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Fast & Furious 8 review: Utterly bonkers

Fast & Furious 8 review: A bonkers explosion of pure cinematic action
The Fast & Furious franchise is a bizarre but impressive beast. Somehow, against all the odds, and despite an initial run of dodgy sequels, it has become one of the most lucrative and popular film series of all time.
Even though this kind of action genre flick usually gets a kicking, the last three instalments have not received the kind of critical mauling that the Transformers movies get. And that's because they're slick, super fun and surprisingly heartfelt.
But how can they follow up Furious 7, a film that was as close to pure popcorn pleasure as you can get, coupled with the heartbreaking pathos following Paul Walker's untimely death? Some fans may argue that the film series should have ended with Brian's car driving off into the sunset. But with a cash cow as big as this, there's no way they were going to call it quits.
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Fast & Furious 8 – or The Fate of the Furious as it's known outside the UK – ups the ante even more than its previous instalments. There's no 'back to basics' here, it just gets even more insane. They haven't quite gone to the moon yet, but it's getting there.
Here, Vin Diesel's Dominic Toretto is forced to go rogue and betray his 'family' after he's blackmailed into doing so by latest villain Cipher, played by Charlize Theron, who is surprisingly vicious and stoic in the role. We won't tell you just why Dom is made to do this, but we were genuinely surprised. It's not what you might expect.
With Cipher wanting to steal world-ending devices, it's up to Dom's old team to stop them. Yes, the guys who once drove fast cars in order to steal knock-off DVD players, are now literally saving the world from destruction. Saying that, they do a pretty good job of wrecking New York, but that's by the by.
And that's basically the plot. Dwayne Johnson's Hobbs is briefly jailed after Dom betrays him. Kurt Russell's slick government operative forces him to work with former foe Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham). Then the team track Dom down using a load of CSI-style nonsense devices, and that's your lot. If you're looking for a rich plot in a Fast & Furious film, you're in the wrong place. Still, it's better than xXx 3: The Return of Xander Cage.
Fast & Furious 8's first half or so is as good as its previous three instalments. Dom has an old-school quarter-mile race in Cuba, the gang cause havoc stealing a device in Berlin, and once Dom has gone rogue the whole routine set in New York is full of incredible stunts and the right amount of cheesy dialogue.
But then it all goes totally bonkers. Again, we don't want to ruin it for you – but Helen Mirren goes full Peggy Mitchell, Jason Statham suddenly becomes a comedy hero and there are so many plot holes (even for a Fast & Furious movie) that our brains hurt.
We'd say this is probably the worst Fast & Furious movie since Tokyo Drift. But that makes it sound like it's an awful film, which it isn't. It's just that the last four had set such a high standard for action movies that it was always going to be bloody hard keeping that up.
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For one, it's disjointed. You get the impression that a lot of it was heavily edited shortly before release. Maybe this had something to do with The Rock and Diesel's ongoing feud. It's telling that the two of them never really share a scene together, to the point where we're pretty sure they hired a Diesel double so that they didn't have to be on set at the same time. It's like Julianna Margulies and Archie Panjabi in The Good Wifeall over again.
Then you have the weird comedy scenes. The Fast & Furious movies have always had a comedic twang here and there, especially the recent ones, but this one turned the Nos up to 11. There's a whole scene with Hobbs and his daughter's soccer team – cute and funny, but it felt wholly out of place in this series.
Worst of all, you have Statham as a comedic tough guy – with one scene involving a cute baby – and suddenly he's everyone's best mate. At no point does anyone reference the fact that he KILLED HAN. For a series that's so big on continuity, that stung. Statham's brilliant in it, but it still didn't sit right with us.
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In terms of the performances – despite not sharing a scene, both Diesel and Johnson did at least avoid phoning it in. The Rock is as charismatic as ever, and this is potentially Diesel's biggest effort to date. Special kudos go to newcomer Scott Eastwood - eyebrows were raised about his arrival on the team, but he was surprisingly hilarious as Mr Nobody's right-hand man.
If they had to get rid of one member of the team (the cast is pretty bloated), we'd have to remove Nathalie Emmanuel's Ramsey. She had a point in the previous film, but she served absolutely no purpose here. You already have the tech wiz in Tej, she doesn't drive, and we hate to say it because she's great in Game of Thrones, but Emmanuel's performance is so bland we have no idea why they bothered to bring her back. It was actually annoying every time she took up screen time. Either give her something more juicy to do, or don't bring her back for 9.
And that's the thing – there are still two more of these films to come. At least. Along with the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Fast & Furious is the most exciting and bombastic franchise out there, and we'll always look forward to a new instalment. They're incredibly fun, they don't take themselves too seriously, and they boast a roster of rich characters and insanely amazing stunts. But perhaps slightly less could be more for the 9th part. Please don't go into space.
Director: F Gary Gray; Screenplay: Chris Morgan; Starring: Vin Diesel, Dwayne Johnson, Charlize Theron, Jason Statham, Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese Gibson, Chris Bridges, Scott Eastwood, Nathalie Emmanuel, Kurt Russell, Helen Mirren; Running time: 136 minutes; Certificate: 12A
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