The Fast and Furious franchise has continued to entertain way beyond its shelf-life, stretching out into the niche of spectacular spectacles and silly fun. While the seventh instalment could have been the high point end to the franchise, audiences should still get themselves ready to strap themselves in for another ridiculous adventure. This time around the family must face off against one of their own in Vin Diesel‘s Dominic Toretto.
The same team from the previous films returns to drive cars, blow things up and punch people but somehow the fun just isn’t there. As each film grew bolder, audiences have come to expect the franchise to pay out on constant ante-upping spectacle after spectacle. While the set pieces here are good, it’s never as ridiculous as it should be and pales in comparison to the previous films. As a small reward, the smaller scale action sequences and character development are much more pleasing to watch this time.
The film begins in Cuba, where we see the three things the franchise began with: illegal street races, fast cars and butts. Dom and Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) are celebrating their honeymoon when a relative has a scuffle over an outstanding debt; naturally Dom steps in and decides to settle it the way he always does – a car race. The heavy and fast-paced head-to-head gives you a sense of the film's continuing energetic style, though slow-motion sequences become painfully dull with the action off-centre and uninteresting.
Charlize Theron leads as the villain Cipher. An elite hacker who enlists Dominic into her gang who for most of her screentime shows herself as an intellectual mastermind, with more meat in her dialogue than you’d expect (though the bar is set pretty low). Cipher’s goal isn’t necessarily to rule the world but to make it accountable – through manipulation and force. Her ability to hack into anything makes her an invisible threat, even driving a horde of hacked ‘zombie cars’ through New York City to block traffic and cause mayhem.
As for the team, Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) is still part-tank, part-cop; Roman Pearce (Tyrese Gibson) delivers one-liners and bad jokes; Tej (Ludacris) and Megan (Nathalie Emmanuel) are the suave technicians and Letty provides the necessary reminders of family obligations. Not much has changed, but for the side characters we do get some development. Jason Statham rounds out the cast with his usual gutsy British hard-man act, providing a nice dynamic to the ‘family’, plus several other characters surprise softening the franchise's harder edges.
As the plot grows more convoluted, things can become quite jarring for the audience, switching to comedic moments frequently to distract from the film's flaws– in one instance, genuine potential for a good emotional scene becoming laughably bad soap opera.
Fast and Furious 8 is a fun ride (pun intended), but it is certainly less entertaining than its predecessors. For the sake of entertainment, fans of the series will have come to accept the inherit flaws in a film about street racing as well as saving the world, but this time Fast and Furious doesn’t take any risks. It’s a step down but leaves itself open for an inevitable sequel.
By Sunny Ramgolam
Fast and Furious 8 is released in cinemas from April 12.