The further you get into "The Fate of the Furious" the more it reminds you of one of Sylvester Stallone's "Expendables" films. It has a huge cast of a-list talent - that is even larger than the previous installment. You can just imagine executive producer Amanda Lewis calling folk with the line "Hey, wanna make a bunch of money?"


James Wan, the director of "Furious 7" didn't return so the pitch went to F. Gary Gray ("Straight Outta Compton", "Law Abiding Citizen", "The Italian Job") who has a good track record for making money. Jason Statham and Dwayne Johnson were gimmes. The price tag went up a bit more with the addition of Charlize Theron and Helen Mirren. They also talked Kurt Russell to return with Scott Eastwood as Mr Nobody and Little Nobody respectively. Luke Evans' Owen Shaw character was revived as was Elsa Patasky's Elena character.


The rest of the gang - Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese Gibson, Ludacris, and Nathalie Emmanuel were a piece of cake as the Fast & Furious franchise are the biggest projects in their respective filmographies. "Furious 7" earned over $1.5 billion globally; no wonder this production budget topped out at $250 million.

The story was inked by Chris Morgan, the writer of the previous two F&F films, so there is some continuity...sorta.


The film opens with a really cool drag race between two vintage cars in Havana driven by Dom (Vin Diesel) and Cuban local played by Celestino Cornielle - Dom was driving an old beat-up Chevy that is literally falling apart.


Soon thereafter Hobbs (Johnson) is approached to swipe a EMP bomb ala "Mission: Impossible". But what Hobbs doesn't know is that Dom has been recruited by a dark agent named Cipher (Theron) who wants him to swipe the EMP for her own dubious purposes.

With Dom now turned to the dark side, Hobbs aligns with Mr Nobody and Little Nobody who aligns him with none other than Deckard Shaw (Statham), who is currently in prison. No problem getting out of prison is just part three of a series of over the top action sequences.


Like all the previous films, we quickly learn the superhero capabilities of a car. Provided it is a superfast car! But here is exactly where so much of the film becomes a boated farce. The cars are faster than heat seeking missiles (Mach 1.7) but not faster than a nuclear sub (top speed of 40 mph). That is a serious continuity and logic flaw, flaws that are hard to overlook even in a over-the-top action farce.


Hobbs deflects rubber bullets off his chest and wipes out entire armies with his massive arms. At nearly 50 years old, Statham can perform acrobatic maneuvers while kicking ass and taking names. And yet Tyrese Gibson and Ludacris can't find the words to say to Nathalie Emmanuel.


The motive behind the attacks by Cipher are to simply take over the world, much like Blofeld from the James Bond series. There is no explanation of revenge for a long ago wrong or stated amounts of monetary benefits... she just wants to take over the world by getting Russia and the United States into a nuclear war. How she convinces Dom to join her is stale and also contrived based on the recurring "it's all about family" theme.


For big splashes, the film is more than adequate, but it is seriously lacking a cohesive story. No worries though, two others are already scheduled as soon as this one earns a billion.


"The Fate of the Furious" is an overload of stunts and special effects that barely come together in a nonsensical plot. For fans of non-stop over-the-top action, it is a winner, but don't expect an ounce of substance.   -- GEOFF BURTON