By now you know the drill. Car chases. Explosions. Twists. Turns. A stunning number of gear shifts. It’s fast and furious, and if you aren’t on board by now it’s probably best to not even bother.      

The eighth film in the franchise — “The Fate of the Furious” — follows Vin Diesel’s Dominic Toretto (“The Last Witch Hunter”) and his group of car driving mercenary superheroes as they take on the enigmatic Cipher, played by Charlize Theron (“Mad Max: Fury Road”). “The Fate of the Furious” follows on the heels of the emotional “Furious 7” which featured the final appearance of the late Paul Walker (“Eight Below”). With every new film, the “Fast” franchise moves closer and closer to the line between self-awareness and parody. In the latest installment that line is all but crossed.  

The plot (so much as there is one) finds Toretto at odds with his longtime family, forced to turn against them due to the machinations of Cipher. This actually works out better then expected, as the film plays it pretty straight and doesn’t ever ask the audience to believe that Dom has gone over to the dark side. From the first frame, it’s clear the movie is going to end with him coming back to save the day. The dramatic tension exists in the other characters wondering why he’s doing what he’s doing, and the film is able to draw a surprising amount of drama out of this idea before it begins to feel silly.

There are times when it all becomes a bit too much. Helen Mirren makes a cameo that seems to only exist to set up future stories. The ret-conning of Jason Statham’s character (“The Transporter”), from the series de-facto arch villain to a sympathetic family man, doesn’t entirely work. And the action scenes in this one may just be the most unrealistic yet. But none of it really seems to matter. The film justifies it’s own existence by being the best kind of bad movie imaginable. The ensemble cast still has a great spark and the overall themes of loyalty and family continue to hit home even though by this point in the series it might seem like they should be extinct.

It’s reasonable to ask if “The Fast and the Furious” franchise has run its course. The answer is simple: If these movies can keep coming up with scenes as hilariously ridiculous as Jason Statham fighting his way through an army of machine gun-clad cronies on a crippled airplane while carrying a baby in a baby carriage, they can keep cranking these things out as long as they’d like. The series is absurd, but in the best possible way. Like few franchises these days, it exists only for entertainment. It’s clear that everyone involved in this series just wants to keep having as much fun as possible for as long as possible. If it keeps being this good of a time for the audience as well, there’s no harm in continuing to push the pedal to the metal. 

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