The three magic ingredients of the Fast and Furious series - in the minds of the producers at least - are cars, more cars and fambly. Which was fine when the various car-toons were doing stuff which was small scale and seemed really to require cars. Things like stealing cars, for example. After the fifth movie, everyone had a collective embolism and started spending their time sending fleets of cars after McGuffins which could be stolen more conveniently on foot. Which was sometimes fun, but it’s getting kind of dumb. Meanwhile, they’re spending so much money on the pointless stunts that they actually have a petty cash fund big enough to hire in proper actors to outclass the stars. Last time round it was Kurt Russell (who makes a welcome return); this time it’s Helen Mirren having great fun playing a cockney crime duchess.
That’s possibly less of a casting coup than hiring Charlize Theron as their main villain. The last time Theron got involved with car chases, it resulted in Fury Road. This time, it did not. FF8 probably spent more on stunts and cars than Fury Road, but money isn’t everything.
What we get instead of the controlled lunacy of Fury Road is the usual mix. Yet another cheesy street race scene. A lot of emoting about fambly. A couple of big chases in the middle to give the cars something to do, and then a climax with a whole load of cars doing nothing they’ve got any business doing, with explosions, and something huge in the middle of it for the cars to collide with. They’ve tried it with an Antonov, so this time it was a huge Russian submarine. It says a lot about how oppressively Michael Bay-ish the climax is that it wasn’t til I got home that it struck me that a submarine couldn’t possibly keep up with speeding cars. At the time I was too bludgeoned by explosions to ask how something with a top speed of forty miles an hour could crash through pack ice and then ram through it fast enough to keep up with skidding Lamborghinis.
In fairness, I was distracted by other idiocies. The Rock kicked a torpedo off course, even though the Rock doesn’t weigh two tonnes and torpedoes do. The Fambly kept announcing that missiles were locked on to them even though anti-tank missiles don’t lock on and even if they did, no-one’s putting lock-on detectors into even the very best Lamborghinis. The submarine launched a missile at the Fambly, and they immediately knew it was a heat seeker though again there doesn’t seem to have been any way for them to know. Or care. Dom took care of it, anyhow, doing the traditional end of the movie Dom thing of ramping his car over something. A billion bullets got fired at the Fambly and not one of them hit anything of importance.
And the strain of having cars solve problems is really starting to show. They’re like the IT crowd now. Have you tried sending an assortment of muscle cars after the problem? The sheer idiocy of the whole thing was underlined neatly by having the Stath sort out just about everything by flying onto Charlize’s airborne HQ and shoot everyone he met, all while carrying a baby. On the one hand, Chow Yun Fat did it much better twenty years ago; on the other hand, the Stath was a million percent more efficient than the whole Fambly, working with no cars and no Fambly.
Well, only just about everything. He didn’t shoot Charlize, who parachuted clear of the carnage to show up - presumably - in FF9 two years from now. And there’s no telling who else might show up. The Fast and Furious movies have form on killing people and then having them miraculously pitch up again alive after all, and this time around they hit a new low by resuscitating Luke Evans. Who got smeared on a runway on FF6, was somehow alive enough to be in a coma in FF7, and has walked that off completely by the final reel of FF8 in a resurrection even more ridiculous that Letty’s complete recovery from being dead in FF6. So don’t write anyone off. In Fast and Furious land, the only thing which stays dead is the laws of physics.