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Not-so-great expectations

The cars are the stars once again in Fast 8 as audience asks, 'Are we there yet?'

As the old saying goes, "too much of a good thing is a bad thing". Fast 8: Fate Of The Furious -- the latest entry to the long-running action/racing franchise -- is an apt example of this phrase, a film that tries so hard to outdo itself the results border on the satirical. While the Fast And Furious films have always managed to maintain their popularity through escalation of everything, from the action choreography to the conflict and the stakes, Fast 8 seems to have gone just a hair too far, with characters performing incredulous feats that wouldn't look out of place in a Marvel film.

That's not to say the film isn't enjoyable, as the over-the-top action does provide a comedic "did that actually happen?" effect, which had me shaking my head in amusement through most of the film. It's probably not what the directors were going for, but I still enjoyed it, even if I didn't really care about the story or (most of the) characters (although who does, really?).

Those of you who have witnessed the film's trailers are probably familiar with the plot: Dom (Vin Diesel) is somehow coerced by an enigmatic cyberterrorist known as Cipher (Charlize Theron) into performing various crimes, most notable of which is stealing a Russian nuclear football. Being one of the only people who have actually gone toe-to-toe with Dom, former CIA agent Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) is called back into action, and with the help of Dom's team, tries to track down Dom before Cipher can use the stolen codes to launch a nuclear strike. There's the usual hubbub about family sprinkled in there, along with a ton of familiar faces from past entries making brief cameos throughout the film (no CGI-Paul Walker though).

Needless to say, being a Fast And Furious film, the plot or quality of acting isn't even a remote priority. Much like past films, Fast 8's plot is largely forgettable, and its message on family comes across as awkward at best, forced at worst. Even with Dom now playing for the other side, much of the uncertainty and mystery behind his apparent change of heart is revealed early in the film, robbing the plot point of any tension it may have created in the film's opening minutes and guaranteeing that Dom's change of heart won't last long. However, as I said before, the plot isn't that important, and acts as a framework for all the stunts and set pieces.

And there are a lot of stunts and set pieces in this film. From start to finish, we're treated to multiple high-speed chases/races, a prison brawl and even a particularly creepy sequence that can only be described as "zombies but with cars". Most of the sequences blur the line between reality-based and superhero films -- to varying degrees of comic effect. When we see Hobbs throw men in riot gear around like they're nothing and swat a submarine torpedo away with his bare hands, it's hard not to appreciatively laugh at the boldness of whoever came up with this stuff.

It's also worth mentioning that -- despite largely mediocre performances from most of the main cast -- newcomer Charlize Theron as well as the returning Jason Statham, are excellent, each of them instant scene-stealers nearly every time they are on screen. A dreadlocked Theron plays Cipher as a delightfully cold, ruthless villain, sprouting evil, cartoonish one-liners with such an icy aura that fits for the character. Statham, meanwhile, reprises his role as Ian Shaw, although instead of a bland villain, Shaw is now a smart-mouthed tough-guy. Developing a rivalry with Dwayne Johnson's character, the chemistry between the two is excellent, with the best comedic moments happening between the two.

In closing, Fast 8 is pretty much what you'd come to expect from the Fast And Furious franchise, taken to a whole new level. It's bolder, flashier and funnier than any of its predecessors, although not always in the best ways. That said, those who know what to expect from these films will enjoy Fast 8's outlandish -- even audacious -- brand of borderline superhero action.

Fast 8: Fate Of The Furious

Starring Vin Diesel, Dwayne Johnson, Charlize Theron, Jason Statham and Helen Mirren

Directed by F. Gary Gray

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