‘F9’ not as fast nor as furious but still ridiculously fun

by Tim English on June 24, 2021

in Print Reviews,Reviews

[Rating: Minor Rock Fist Down]

Near the end of F9: The Fast Saga — ugh, we’ll get into the title in just a sec —  Tej (Chris ‘Ludacris’ Bridges) leans over to Roman (Tyrese Gibson) and says with a straight face: “As long as we obey the laws of physics, we’ll be fine….”

And then they drive a Pontiac Fiero into space.

Yep. The tenth installment of the Fast and Furious saga — a “saga” being the collection of films, not just one film, guys!F9 finds new ways to be ridiculously absurd, insanely illogical and annoyingly fun as hell to watch. It’s either a testament to the magical power of movies or the lingering effects of a depressing lack of content over the past year.

F9, which was set for release in 2020 before society shut down, opens with a flashback into the Toretto family history and we start to learn what happened to Dom’s father and his brother — his what? — yeah. Don’t worry, it’s in the trailers. Even though there’s been 9 or 10 movies up to this point, there are a lot of things we don’t know. But don’t worry there are plenty of long winded, monologuing story-telling sequences that get us caught up on the reshaping of the F&F timeline.

So Dom’s dad is a race car driver, young Dom (Vinnie Bennett) works in the pit crew, his dad dies in a horrific car crash during a race, thus setting up our personal conflict for the movie, giving a few characters a chance to act rather than just say words. And by act, I mean every now and then, Vin will purse his lips and stare intensely, instead of saying something.

But I digress. So, then we time jump to some time after the last movie. Time, like logic, does not exist in the F&F dojo, so it doesn’t matter. Dom (Vin Diesel) and Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) are living a quiet life with their kid, but they’re bored. Good thing Roman, Tej and Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel) show up just in time with a mission, cuz you know they’re all international espionage super heroes now so when Mr. Nobody’s (Kurt Russell) secret spy plane gets taken down obviously the first and only call is to our favorite street racing familia.

But Dom doesn’t wanna get involved until he realizes that his brother, Jakob is responsible. Yep, brother Jakob is some sort of master spy, super criminal dude and he comes with all kinds of back story and flashbacks to make you feel like he’s existed all along. Of course, he’s played by John Cena, because apparently we’re still trying to make him a thing. LIke most of his other movies, he isn’t given much to say. In fact his sidekick Otto (Thue Ersted Rasmussen), who thinks he’s Luke Skywalker, is actually a more interesting, even if equally contrived villain.

That’s enough about “the plot”. There’s a macguffin. It does something bad. Everyone wants it. The adventure sends Dom and his crew on a globe-trotting journey, which allows them to conveniently reconnect with almost literally anyone who has ever been in one of these movies (Charlize Theron, Lucas Black, Helen Mirren, Jordana Brewster, Sung Kang, etc.) and survived — and some who didn’t (and people think Marvel is bad about not keeping characters dead….). It’s like a who’s who of the Fast and Furious Saga. Can we get a movie about Letty and Mia and Ramsey, while we all making these ridiculous things?? That would be fun.

And then there is the action, which let’s be honest, that’s why we’re all here. Each exotic and not so exotic locale change comes with a kick ass little action sequence to accompany. Some are more ridiculous than others, but at least the characters are becoming aware they are protected by “plot armor”, after reflecting on all of the logistically impossible and asinine things they’ve not only done but survived. Of course it only propels them to test that theory and just do even more insanely impossible stunts.

And that is the beauty of the F&F franchise. Look, this is not a great movie. But if you’re reading this review, you’re curious. And if you’re curious about these characters after nine movies plus The Rock’s spin-off, Hobbs and Shaw, then you know what you’re getting into and clearly are okay just shutting off your brain and letting logic cancel itself out.

Ultimately, F9: The Fast Saga is middle to lower middle of the pack as far as overall quality and re-watchability and at 2 hours and 25 minutes it’s probably at least 45 minutes too long. It rarely makes sense. The dialogue is rough at times, okay most of the time. Way too much time is spent re-writing F&F history. But for what it is, it’s a fun, empty-headed action flick. 

And yes, there is a mid-credits scene that sets up the next chapter.

Lover of movies and tacos. Ad man. Author. Member of the Kansas City Film Critics Circle and the Broadcast Film Critics Association. Founder of the Terror on the Plains Horror Festival. Creator and voice of the Reel Hooligans podcast.

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