With box office takings of over $1.5billion, it was obvious that Universal Pictures would never let Furious 7 be the end of a multi-billion dollar franchise, no matter what many fans truly wanted.
The previous instalment was also, surprisingly, warmly received by critics who were impressed with how sensitively the naturally bombastic series handled the death of lead star Paul Walker. Two years on, the crew are back with Fast and Furious 8; does it do enough to keep the franchise on a high?
Now that Dom (Vin Diesel) and Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) are on their honeymoon, Brian and Mia have retired from the game, and the rest of the crew have been exonerated, the plucky team of globetrotters has found a normal life of sorts. But when a mysterious woman (Charlize Theron) seduces Dom back into a world of crime that he can’t seem to escape from, the rest of the gang will face things that will test them like never before.
Newcomer to the franchise, director F. Gary Gray (Law Abiding Citizen, The Italian Job) manages to craft what is perhaps the most ridiculous entry in the series to date, plagued with tonal imbalances and plot holes so big you could fit the QE2 into them with ease. But you know what? It’s probably the most fun you’ll have in the cinema all year.
The cast are all reunited, barring Paul Walker’s Brian and those publicised rifts between Vin Diesel and Dwayne Johnson are nowhere to be seen as everyone on screen appears to be having the time of their lives. New recruit Charlize Theron adds a level of class to proceedings as steely supervillain, Cipher. She’s a cracking addition to the series and her acting prowess oozes from every pore, despite the often clunky dialogue.
Of course, successful predecessors command bigger budgets for their follow-ups and Furious 8 is no exception. $250million was spent on creating this film and it shows. It’s a feast for the eyes with explosions, shiny cars, stunning locations and breath-taking special effects. The result is frankly exceptional. From Cuba to NYC and from Berlin to Russia (actually filmed in Iceland), the vistas are nicely filmed and beautifully executed.
The action sequences are also choreographed very well, but from a franchise built on these foundations, I’d expect nothing less. In particular, a street chase through New York City is edge of your seat stuff as literally hundreds of vehicles worm their way through its congested streets.
Negatives? Well, the story is awkward, the aforementioned plot holes cause a few headaches for a series that prides itself on continuity and some of the comedic elements are poorly placed, but in this eighth outing, much of that can be forgiven. After all, what other franchise could survive eight films and still prove as exciting as its first?
Overall, Fast and Furious 8 is unashamedly ridiculous but who cares? With exceptional special effects and a great new adversary in Charlize Theron, the series once again manages to surpass expectation. Each film tries its best to outdo its predecessor and before long, we’ll no doubt be heading to Mars with the gang. I’m up for that. Are you?