Most franchises don’t dare go to eight installments. The vast majority pull the plug after three or five films and attempt to gracefully move on. No so with The Fast and the Furious series. But here’s the wacky part: these testosterone-fueled romps somehow just get better and better. With The Fate of the Furious, Vin Diesel and company usher in a go-for-broke dazzler from a series that knows what it is and makes the most of it.

The story finds Dom (Diesel) and Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) gallivanting around Cuba on their honeymoon. In no time, this leads to a race through the ancient streets of Havana, culminating in an explosive finale. But the marital bliss is upended when Dom stumbles across a woman having car trouble. The woman turns out to be the nefarious Cipher (Charlize Theron), in the flesh.

On the team’s next mission in Germany, Dom does the unthinkable. He betrays his entire team and steals a massive EMP device, charting the course for this globetrotting adventure. As in previous films, Fate has a knack for staging some mesmerizing action sequences including cars tumbling from windows and yes, a nuclear submarine fighting it out with the team.

The ensemble cast, which also includes Ludacris, Jason Statham, Scott Eastwood, Kurt Russell, Tyrese Gibson and Nathalie Emmanuel, makes the most of Chris Morgan’s script. When taking a break from high-octane battles, these recurring characters happily chew the scenery as they unearth old feuds and possible romances. Theron, stunning as ever with draping blonde dreadlocks, is also clearing having fun as the demented cyber terrorist, torturing Dom and keeping his team on their toes.

So why does Dom turn on his family and friends? Good question. Let’s just say F8 is not lacking for terrific cameos, featuring some new and old characters, which certainly keep things interesting.

The production was mired by headlines teasing bad blood between the film’s two alpha males, Diesel and Johnson. Although this is understandable, both hold a commanding presence on this over-stuffed stage, ultimately this is clearly Diesel’s baby. And like Furious 7, Diesel and his team manage to find a tasteful way of nodding to Paul Walker.

This franchise succeeds because it’s not trying to reinvent the wheel. The formula is pretty simple. Pack the frame with lovable old characters, send them across the map and make sure plenty of stuff explodes along the way. It’s silly, predictable and downright fun. Frankly, it’s precisely what fans are hoping for.

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