Hundreds of Cuban extras, a Chevrolet Impala modified to the point of uselessness and an engine explosion brought on by the pull tab of a Coke. There ain’t no opening like a Fast and Furious opening. Indeed, before the titles have even landed on screen, you just know that Fast and Furious 8 is going to be rollicking good fun.
The franchise’s eighth – EIGHTH! – entry sees F&F newcomer Charlize Theron take her place in the villain seat as icy cyber terrorist Cipher. The manipulative minx recruits series hero Dom (Vin Diesel) to help her hack the world’s computer systems alongside her hipster henchman Rhodes (Kristofer Hivju).
On her case is secret service big wig Mr. Nobody (Kurt Russell) and his goon-like protégé Little Nobody (Scott Eastwood), who rally our heroes together to do battle against the seemingly evil Dom and the most definitely evil Cipher. Their weapon of choice? A cadre of rare hypercars seized by the Police department from high-profile drug barons.
And so begins two-and-a-bit hours of glorious, unadulterated action, so utterly ludicrous that it makes Fast Five’s bank vault sequence and the parachuting cars of F&F 7 appear to be the apex of plausibility. And you know what? It’s marvelous.
The film’s structure feels resolutely more cohesive than F&F 7. Of course, that’s due in part to the tragic circumstances which surrounded that film’s production, but Fast and Furious 8’s director F. Gary Gray seems to have a way of making the action look slicker than James Wan – who helmed 7 – even if the latter was superior at coaxing out moments of pathos.
The Fast and Furious franchise is so adored because it has a tone all of its own, and Fast and Furious 8 slots neatly into this established feel. There’s a joyous scene in which Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) performs a Haka-like dance with his daughter’s soccer team, which serves as a reminder that no one involved has yet fallen victim to self-important, po-faced seriousness.
Then there’s those aforementioned hypercars. ‘Car porn’ has been an F&F staple from the moment that Bryan (the late, great Paul Walker) rolled-up to the quarter mile start-line in his A80 Toyota Supra, and number 8 is stuffed full of enough Bentleys, Lambos, Jags, AMG’s and Hellcats to paper a young petrolhead’s bedroom. Even those not into cars will appreciate those on display in the film.
More often than not, films get worse with every successive sequel until they’re not so much a shadow of their former selves but a black hole. Fortunately, Fast and Furious 8 – and indeed the franchise itself – bucks this trend. It’s almost Shakespearean in its ‘smart enough to play dumb’ approach, oh, and not since Die Another Day has ice been driven across with quite such vigor.
It’s hard to deny that F&F 8 is overlong, overblown and undoubtedly has lost some of the grainier, SEGA arcade-esque magic of the original. But it’s so entertaining and so utterly unlike the glut of superhero movies that are being relentlessly churned out that I for one can’t wait for the next one. And judging by the rapturous applause that rippled through the auditorium on press night as the credits began to roll, I’m not alone.