageous set-pieces.
The one in the middle act set in New York City has Cipher’s minions commandeering an army of hacked auto-driving ‘zombie’ cars to stop the Russian defense minister’s security convoy, before finally pinning down the target among a jumble of vehicles that have rained down from a multistory parking garage. And the piece de resistance is set in the Arctic’s Barents Sea, where after failing to stop Cipher from gaining control of a Russian submarine, Dom and his crew have to outrun it before it reaches open waters. It gets as absolutely nonsensical as Luke stepping out of his vehicle to gently nudge the course of a speeding torpedo with just his bare hands, but boy oh boy if it isn’t gorgeously choreographed from start to finish. As he showed in the surprisingly fun remake of ‘The Italian Job’ back in 2003, Gray knows precisely how to orchestrate the rhythm of an elaborate action sequence, slowing things down every now and then and letting the charismatic players exchange a witty quip or two to let us catch our breath before the next exchange of gunfire or explosion.
Certainly, the later ‘Fast and Furious’ movies would not be what they are without the crackling chemistry between its leads. Gibson’s banter with Chris ‘Ludacris’ Bridges’ Tej Parker is still entertaining as ever, especially as each tries to undermine the other in order to win the affection of whip-smart computer whiz Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel). Kurt Russell’s enigmatic special agent Mr Nobody shows up from time to time to join the fun, together with his new sidekick/ underling played by Scott Eastwood. But the most laughs belong to Johnson and Statham, whose incessant macho bickering is among the film’s main pleasures – the latter in particular steals the show by parkour-ing out of a maximum-security prison and in a cheeky sequence atop an airplane taking out a whole handful of baddies while juggling a baby bassinet. Between them, Diesel’s brooding, tortured act here is somewhat overshadowed, lacking Walker’s Brian as his perfectly matched rational complement.
Like we said at the start, ‘Fast 7’ was always going to be a tough act to follow, but this follow-up ratchets up the action in wholly insane but unexpectedly delightful ways. As a popcorn movie built and fueled by sheer adrenaline, it is not in the least disappointing and at times in fact immensely satisfying. As an ensemble piece, it boasts great chemistry and plenty of wisecracks. As the latest addition into the ‘Fast and Furious’ canon, it is not just fast and furious despite its two-hour plus runtime but also an absolutely worthy entry that gives fans exactly what they want. And as to the proverbial question whether this franchise has run out of gas or running on fumes, let’s just say that there is plenty left in the tank for two more rounds, and it’s safe to say that where this fast-car enterprise goes next is no longer bound by the laws of gravity.
(Loud, over-the-top and utterly nonsensical, but also inventively conceived and impeccably executed, this latest 'Fast and Furious' chapter is everything fans want to see - and have come to love - about the franchise)
Review by Gabriel Chong