Eight films in and the producers of the Fast and Furious franchise are clearly learning. The franchise has changed completely, with the series now being about a team of super-thieves/cops/fugitives rather than street racers. It grows with every franchise (and kills a few people off along the way) and gets bigger and bolder every time. Fast and Furious 8 (or Fast 8 for simplicity sake) is no different, except it changes the focus slightly.
It was clear from the previous Fast and Furious movies what the series biggest strength was and it wasn’t cars – it was The Rock. Joining in Fast 5, the Rock has become the best part of the series. The best movie in the franchise (Fast and Furious 6) featured him as a prominent character and when he is side-lined (Fast and Furious 7) the movie suffers because of it. Luckily, Dwayne Johnson is at the forefront of this movie, although this time he leads the team.
That is because the movie has taken an interesting route with the story. One struggle the series has always had is who the team will be facing. Although the villains of the last two instalments have improved (more on them later), for the first five film they were generic. It feels slightly like stunt-casting but this movie places Charlize Theron in the villain-shoes and then adds Fast and Furious hero himself Vin Diesel in her grasp as her errand boy. The “Fast Family” versus Dominic Torreto is an interesting concept and a good hook to make the movie different.
It also raises the stakes enough to then include each (surviving) supporting character from the previous movies. This doesn’t just include Tyrese, Ludacris, Michelle Rodriguez and even more minor characters like Kurt Russell’s Mr Nobody, but also villains and the greatest addition to the heroes since The Rock – Jason Statham.
This movie doesn’t need Vin Diesel or cars or anything Fast or Furious. This movie works when it is Statham and Johnson in the same scene. Their quips are great and one scene in a prison is one of the best of the movie. They’re contrasting fighting style works well against each other and cooperatively and there is a case for at least one of their characters to get a solo spin-off (my vote is on Johnson’s Hobbs).
In fact, the movie is much better when it is about the team chasing Diesel than when the story focuses on him. Theron is a good addition but practically stays in one location pressing buttons and making threats while Diesel growls in his usual gruff manner. The Rock arguing with Statham while Tyrese’s Roman finally gets some funny lines for his supposedly charming character works better.
The characters do have more weight to pull because the scene-stealing, show-stopping set-pieces are at a minimum. There is the mandatory car race (to link back to the series’ roots), the mandatory car chase and then the final cars versus… (which in this movie is a submarine – thanks marketing posters!) The film lacks it’s wow-moment though and still struggles to match the tank scene from Fast 6.
This doesn’t mean it lacks any cool moments though, it is just that they aren’t happening in cars. A prison-riot showcases why The Rock and Statham are leading the charge on modern-action heroes and this goes double for Statham who takes out a plane full of henchmen while carrying a very special parcel. This scene alone is good enough to prompt watching the whole movie!
Overall, Fast and Furious 8 improves upon the seventh instalment because it knows what the audience wants – More Dwayne Johnson. Add Statham as a rival partner for the muscle-bound giant and you get chemistry that most movies would kill for. Shame this is supposed to be Vin Diesel’s movie as he is Fast becoming the weakest link.
Rating – 4
(1 – Awful, 2 – Average, 3 – Good, 4 – Great, 5! – Must See)