For the second half of its existence, the Fast and Furious franchise has been hurtling, engine roaring and muscles vibrating, away from sense. It has whizzed past logic. The laws of physics are but a speck in the rear-view mirror. What little subtlety it ever had was run down and left squished across the tarmac several episodes ago. Long may it continue!
The sillier the films get and the more they try to outdo their absurd set pieces the more fun they are. Character development is minimal. Plot holes are gaping. Yet to dwell on those as problems is to miss the point. The people are props, crash test dummies to fill the seats. Pure spectacle is its aim and as an example of that it’s majestic.
As with every instalment, the plot kicks off with a reason to divide the ‘family’ of Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel), so they can later be brought back together in a way that involves driving very fast and lots of things exploding. That reason is played by Charlize Theron, an evil computer genius who forces Dom to help her steal some nuclear weapons by kidnapping…we won’t give it away. Theron is a joy as a villain of depthless cruelty. The good-guy cast is now huge, but everyone gets their moment. The combination of The Rock and Jason Statham, bickering like an old married couple, is used as liberally and amusingly as you’d hope. The addition of Helen Mirren as Statham’s mum is brief but boy does she make it count.
Oddly, the only slight drag in the whole bunch is Diesel, who hasn’t caught on to the dafter tone. He still plays his scenes as if they have serious emotional weight. Sometimes that’s necessary – Dom’s story gets dark – but his mirthless swagger feels like a relic of the series’ earliest days rather than a necessary part of its future.
Then there’s the action. It’s wonderful. F Gary Gray’s 2003 remake of The Italian Job showed a skill for car chases, and here he lets those loose on mad sequences involving Lamborghinis outrunning a submarine across a frozen lake, ‘zombie’ driverless cars and The Rock punching a missile. It’s absolute nonsense and a complete hoot.