This eighth installment in the Fast and the Furious series marks a considerable improvement over the seventh, in large part because it wasn’t directed by James Wan. His replacement, F. Gary Gray, has the common sense to slow things down now and then, letting the charismatic players (among them Vin Diesel, Michelle Rodriguez, Dwayne Johnson, and Kurt Russell) carry the show instead of bombarding viewers with action. The set pieces are nicely modulated too; Gray generates actual tension and release during the car chases and demonstrates a decent feel for locations. The plot (as if it mattered) involves Diesel’s character being blackmailed into working for a globe-trotting criminal, played by Charlize Theron; needless to say, his “family” of good-guy hot-rod enthusiasts comes to the rescue.