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Need for speed remains strong with ‘The Fate of the Furious’

This image released by Universal Pictures shows Dwayne Johnson in “The Fate of the Furious.”
This image released by Universal Pictures shows Dwayne Johnson in “The Fate of the Furious.” AP

It’s a formula fans love — fast cars, outrageous stunts, cool dudes and hot ladies. Director F. Gary Gray (“Straight Outta Compton”) piles on the bigger, louder, faster extras as we crisscross the globe for another implausible international espionage story.

The franchise, which got better with the fifth movie, has become extremely exaggerated — gigantic explosions, crazier car chases, and higher stakes for “the family” the core cast has created.

Let’s face it — logic goes out the window, as the plots stretch the boundaries of far-fetched. No longer-edgy Dom (Vin Diesel), now married to no-longer-amnesiac girlfriend Letty (Michelle Rodriguez), is blackmailed by terrorist femme fatale Cipher (Charlize Theron).

So, he must betray his loyal pals, who can’t believe he has gone rogue. Oh, the melodrama gets thick. And so does the smoke.


More star power has been added, including Hollywood’s highest-paid actor Dwayne Johnson and fan favorite Jason Statham, and two Oscar-winning actresses.

Johnson, aka “The Rock,” who boosted the ensemble starting with 2011’s “Fast Five,” again provides much needed oomph as federal agent Luke Hobbs. He still isn’t used enough (well-documented public feud with co-star and producer Diesel). Nevertheless, when he’s on screen, he dominates. In the battle of the biceps, there is no contest.

Hobbs’ foe and reluctant frenemy British tough-guy Deckard is also a plus, and Statham is strong, showing off his comic flair, too. Dame Helen Mirren (“The Queen”) magically appears as his mother, Magdalene Shaw.

Theron (“Monster”) is a formidable villain, looking her gorgeous model-best, stating each line with intention. Her maniacal anarchist is an amoral sociopath who spouts absurd dialogue.

In the last film, Kurt Russell orchestrated the elite force’s mission as Mr. Nobody. He’s back, exhibiting what a smooth pro he is. Tagging along is Scott Eastwood, in fine form as his put-upon protégé Little Nobody.

The regulars do what fans expect. Meathead Diesel glares and mumbles. Rodriguez shows a soft side underneath her toughness. As Roman and Tej, Tyrese Gibson and Chris “Ludacris” Bridges bicker, and unsuccessfully hit on the new girl Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel).

What Works

Nifty vintage cars kick off the speedy opening street race in Cuba. However, by the time cars are raining down on NYC streets, we’ve been pummeled by increasingly spectacular stunts.

Mirren and Russell prove yet again what class acts they are, while beefy Johnson and Statham capably bring the heat.

What Doesn’t Work

The slick action scenes take center stage, so does it matter why or how they are saving the world? Clearly not, as the script could have been written by chimps at a typewriter.

The acting is a mixed bag, as always. A brief nod to the late Paul Thomas Walker, as FBI agent Brian O’Conner, makes his void obvious — he is missed.

The movies have strayed so far from its street-racing origins that one wonders what else could be left for the series to tackle. Yet, fans show up — and film No. 9 is planned for 2019 release. (Note: no teaser post-credits).

Perhaps its ridiculousness is part of its charm. That need for speed remains strong.

The Fate of the Furious

Stars: Two and a half

Director: F. Gary Gray

Starring: Vin Diesel, Dwayne Johnson, Michelle Rodriguez, Charlize Theron, Jason Statham, Scott Eastwood and Kurt Russell

Rated: PG-13 for prolonged sequences of violence and destruction, suggestive content, and language

Length: 2:16

What It’s About: Now number eight arrives to kick off mindless warm-weather blockbusters, with the fireball-palooza “The Fate of the Furious.” To no one’s surprise, the action-packed thriller stays in its souped-up lane.