Fast & Furious 8 review: “a charming, exhilarating, stupid, rip-roaring pure rush of adrenaline”

As Charlize Theron spirits Vin Diesel away from his four-wheeled family, this high-octane franchise remains resolutely on track

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★★★★

From the opening car race in Havana to the finish line in the Arctic, this is action nirvana – a perpetual kinetic blast to keep the long-running franchise rolling on. In fact, it is probably the best and most complete thrill-ride since Mad Max: Fury Road.

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F Gary Gray, the director of Straight Outta Compton, takes this straight into the Hall of Fame for turbo-charged action movies with some truly incredible set pieces. Vin Diesel in a flaming, twirling armoured car, leap-frogging a nuclear submarine before being shielded by a circle of classic motors, anyone? That’s just one breathless moment in an upgraded vehicle that takes from every instalment of the series for a blitzkrieg of blockbuster brass neck.

Of course, the film is also hilariously macho, with Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham being the pinnacle of anti-bromance buddy partnerships. And there’s really no point in stopping to think about the plot because it’s ludicrous. 

Dom (series regular Vin Diesel) has gone rogue. While honeymooning in Cuba with Letty (Michelle Rodriguez), he’s ambushed by power-crazed cyber terrorist Cipher, played by Charlize Theron in full-on Blofeld mode.

After showing him a picture on her smart phone – of what, we don’t learn until much later – he’s coerced into stealing an electromagnetic pulse bomb in Berlin. Not only that, he robs the Russians of nuclear security codes in Manhattan and launches a military sub in the Barents Sea.

No one, least of all Letty, can understand why he’s joined forces with Cipher, so it’s up to Mr Nobody (a wasted Kurt Russell) and his new by-the-book assistant “Little Nobody” (perky Scott Eastwood) to get the old team back together. That’s Letty, Hobbs (Johnson), Roman (Tyrese Gibson) Tej (Ludacris), Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel) and Deckard (Statham).

It goes without saying, there is a lot more subterfuge and double-dealing going on than meets God’s Eye – a so-called mega-computing programme. Plus, there are a few fun and surprising cameos.

The visual artistry and seat-edged spectacle is incredible, from the giant wrecking ball that makes mincemeat of rival vehicles in Berlin to the dazzling onslaught of motor mayhem on the streets of New York. There’s also astonishing stunt work on a frozen sea and a marvellous aeroplane shoot-out with Statham literally left holding the baby.

Though it ploughs its way through every action cliché possible with a devil-may-care assurance, the film is also laced with a tongue-in-cheek smartness and pays homage to past exploits and beloved characters. The final line may well make ardent fans choke up.

Fast and Furious 8 (whose title in the UK has curiously been changed from The Fate of the Furious) is a charming, exhilarating, stupid, rip-roaring pure rush of adrenaline. As high grade as the weaponry on show and sublime as the soap-opera antics it wallows in, you’ll cheer every time Diesel mentions “family”. Fasten those seatbelts because this powerfully entertaining series doesn’t look like running out of gas any time soon.

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Fast and Furious 8 is released in cinemas on Wednesday 12 April