Please note: I do need to discuss a minor-ish plot element, and one huge missed opportunity, because they bothered me SO much. So be warned, there are spoilers here.
The eighth movie in the Fast and Furious franchise, Fast & Furious 8 (aka The Fate of the Furious) was directed by F. Gary Gray, perhaps best known for Straight Outta Compton and Law Abiding Citizen. All of the core cast return, including Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel), Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson), Letty Ortiz (Michelle Rodriguez), Roman Pearce (Tyrese Gibson), Tej Parker (Chris Bridges) and Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel), though this is the first film in the series (except the third) not to feature Paul Walker as Brian O’Connor. Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) also returns, imprisoned after his actions in the previous film, and Mr Nobody (Kurt Russell) reappears with new sidekick Little Nobody (Scott Eastwood). All of the characters must team up to stop the mysterious and dangerous cyber-terrorist Cipher (Charlize Theron) and her enforcer Connor Rhodes (Kristofer Hivju, Game of Thrones‘ Tormund), and the newly-turned-traitor, Dom himself.
+ the now massive cast is great, despite oftentimes being a bit too big for its own good. Roman (Gibson) is the cause of most of the comedy, especially as he plays off Parker (Ludacris) and Ramsey (Emmanuel). The main advantage of the cast being anywhere between four- and seven-movies deep into this franchise is that they do feel like a genuine group of friends, strong enough to consider each other family. The history of characters too means that others can appear in cameo roles which amount to more than just ‘screen time’
+ as you’d expect, the cars are fast and the action is furious. The franchise has its own groove of vehicle based combat, and though I personally find it hard to watch the beautiful cars get smashed to pieces, the set pieces themselves are extravagant and lots of fun
+ even more gorgeous than the cars, Charlize Theron as Cipher is a good new villain for the series, and Hivju as Connor is an okay second, though he is somewhat underutilised. Retroactively tying Cipher to the other films, via Owen Shaw from FF6, was clever and again helps to further build the world of this franchise
– frankly, the story is ridiculous. Any movie where the drama comes from someone not simply saying something always bothers me, and Dom could have told any of his team any number of times what was going on in as little as three words and they would have believed him
– Dwayne Johnson, in his third outing as special agent Luke Hobbs, is absolutely unbearable. It is as if Johnson has forgotten how to act without the need for constant childish name-calling or insults. It may have been funny when he was in the wrestling ring (and yes, I was a big fan of The Rock) but it does not translate well to film
– the first act of the film builds towards a rematch of the fight between Hobbs and Deckard Shaw (Statham), and just as you think it HAS to happen: the two become friends and the idea of a fight is dropped entirely. There had better be a rematch down the road, assuming both men come out of the film alive, because this was perhaps the biggest missed opportunity in a film which needed that extra something. If the rumours of the Johnson/Statham helmed spin-off series are indeed true, then this was an even bigger missed opportunity.
– for whatever reason, I never noticed how many innocent people our “heroes” are massacring mission after mission. The climax of this film takes place in Russia, and the main cast just plow through, and cause the deaths of, what must be multiple dozens of Russian soldiers. Whether they are ‘separatists’ or not is irrelevant to the simple fact so many people are killed by these American’s shenanigans
– at the very end of the film, Dom chooses to name a new baby “Brian”, after his brother-in-law Brian O’Conner, previously portrayed by the late Paul Walker. But… Brian isn’t dead. In-universe, Dom could just pop on over to visit Brian any time he likes. WHY DIDN’T HE CALL THE KID PAUL? It wouldn’t make sense in the story, sure, but neither does “Brian”, and at least it could have been a fitting tribute to Walker
> Without placing any blame on the actors themselves, the quality of the films has seemingly gone down the higher billing Dwayne Johnson has received in comparison to Michelle Rodriguez and/or the rest of the core team. Here, the billing reads 1. Vin Diesel, 2. Dwayne Johnson and 3. Jason Statham. Make of that what you will
Should you see this film: Since Fast Five, the franchise has focused far more on elaborate set pieces and far less on the cars and racing. Whether that is good or bad is a personal preference, but this was easily the weakest of the ‘new wave’ of Fast and Furious movies. A frustrating storyline, some very confusing plot points and too many missed opportunities made for a mess of a movie. Just rewatch Fast Five and you’ll be better off for it.