Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB.5.
Alternate title: Fast & Furious 8
USA, 2017. Universal Pictures, China Film Co., Original Film, One Race Films, Dentsu, Fuji Eight Company Ltd.. Screenplay by Chris Morgan, based on characters created by Gary Scott Thompson. Cinematography by Stephen F. Windon. Produced by Vin Diesel, Michael Fottrell, Chris Morgan, Neal H. Moritz. Music by Brian Tyler. Production Design by Bill Brzeski. Costume Design by Marlene Stewart. Film Editing by Paul Rubell, Christian Wagner.
It always seems like these folks have no adventures left in them, but when the previous movie makes so much money (the sixth sequel to the surprise 2001 hit reached a billion dollars in ticket sales faster than any movie in history), there’s always another score to settle. The challenge is also to create bigger and crazier action sequences than the last one featured, and given that Furious 7 had cars flying out of airplanes, the bar here is set quite high. The dubious entrance of a first time director to the series, F. Gary Gray, raises alarm bells as well, but what results from the reunion of the wonderful ensemble cast and the same, familiar plot (we need to find the device before the bad guy destroys the world with it, and we need to drive fast to get it) is the best film since the series got rebooted in the fourth film. Vin Diesel and Michelle Rodriguez are honeymooning in Cuba (and the saving the poor by racing cars), their bliss interrupted when he is convinced by an international cyberterrorist (Charlize Theron, in terrible dreadlocks) to work for her and against his own team; his friends have no idea what she has on him to make him go rogue, but go to work in tandem with black-ops government operative Mr. Nobody (Kurt Russell) to prevent the global nuclear disaster that Diesel is helping make happen. One action sequence after another piles up with very few breaks in a script that has no apologies for its ridiculous excesses (as far as I know, and admittedly that’s not a lot, if you could remotely operate a car using its computer it still doesn’t explain how you get the pedal to work without a driver) and richly mines the charisma of its best cast members. Naturally, the absence of the late Paul Walker is felt, but the drama that rises between the disappointed Rodriguez and Diesel’s betrayal is enough to hang the plot on, enriched by the bromance between Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham (who, typical of this series, was once a villain and is now a friend) which really ought to end in a bid for marriage equality if their chemistry is to be honored properly, while the antics of Tyrese Gibson and Ludacris fighting over Nathalie Emmanuel has the charming addition of Scott Eastwood as a green government agent. To have, on top of all this, a hilarious unbilled cameo by Helen Mirren in a plot twist so charming that it matters not that it is easy to see coming means you could hardly do better for summer blockbuster entertainment. It’s actually a perfect action movie, gorgeous, exciting, seamless and funny, ruined only by a weak ending that, in desiring to leave room for sequels, does not do a good job of at least putting current issues to rest before they will be resurrected for the next film.