FAST & FURIOUS 8 (12A, 136 mins)

Starring: Vin Diesel, Dwayne Johnson, Charlize Theron, Jason Statham, Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese Gibson, Chris 'Ludacris' Bridges, Kurt Russell, Scott Eastwood, Nathalie Emmanuel. Director: F Gary Gray.

AT the end of Fast & Furious 7, the high-octane franchise bade emotional farewell to actor Paul Walker, who died during filming, to the haunting melody of See You Again by Wiz Khalifa featuring Charlie Puth.

The spirit of the handsome California-born star lingers in this turbo-charged eighth chapter, directed by F Gary Gray.

Walker's daredevil character, Brian O'Conner, is name-checked in two scenes: once when the team of renegade street racers clamours for inspiration ("Brian would know what to do") and again for an emotionally manipulative dedication that ensures Walker's memory is hard-wired into the ninth and tenth instalments, which will burn rubber in 2019 and 2021 respectively.

Common sense dictates that Fast & Furious 8 should be running on petrol fumes.

However, logic has seldom been pumped into the tanks of a franchise that has landed a flying Camaro on the back of a speeding yacht, jumped a supercar between skyscrapers in Abu Dhabi, and dragged a bank vault through the streets of Rio de Janeiro.

Gray's film doesn't reinvent the wheel rims, reverse engineering some outrageously overblown action sequences that are a whoop-inducing delight, including carmageddon in New York City with remote controlled vehicles tumbling out of a multi-storey car park as the chief villain snarls, "Let it rain!"

Fast & Furious 8 opens in sun-baked Havana where professional street racer Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) has settled down with wife Letty (Michelle Rodriguez).

Unfortunately, diabolical mastermind Cipher (Charlize Theron) - who proudly describes herself as "the crocodile at the watering hole" - has other plans.

She blackmails Dom into betraying his band of brothers.

"Your team's about to go up against the only thing they can't handle... you!" smirks Cipher.

On cue, Dom double-crosses Letty, Roman Pearce (Tyrese Gibson), Tej Parker (Chris 'Ludacris' Bridges) and hacker Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel).

Covert operative Mr Nobody (Kurt Russell) and his inexperienced deputy (Scott Eastwood) assemble a crack team to take down Cipher and Dom led by DSS agent Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) and "tea and crumpet-eating criminal" Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham).

Fast & Furious 8 screeches around Cuba, Germany, America and Russia to deliver jaw-dropping set pieces on land and splintering ice.

Diesel, Johnson and Statham out-growl each other, while Oscar winner Helen Mirren chews scenery as Deckard's cor-blimey-guvnor muvva.

As a spectacle, Gray's film passes its MOT with flying colours.

However, as a coherent narrative full of believable characters and sinewy subplots, the eighth film is a clapped-out banger.

Dialogue clunks like a dodgy exhaust in Chris Morgan's script, like when Dom asks Letty if she wants children and her laughably verbose response is: "It's not about what I want or what you want, it's about why we haven't asked the question."

Fasten your seatbelts and shift the gears of your brain into neutral. 6/10