So, here we are. Another year, another F&F movie. I’ll pin my colours to the mast early and say I’ve been a fan of the franchise in the past with Tokyo Drift the stand-out for me. However, recently I’ve been getting a little tired of the whole lot, will eight be the lucky number?
F&F8 sees the usual gang take on a new enemy in the form of Cipher, Charlize Theron (Kubo and The Two Strings, Prometheus), who is a hacker. She forces Diesel to work for her and betray his ‘crew’ (people don’t actually use that word anymore, huh.) who then have to hunt him down with the help of Mr. Nobody, Kurt Russell (The Hateful Eight, Bone Tomahawk), Little Nobody, Scott Eastwood (Suicide Squad, Diablo) and Deckard, Jason Statham (Furious 7, Crank).
I’m sure you know that the Fast & the Furious franchise is a long way from where it started. Despite that, each writer and director seems to fire-up the same template and so we always have some kind of drag race, usually for a car, some kind of large car chase, a ridiculous stunt, lots of people talking normally through open windows of cars whilst driving at high speeds, Diesel’s car will wheelie and a BBQ at the end.
This time round the writer is Chris Morgan, who penned Tokyo Drift as well as the 2009, 2011, 2013 and 2015 outgoings (and 47 Ronin). The man behind the camera is F. Gary Gray (Straight Outta Compton, The Italian Job (2003)). Morgan keeps with the tried and tired formula of chases, fight scenes, ridiculous stunts, people talking through open windows of cars whilst driving at high speed (not even shouting!?), the wheelie and a BBQ at the end.
I was hoping Gray might bring something a little different to the action and he does, but not in a good way. The pacing seems off, we always seem to be a few seconds behind the action which is particularly annoying when we’re viewing it all through shaky-cam mode too! This means we miss the start of a fight, or the final move in a fight or we just catch the end. It should be called Fast and Infuriating!
But that’s not the biggest problem with the eighth outing, if only. From what I can remember, this is the first in the F&F series whereby I’ve actually been bored. I just wanted it to end, quickly. It was all predictable and for all the great actors they’d managed to get, each one is wasted.
Theron spends 90% of her time in a plane shouting at computer screens. Helen Mirren (Trumbo, Red) pops up as Statham’s mum in, what should have been, the outstanding piece of casting of the year. Instead she puts on an awful cockney accent and does next to nothing. Hasn’t anyone involved in F&F seen Red or Red 2? Give the woman a gun! Russell pops up every now and again to basically tell us, the audience, what the feck is going on and try to keep up interested.
Then we get to Diesel. Oh Vin Diesel, such promise, now left to simply return to all his previous films (XXX, Riddick) and try to turn them into franchise’s somewhere as big as this one. He looks bored in every scene. He has the range of Groot, it makes that particular piece of casting a work of genius, and he seems annoyed whenever he’s not the centre of attention.
He’s now producing this series (has been since 2009) and seems intent to keep giving us more Dominic Toretto, mining every possible story-line – good or bad. It feels like there’s no-one round him telling him, ‘hang on a minute, perhaps that’s not such a good idea, maybe Statham and Johnson should lead now’. From the documented spats it seems the opposite will happen.
The stunts are just silly, I mean, we expect them to be silly, it’s the Furious series, but they are way over the top in this. It’s not just the stunts though it’s the stupidest of things. As with most films these days we globe-trot around the world and end up in a cold and icy Russia. No idea how they got there but there they are and with their vehicles of choice…it’s cold, it’s icy, it’s Russia. Yet no-one is dressed for this and none of the cars are enhanced with, oh I don’t know – snow chains?
Instead Tyrese Gibson’s character elects to bring a Lamborghini. To Russia. To snow. And then manages to drive, at high speed, away from the bad guys who are in heavily armoured military vehicles (but keep up, of course). This is while Diesel is driving around in a heavily armoured, super-fast, American muscle car that handles just fine on the ice thank-you-very-much and can even pull off enormous jumps despite the fact it probably ways three-tons!
Look, I’m all for suspending belief in movies, it’s what I enjoy most about them, the escapism, the make-believe. But I have to be able to buy-in to what’s going on. Either the whole thing is OTT and unbelievable or nothing is, this middle-ground just doesn’t cut it anymore.
What does work, and works very well, is Statham and Dwayne Johnson squaring off against each other. They fling insults around and it’s funny. Statham is, without doubt, the stand-out in this. His character is having fun, he takes the p*ss out of everyone and everything, he’s saying what we’re thinking and he should have a spin-off with Mirren, now that I’d love to see.
But that’s not what’s happening. No, instead we have F&F 9 and 10 announced. I’ll be honest, I’m dreading them. Sometimes it’s best to know when to cut and run, I think eight was it.