Dom Toretto (Vin Diesel) and Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) are on their honeymoon in Cuba when he learns his cousin's car is about to be repossessed by a local loan shark, and he's not having that, no matter that the car itself has seen better days. Therefore he strikes a deal with the money man: if he can beat Dom in a race, then they will settle by Dom handing over his expensive sports car, if not, he hands over his own pricey wheels. Knowing he can win this with a little tweaking of his cousin's junkheap, he works mechanical magic on it and soon they are racing through the streets of Havana, going faster and faster until the wreck cannot take it anymore and catches fire, then Dom must drive it in reverse over the finish line. But he won't always win - Cipher (Charlize Theron) will see to that...
Making another instalment in a franchise missing one of its leading players is not an enviable position for any studio; to carry on in spite of that star being dead is even trickier, but Universal managed it with Fate of the Furious, or Fast & Furious 8 as it was known internationally (and more prosaically). The late Paul Walker was not around anymore, and this sequel glossed over that by saying his character Brian was out of the life of crime that his pals had chosen, though there was a tribute at the close suggesting this series could carry on indefinitely as long as there were babies being born into what Dom insisted on calling his family (though his sister character, played by Jordana Brewster, was absent with no explanation).
With that in mind there could have been a more sombre, even stately tone to proceedings as befitting a respectful tribute to their fallen soldier, but not a bit of it, they carried on like business as usual, recognising that not continuing on their ridiculous journey into ever more over the top action shenanigans would neither be in the spirit nor the wishes of what Walker would have wanted. The results were the most entertaining entry since part five, the previous effort having a little too long a shadow over it, understandably so, but as they prolonged their activities, not so much throwing caution to the wind as flinging it into deep space, the essential daftness returned and a good time was had by all.
Well, almost all, there were grumblings that Fast 8 was simply getting bloody stupid, and behind the scenes Dwayne Johnson, more committed to the series in this instalment, took to social media to whinge about his male co-stars in a manner that suggested all this talk of harmony and family in the actual movie did not extend to the shooting of the thing. Differences were ostensibly settled and the movie completed, but it did come across as rather unseemly, particularly in the sequel that was the first not to feature Walker, aside from odd man out Tokyo Drift. But big franchises have weathered worse storms, and watching this you would have no notion of any friction between the cast, everyone got on with their job with the utmost efficiency and... good humour (?) as far as you could tell.
The plot was even more shamelessly aping the James Bond franchise than before, only instead of a solo secret agent there was a team, uniting to bring down a villain who has epic proportions of boo-hiss evil up her sleeve, the difference being that Bond did not often encounter a woman pulling the strings as the mastermind. Theron was appropriately icy in the role, but oddly uncharismatic, dialling it back perhaps a shade too far, as Cipher forces Dom to do her bidding since she has imprisoned his old girlfriend (Elsa Pataky - you'd forgotten about her, right?) who has since given birth to his son without his knowledge. There followed dastardly plans to put into play to hold world leaders to ransom with an electrical pulse weapon, but what you cared about most was witnessing how ludicrous (or Ludacris) those setpieces were. They did not disappoint those who appreciated stupid-good action, from raining cars to a climax against a Russian submarine in the Arctic, and the sense of "what the hell!" fun was infectious, its party in the face of mortality unexpectedly powerful. Not dramatically stunning or anything, but nicely done. And Jason Statham's mum? Seems obvious now! Music by Brian Tyler (sterling job as usual).