AT the end of Fast and Furious 7, the high-octane franchise bade emotional farewell to actor Paul Walker, who died during filming, to the haunting melody of Wiz Khalifa’s See You Again.
The spirit of the handsome California-born star lingers in this turbo-charged eighth chapter, directed by F Gary Gray.
Walker’s daredevil character, Brian O’Conner, is name-checked in two scenes including an emotionally manipulative dedication that ensures Walker’s memory is hardwired into the ninth and tenth instalments, which will burn rubber in 2019 and 2021 respectively.
Common sense dictates that the Fast and Furious series should be running on petrol fumes by now. However, logic has seldom been pumped into the tanks of a franchise that has landed a flying Camaro on the back of a speeding yacht, jumped a supercar between skyscrapers in Abu Dhabi, and dragged a bank vault through the streets of Rio de Janeiro.
Gray’s film doesn’t reinvent the wheel rims, reverse engineering some outrageously overblown action sequences including ‘carmageddon’ in New York City with remote controlled vehicles tumbling out of a multi-storey car park as the chief villain snarls: ‘Let it rain!’
Fate of the Furious opens in sun-baked Havana where professional street racer Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) has settled down with wife Letty (Michelle Rodriguez). Unfortunately, diabolical mastermind Cipher (Charlize Theron) has other plans. She blackmails Dom into betraying his band of brothers.
Covert operative Mr Nobody (Kurt Russell) and his inexperienced deputy (Scott Eastwood) assemble a crack team to take down Cipher and Dom led by DSS agent Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) and ‘tea and crumpet-eating criminal’ Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham).
The film screeches around Cuba, Germany, America and Russia to deliver jaw-dropping set pieces on land and splintering ice. Diesel, Johnson and Statham out-growl each other, while Oscar winner Helen Mirren chews scenery as Deckard’s ‘cor-blimey-guvnor muvva’.
As a spectacle, Gray’s film passes its MOT with flying colours. However, as a coherent narrative full of believable characters and sinewy subplots, the eighth film is a clapped-out banger. Fasten your seatbelts and shift the gears of your brain into neutral.