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It may be just more of the same – but this furiously entertaining car-fuelled juggernaut still seems to have plenty of gas left in the tank.

The storylines get more and more incomprehensible, but with it the villains get more vicious, and the action more explosive – to prove there’s plenty of life in the Fast franchise after the tragic loss of former star Paul Walker.

British hardman Jason Statham is the guy who has (kinda) stepped into Walker’s shoes, when his ass-kicking criminal Deckard Shaw (from F&F 7) is brought into the team – much to the chagrin of Dwayne Johnson’s muscle-bound cop Luke Hobbs – by Kurt Russell’s mysterious returnee Mr Nobody.

That’s because Vin Diesel’s Dom Toretto has seemingly gone ‘rogue’ by betraying his ‘family’ after being seduced by Charlize Theron’s villainous tech-goddess known by the codename ‘Cipher’, leaving the rest of the crew – which includes Letty (Michelle Rodriguez), Roman (Tyrese Gibson), Tej (Ludacris) and new team mainstay Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel) – shocked and in disarray, after he turns on them (and blindsiding Hobbs) in Berlin.

This comes after both Dom and Letty – who are now considering starting a family of their own – honeymoon in Cuba’s Havana, which leads to an exhilarating opening race scene that really sets the high-octane tone of the movie.

While some of the dialogue (particularly between Tyrese and Tej, who are in danger of becoming one-trick ponies) and action set-pieces may start to appear a little recycled, Theron’s dastardly villain of the piece – particularly when she gets Dom to do her dirty work (see cars falling from the sky in the Big Apple) – always keeps things interesting, and the cast get notably equally split (there’s more Johnson this time out) screen time.

With city-controlling EMP’s, nuclear codes and submarines – yep we’ve advanced beyond tanks and planes – under her command, the Fast and Furious team have definitely moved up the food chain from high-scale thefts to potentially saving the world, which is seen during a jaw-droppingly over-the-top finale over the icy floe of coldest Russia.

Throw in some noteworthy altercations between Scott Eastwood’s rookie agent and Roman and Hobbs/Deckard, a clever cameo from Helen Mirren, and a fantastic movie-stealing set-piece from Statham’s Deckard during the climax (you’ll know what it is) – again this can’t help but put a smile on your face.

The real winner though is the amount of clever twists and turns – bet you never thought you’d see Dom cry? – which really helps Straight Outta Compton director F Gary Gray seamlessly continue the series with some aplomb.

This is supposedly the first part of the final trilogy with the current cast (after 5-7 completed the last one), so reportedly there’s two more parts in order to truly milk this cash-cow – but to go beyond the maxed-out absurdity here they’ll really have to do something truly preposterous next time out.

That said, there’s something likeably infectious about Fast and Furious, and – just like with parts 5, 6 and 7 – this has a competent three-star interior entertainingly wrapped in a four-star Hollywood exterior that simply revs up another exciting blockbuster.

The summer movie season has just started early…

Gavin Miller [youtube id=”uisBaTkQAEs” width=”600″ height=”350″]

Cast: Vin Diesel, Dwayne Johnson, Jason Statham, Charlize Theron, Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese Gibson, Chris ‘Ludacris’ Bridges, Kurt Russell, Scott Eastwood, Nathalie Emmanuel, Elsa Pataky, Kristofer Hivju, Celestino Cornielle, Olek Krupa, Luke Evans & Helen Mirren

Running Time: 2 Hrs16 Mins

Director: F Gary Gray

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