Fast and Furious 8 (2017)

Director: F. Gary Gray

Writers: Chris Morgan, Gary Scott Thompson (based on characters created by)

Starring: Vin Diesel, Jason Statham, Dwayne Johnson

Cert: 12A

You may think that Fast and Furious 8 is a strange film for a budding critic to select as they embark on the first review of what will hopefully be a long-lasting endeavour. However, here it comes guys. Bold statement time. Fast and Furious 8 belongs to one of the most underrated film franchises of all time.

Now, I appreciate that such a comment is not going to endear me to many of the more established critics who will have been forced to sit down and watch this eighth instalment in the nitrous-fuelled street-racing saga. I think it’s fair to say however that none of these films are ever going to win any Oscars either. Box-office receipts do not lie though and the punters keep turning up in their droves to enjoy the vast array of cars, stunts and general excess that make these films so exciting. To date, the franchise has grossed more than four billion dollars worldwide.

Like its predecessors, Fast and Furious 8 offers audiences the kind of over the top escapism they so desperately crave, while at the same time retaining just enough heart to ensure viewers can still relate to the characters. Where previous outings have seen Dominic Torreto and his ‘family’ take down a plane and drag a bank vault through the streets of Rio de Janeiro, this time an exhilarating set-piece involving a submarine carrying nuclear missiles provides Fast and Furious 8 the jaw dropping (and almost unbelievable) finale it deserves.

It is interesting also to see how the franchise has chosen to move on without one of its greatest pioneers – Paul Walker. As we all know, Walker was tragically killed in a car accident back in 2013 and 2015’s Fast and Furious 7 was essentially a feature-length eulogy for him. Thankfully, Walker’s former undercover cop turned rogue FBI agent, Brian O’Conner, has not been completely written out of the narrative (as other franchises may have done), instead receiving several touching tributes which will only further add to his Fast and Furious legacy. That’s not to say that Walker’s absence is handled perfectly however. The slightly insensitive inclusion of Scott Eastwood’s character, while portrayed relatively well, is clearly an attempt to lessen Walker’s void.

Unfortunately, the main villain of the piece, Charlize Theron’s super-hacker Cipher, is a hard one to embrace. Given the first-rate credits attributed to Theron’s name (Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road (2015) and the Academy Award winning role of Aileen Wuornos in Monster (2003) to name just two), I was expecting far more from her in the role – her character sadly coming across as emotionless and robotic on this occasion. Theron’s performance by no means derails the picture though and she must be grateful that her character was better developed than that of her co-star Kristopher Hivju. Hivju, while brilliant as Tormund Giantsbane in HBO’s Game of Thrones (2011-present), is unlucky to find himself cast as the boring, and quite frankly annoying, right-hand man to Theron. Still, perhaps this criticism is born of the fact that we, as an audience, have been spoiled by the charismatic villains featured in previous instalments (namely those portrayed by John Ortiz and Jason Statham in parts four, six and seven).

Overall however, Fast and Furious 8 achieves exactly what it set out to do. It continues the franchise tradition of truly thrilling its viewers, while also throwing in a couple of excellent cameos – one in particular which will resonate with British film goers. It even ramps up the comedic elements, brilliantly highlighting the fantastic on-screen and off-screen bonds between the cast and their characters. Vin Diesel and his team ought to be commended for delivering another popcorn blockbuster that will entertain all ages.

In one line: Sit back, relax and switch off in front of the next two and a half hours of entertaining moving pictures.

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