Wait until you can stream it…
From the first rev of the engine, this latest instalment of the Fast and Furious franchise establishes a world where basically anything can happen. Bionic men, characters with nigh superhuman abilities, logic-defying stunts and a deadly super weapon that can wipe out the planet. This film has it all, and from its opening, we are shown that anything goes. It is also highly self-aware, as characters often acknowledge the predictive and over the top nature of the film. Getting this tone and crazy world established early allows the audience to suspend their disbelief, and for the director, David Leitch (Atomic Blonde, John Wick and Deadpool 2), to get creative and original, in places. Nevertheless, a lot of this film is highly unoriginal, and it really leaves with the sense that this film could have been so much better.
In places, this film can be imaginative, and there is a lot of fun to be had for fans of the franchise so far. I particularly enjoyed the final chase sequence involving the helicopter, when multiple cars are attached together so that their joint weight can keep the helicopter from taking off. Ridiculous? Absolutely. It is also inventive and fun to watch. As I’ve said, the film’s tone asks you to suspend your disbelief. If you do, sequences like this are great popcorn entertainment. Visually, you can tell the director had a lot of colourful, creative energy. Hobbs (Johnson) and Shaw (Statham) are both introduced split-screen. Each side has its own hue that contrast significantly, suggesting how different these characters are. Yet, both are doing exactly the same thing in their respective sequences running simultaneously through the split-screen: investigating, interrogating, and trying to help with the issue at hand. In a creative manner, Leitch establishes that, whilst these two heroes may have different methods and styles, they are essentially motivated by the same desire to help.
Further, the dialogue can be clever. This film is filled with extended imagery, such as the idea of dancing used to establish that Hattie (Kirby), an MI6 agent with a connection to Shaw, is someone who works alone- she has never heard of the tango, she tells Hobbs, wittily. I also like the “you catch him. I’ll gut him” line. This fishing metaphor cements the growing team dynamic between Hobbs and Shaw, as they both learn that they have a part to play in defeating Brixton (Elba). There are many references to pop culture that don’t feel tacked on, and often serve to develop a relationship between two characters. I particularly like how a reference to Game of Thrones was used to make the sweet father-daughter relationship between Hobbs and his little girl even cuter. There are many set ups for jokes and cool lines in the first half that pay off much later in the film, which helps create a more cohesive narrative. The dialogue does have its moments to shine.
However, these glimmers of brilliance in the dialogue are few and far between. For the most part, the dialogue is littered with cliches of the genre: “the asset has been found”, “brace yourself”, “I’ve hacked the mainframe”, and “want a war?” are lines that are ubiquitous within the action movie genre. Hearing them again here gives off a sense of laziness, and a lack of inspiration. They are used to move the plot forward, but, unfortunately, in a cliched manner. Some of the lines are unforgivably corny too- who uses “your mum” jokes today? Perhaps this film was written by a thirteen year old in 2012. Whilst the insults between Hobbs and Shaw can be entertaining in places, these exchanges go on for far too long, and become borderline worrying indicators for their toxic masculinity and aggressive macho attitudes. Interesting dialogue, for a majority of the film, is secondary to the action and to maintaining the plot’s momentum.
This may be a worthwhile cause if the plot and action were consistently creative; sadly, it is not. Considering the director of John Wick is behind this instalment, the fight choreography is not very inspired. The major set pieces and plot points are also taken from other action movies. Hobbs holding down a helicopter with his own strength has been ripped straight out of Captain America: Civil War. The biological weapon is essentially the same MacGuffin from Mission Impossible 2. The premise of the ending- making a noble last stand against an unstoppable enemy in the eponymous hero’s childhood home- is too similar to Skyfall’s ending. Changing the setting from Scotland to Samoa does not hide that. Shaw and Hattie being revealed to be siblings will only surprise those who have never watched a film in their life. Even if you have not watched this movie yet, I can confidently say you’ve already seen nine tenths of it.
To reiterate, this film is a lot of fun if you are capable of suspending your disbelief. Sometimes enjoyable scenes filled creativity do shine their way through the gaps in the curtain. However, to also enjoy this film, you have to be able to forgive it for ripping off much better, more beloved, action franchises. I just about managed it, but I would not take this car for another ride.