For a franchise obsessed with speed and adrenalin, The Fast and the Furious films sure know how to drag things out. We're on to the eighth instalment of the petrolhead action saga in The Fate of the Furious, which sees the ensemble cast (Dwayne Johnson, Jason Statham, Michelle Rodriguez, Ludacris) take on yet another supervillain, save the world, and learn something about themselves along the way. In a mildly interesting twist, head honcho Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) breaks bad, pairing up with cyberterrorist Cypher (Charlize Theron) and turning on his furiously loyal crew. Faced with the ultimate challenge, they must decide whether or not to take down one of their own to eliminate a global threat.
Directed by F. Gary Gray, whose anagram name might be the most clever thing in the film, The Fate of the Furious is fuelled by the same big dumb action that has made the franchise so successful since its birth in 2001. There's a glorious submarine chase on ice, a man gets his head punched off his body, and hacked driverless cars bring a whole new level of pain to rush-hour in the city.
These absurd set pieces - and the one-liners that punctuate them - are undoubtedly the best part of F8. Elsewhere, the vague terror threat and the gooey "family" theme are about as palatable as spaghetti on a pizza base, and ring too earnest for a movie in which Dame Helen Mirren utters the word "bumhole" without flinching.
But I suppose there's a lot that doesn't add up in a film where the FBI works alongside a reformed bunch of boy racers to bring down an inexplicably dreadlocked Charlize Theron. The men in black (grizzly Kurt Russell and a ditsy Scott Eastwood) spend a lot of time talking up Cypher's power and technology (she has a ghost plane! Anonymous are scared of her!) without ever really outlining what is at stake beyond Dom's personal sacrifice. Luckily, the plot details tend to blur in the distance when such sizzling chemistry between the cast members keeps the film from running entirely on empty.
No matter how cynical you are, there's something heartwarming about seeing the gang together again, made all the more poignant by franchise star Paul Walker's tragic death during the production of the last film. Roman Pearce (Tyrese Gibson) plays the bewildered joker of the bunch with glee, inappropriately-timed selfies and flirtations. Letty Oritz (Michelle Rodriguez) continues to bring the fire, throwing a guy into a propeller, eyeballing a gun at point blank range and refusing to be a wounded woman despite her longtime beau appearing to betray her on a dime.
However potent the love of the central couple, nothing compares to the spark between muscle bros Dwayne Johnson's Hobbs and Jason Statham's Deckard. "Good luck Hercules" winks Statham across a prison cell at Johnson, before unleashing a beautifully brutal inmate mob fight. The fiery frenemies are the most watchable on-screen pair by a Cuban mile, but it's still not enough to make this film a pink slip winner. For all its odd notes, The Fate of the Furious basically chugs along as reliably as my beloved old Toyota Starlet, with enough familiar talent and ludicrous action to get you from A to B. But if my Starlet taught me anything, it's that when things start to splutter and rust, it might be time to let it go instead of just turning up the music and hitting the accelerator.
The Fate of the Furious
Showing now, rated M