By Rafer Guzm?n
In the race among Hollywood’s action franchises, the car to beat is The Fast and the Furious. Granted, the Bond movies are still top of class thanks to their Euro-chic style, while Mission: Impossible continues to pack the star power of Tom Cruise. Let’s be honest, though: When it comes to fun, fun, fun, these silly hot-rod movies are unrivalled.
It hardly matters that movie No. 8, The Fate of the Furious, doesn’t offer much new or different. Having struck an unexpectedly emotional note in 2015’s Furious 7, which bid adieu to the late Paul Walker, this entry goes for bigger, louder, wilder. It can already claim to be one of the first major movies filmed in post-thaw Cuba — the latest addition to this franchise’s long list of ultra-cool shooting locales (Rio, Miami, Tokyo). Cuba’s stone-lined streets and Cold War-era automobiles provide a colourful backdrop for a meeting between our hero, street racer Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel), and a new villain named Cipher (Charlize Theron). She’s a brilliant cyberterrorist, but she uses old-fashioned blackmail to force Dom to do her dirty work. No spoilers, but Cipher holds Dom’s most treasured possession — and it isn’t his Dodge Charger.
What follows is, to be sure, not the most ingenious plot. As Cipher and a reluctant Dom go about hacking surveillance systems and stealing nuclear codes, it’s clear writer Chris Morgan is borrowing from his past scripts. Again, it doesn’t matter. There’s just too much else here to enjoy: Diesel’s macho charisma; the snarling banter between federal agent Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) and the mercenary Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham); the return of Kurt Russell as the jocular black-ops mastermind Mr. Nobody; his new sidekick, Little Nobody (Scott Eastwood); and a couple of guest stars best kept secret. If anything, Diesel’s regular cast-mates — Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese Gibson and Chris “Ludacris” Bridges — seem slightly sidelined.
Theron, who’s on a hot action streak these days (from the Oscar-winning Mad Max: Fury Road to the upcoming Atomic Blonde), makes a delicious villain, combining icy superiority and a calculated sexuality. Director F Gary Gray (“Straight Outta Compton”) knows, however, that the real star here is sheer spectacle. Among his best moments are an elaborate heist using an army of self-driving sedans, and a car chase that somehow incorporates a nuclear submarine. You’d expect nothing less from this souped-up franchise. In terms of delivering nonstop entertainment, these movies are as reliable as an old Datsun.
Reviewing for The Observer, Wendy Ide wrote: You can judge the quality of each successive instalment of the petrolhead Fast & Furious franchise by its opening action sequence. Here, the action revs up with a car chase around the streets of Havana. One of the first Hollywood movies to shoot in Cuba, F&F8 effectively uses one of the most photogenic cities on Earth as a display cabinet for vintage hotrods and buttocks. The race is between a turbo-boosted Cuban loan shark and Dom Toretto (Vin Diesel) in a disintegrating clown car. Powered by distilled testosterone alone, Dom wins the race, driving backwards, consumed in a fireball, without brakes. The writing is scorched into the tarmac: this episode is aiming for new levels of high-octane silliness.
There is no shortage of muscle battling for alpha-male supremacy. In Vin Diesel ,Jason Statham and Dwayne Johnson, the film has three of the shiniest, baldest, most artificially bronzed men in Hollywood. When they start to butt heads, it’s like watching a human Conker game. of the three, it’s Statham who swaggers away with the movie, thanks to an audacious fight sequence accessorised with a gurgling baby in a travel seat and a cameo from British grand dame Helen Mirren as his tea-swilling mum.
The baby is a key plot device. The child-menacing antagonist is super-hacker Cipher (Charlize Theron, kitted out with stringy blond dreadlocks, which are meant to suggest “cyberpunk princess of darkness” but look a bit too “gap yah in Goa” for comfort). Cipher is stockpiling WMDs, but since she has the power to hack into anything with a chip – including, obviously, most cars – it’s not entirely clear why she needs the weapons. A geeks-will-inherit-the-earth cyber-pocalypse hardly requires a carjacked nuclear submarine to trigger panic. It just needs someone to turn off the internet for a while.
Ultimately, you would have more luck reassembling a working vehicle after Cipher’s remotely hacked zombie-car pile-up than you would piecing together a logical plot. But then logic is not really the strong point of a series that features Diesel walking unscathed and in slow-mo from a screaming pile of twisted metal at least five times per film. – Newsday/TNS
Saqr Entertainment Stores, Doha
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