Friday, 14 April 2017

Fast & Furious 8 (2017)

Plot:
Dom (Vin Diesel) finds himself in the clutches of notorious hacker Cipher (Charlize Theron) and forced to do her dirty work all while his team are hot on his trail. Trying to make any more sense of the plot if futile considering none of it really makes any sense in the first place.

Review:
It's a pity the UK gets the generic title of 'Fast & Furious 8' whereas other regions will get the amusing silly 'Fate of the Furious' (because 'F8' sounds like 'Fate', geddit?) - though if you're in Japan you'll end up with 'Wild Speed: Ice Break'. But, at the end of the day, the film itself will be the same.

What we have for the second successive film is a new director ('Straight Outta Compton's F. Gary Gray), only this time he's not the best fit for the franchise considering how laboured a lot of the action was and how it lacked the same kind of inventively absurd moments (not skyscraper hopping, car air drops, tanks on highways, etc. Even The Rock vs Diesel in the 5th film) instead opting to try and overdo many things or simply thinking that going 'bigger' was the same thing.

At this stage, I' would mention that I'll be discussing spoilers but that's not entirely true considering how the marketing practically gives away the whole the film. That's always been a problem with this franchise as they like to use all their highlights in the trailer taking away any surprise/impact they may have had and giving away how these scenes would play out. At least this time, unlike the 6th film, I wasn't forced to sit through a scene out of context shown before another film (with the 6th film, the tank scene was ruined because they decided to play the 5 minute clip before something else).

Before I move on, I would also like to mention that the other thing that kind of distracted me during the film (besides the marketing giving everything away) was that guy next to me. He looked like a mid-to-late teen and, with that type, you'd expect chatter. But no, in that regard he was quiet. The problem with him was that he started chewing the plastic straw that came with his drink before then chewing apart the plastic lid that these cinema drinks come in. It was loud (the crinkling plastic, the squishy saliva sound, etc) and it was disgusting. It made the moments where he'd constantly crack his knuckles seem like a godsend. But, anyway, back to the film.

Altogether, I quite enjoyed the film. There's plenty of fun to be had in all the silliness on offer even if the attempts at outlandish action feel more forced and overdoing a bit too much in the wrong way (as I stated at the start, it seems to confuse 'big' and 'more' as being the same as 'creative' and such). But there's plenty of entertainment as the cast play off each other with childish banter (it's not the best written thing - no surprise there, though I suppose it is a bit rich for me to comment on something like that) and the light approach to a lot of the scenes help. The likes of Dwayne Johnson, Kurt Russell, and Jason Statham make for an entertaining combo.

What doesn't help are the moment where the film takes itself far too seriously. These are mostly the moments with Vin Diesel so, whenever he's onscreen, you'll likely suffer as he mopes and growls the whole time about family to Charlize Theron's forgettable villain. This was always the problem with the previous films. Whenever they stopped to focus on the drama and family, things suffered (though I will say it is forgivable in the previous film due to what happened). As much as I enjoyed the fifth film, the parts where it's all about Brian (Paul Walker) questioning his role as a father threatened to kill the film. And, since Walker is no longer available, Diesel now gets to spout all the father stuff.

As much as the cast will try and tell you the franchise is all about family and that's why it has connected with people, I don't actually think that's the case. Certainly not for me. I just want the action and stupidity. Which I happily get again in this film. Unfortunately, director Gray seems better suited to making one of the earlier films in the franchise and less so for a big blockbuster film. Hence why the opening car race seems like the most confident action scene in the film (this is the street race full of women in underwear that the film is obliged to include).

There were plenty of moments in the film where I didn't appreciated the film-making. As already stated, a lot of the action felt laboured. But, on top of that, it also felt very cluttered as the camera moved about or focused in on thing in a way that just seemed to muddle things. And none of that was helped by some of the editing. And, in all that, it struggled to cover up some irritating details that make the action feel completely detached from the environment it is set in, which reinforces the idea that you're watching something staged and kind of keeps you at arm's length in regards to getting involved in the action. And then there's the fact New York seems to have no police (despite a foreign diplomat being under attack) and that it's citizens are completely oblivious when more than half of Manhattan is being swamped by zombie cars, something that is annoyingly distracting despite accepting that the plot is tosh.

Gripes and questionable film-making aside, however, I had a good time watching the film. It was more-or-less what I was after which was a couple of hours of undemanding dumb fun. It does take itself more seriously than it should at times (the Vin Diesel stuff), but when it's the team messing around there's enough self-awareness to keep things alive. It might be lacking the kind of highlights found in the previous three films, but there's still plenty to enjoy and not be taxed by.

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