I entered the “Fast and Furious“ franchise late into the game; I’ve seen the original, and parts of “Tokyo Drift“, but the first one I ever saw was “Furious 7,” and only at the request of a companion. Growing up with all sisters, they weren’t exactly the top movies on our lists, but I can appreciate a good “dude flick” when one crosses my path. So while I went into the theatre trying to recall my previous experiences with “Fast and Furious” for context’s sake, I also tried to look at it as a stand-alone action movie. And to tell the truth, I wasn’t disappointed.
Once I got past the obligatory girls-in-skimpy-outfits and let’s-remind-everyone-this-is-about-fast-cars scenes, I was actually entertained. The main conflict of “Furious 8″ as portrayed by the trailer was that, allegedly, Dom Toretto (Vin Diesel) betrays his entire team for no apparent reason. Of course, it doesn’t take a genius or an avid Furious fan to figure out why he would do such a thing, so I can’t say this movie held any surprises there. The lack of surprises, however, works in the favor of this franchise, because its whole purpose is to give the audience what it expects, and it does. It delivers the adrenaline-packed, testosterone-filled, fuel-injected joy ride that we all paid ten bucks to see. There was enough engine-revving and car crash sounds to last me the rest of my life, that’s for sure.
Speaking of car crashes, when audience members enter the world of a movie, they tend to do what is called “suspending their disbelief:” they accept the reality of the movie, even if it isn’t their own. With that said, “Furious 8″ really challenges its audience’s ability to suspend said disbelief through its over-the-top, physics-defying, rulebook-abandoning car stunts. However, speaking as one of the mindless audience members, the sad thing is that I wanted to believe it. I wanted to believe Vin Diesel could rig an old clunker to go 200+ mph in reverse gear, and I wanted to believe he could drive over an exploding submarine and make it out with barely a scratch. The very ludicrousness that makes it so unbelievable is also what makes it entertaining. My friend and I counted the number of unrealistic survivals on our fingers, a ritual we had developed during “Furious 7.” There were easily fifteen, probably more. Perhaps diehard fans would find this condescending, but we found it hilarious.
Then, there’s the villain, a genius but expectedly evil hacker named Cipher (Charlize Theron). I’ve been impressed by Theron’s performances before, and though I wouldn’t say this was her worst, I wasn’t totally convinced with the villain as a character. Not that I expect the Furious villains to be anything profound, but since I am working from limited experience, I’m basing this on my comprehensive knowledge of movie villains. She was sometimes chillingly scary and ruthless in a calm, coldblooded way, but I think she lacked convincing motivation, and above all, a realistic element of humanity. I think that perhaps the writers were trying to create a villain who would function as a foil to Dom, but in the process, they made her a hollow shell filled with metaphors about the animal kingdom. Also, her ending was incredibly anti-climactic. On the plus side, she did manage to pull off blonde dread locks and still look fierce. Not bad, not bad.
I can’t say “Furious 8″ was anything inspiring, but it was fast-paced and entertaining, which is its primary function. The cast has good chemistry, a feature that I feel has contributed to the franchise’s success. Even with the loss of Paul Walker, I still think they managed to pull it off. There were some punchy one-liners that made me laugh, and though the script is formulaic and at times annoying, it isn’t unbearable. There’s a fight scene with Jason Statham towards the end that I felt was borderline brilliant, if not a little gimmicky, but its moments like that that give the movie some charm.
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