The Fast and the Furious released in theaters June 22, 2001, starring Vin Diesel and Paul Walker in what became a highly successful movie at the box office, grossing over 200 million worldwide. It could have easily been a throw-away film about illegal street racing and car-hijacking, but we all know how that story ended.
Or, I guess, it hasn’t really ended yet. But maybe it should have. Yeah. I’m going to say it should have. Because F9 does exactly what the past 3-4 movies in the franchise have tried to do: up the ante just a tad in the action department and add in a little twist to make each movie distinctive.
I will start by saying I was a fan of the Fast franchise through Fast Five (which is the best of the franchise in my opinion), and while 2 Fast 2 Furious was pretty terrible, the others in the lot were enjoyable experiences for me. Tokyo Drift is widely regarded as the main competition with 2 Fast as the worst of the franchise, but I actually liked it. I enjoyed the fact that it focused mainly on racing and the car culture of Japan, rather than trying to make it an action-filled popcorn movie.
All that to say, since Fast & Furious 6, the franchise has slowly but surely headed down a path of which there is no return. “How can we make the next one more outrageous?” The only problem with that philosophy is you reach a point in which it becomes laughably absurd.
When my friends and I went to see The Fate of the Furious in 2017, we couldn’t help but belly laugh when The Rock’s character pushed a torpedo while sliding on ice and holding onto a speeding car. My girlfriend at the time spent her time during the movie counting the ceiling tiles, and I didn’t really blame her. Maybe, just maybe, the masterminds behind the franchise are self-aware of the absurdity and are trying to create the most unbelievable sequences because they know it will humor moviegoers.
If that’s what you’re looking for, than you’ll probably enjoy F9. It attempts to reach even greater heights in the crazy factor and I guess it technically succeeds.
There are a few things about this movie that I liked: the actors who portrayed the young versions of brothers Dom and Jakob Toretto (Vinnie Bennett and Finn Cole) do a solid job and while they don’t have much screen time, make the most of it. The action sequences, while ludicrous (no pun intended) at times, are filmed very well, but that shouldn’t be a surprise with franchise vet Justin Lin back behind the camera after a short hiatus. The partnership of Roman (Tyrese Gibson) and Tej (Ludacris) continues to provide legit laughs and their chemistry is evident. Helen Mirren makes a short appearance and while one might expect her to phone it in, (and I wouldn’t blame her) she’s pretty good in the short scene she shares with Diesel.
Lastly, there’s a bit of self-realization by Roman throughout the film in which he recognizes that he and his compatriots have survived countless life-and-death situations without a scratch. It’s good to see that Lin doesn’t take himself or the film too seriously, and decided to include it in the final cut.
And that’s about it.
I’m not sure where to start on the negative. The script, which I didn’t expect much from, was pretty dreadful even for Fast standards. Screenwriter Chris Morgan who wrote every Fast film from Tokyo Drift through The Fate of the Furious is out, and it’s noticeable. The banter between characters falls flat every time. A sequence between Cipher (Charlize Theron) and new baddie Otto (Thue Ersted Rasmussen) that involves Star Wars characters is notably painful to watch.
The story is also a mess. Flashbacks to teenage Dom and Jakob are inter-spliced throughout the movie with little rhyme or reason, almost as if it’s a short film that they just decided to chop up and throw in sequentially throughout the film. While I enjoyed those scenes, it just convolutes the story even more. Perhaps releasing the scenes as a short-film teaser leading up to the actual release of the film would have worked, especially considering the bloated 143 minute runtime of F9.
It would also seem that in production meetings for the movie, the powers that be were so barren of logical or smart plot points that they just decided, “Hey, you know what we should do? Let’s introduce Dom’s brother, who for no apparent reason hasn’t shown up in the past eight films, and let’s have John Cena play him, even though he shares no hint of resemblance to Vin Diesel.” And if you’re wondering what type of character arc he has, it’s exactly what you would expect it to be.
The aforementioned bad guy Otto brings nothing new or unique to the table, just your standard rich-evil person fare.
I have to say that I’m glad Han (Sung Kang) is back after his apparent death in Tokyo Drift, but the way that it’s explained he survived leaves a little bit to be desired. But that should be expected considering how the franchise doubled down on his death showing his murderer to be Deckard Shaw. Now that rings hollow.
And if you were expecting an awesome showdown between Diesel and Cena, leave those expectations at the door, as their fight scene is brief and forgettable.
There’s a lot more that I could go into, but at this point, I think you get the picture. After seeing the last three films push the boundaries of believability, I found myself yawning during scenes that were supposed to have me on the edge of my seat. I relate it to a scene in an episode of Spongebob Squarepants, in which The Flying Dutchman, a scary ghost, haunts Spongebob for days on end. At first, Spongebob is scared, but eventually he gets used to the tactics of the Dutchman and is no longer afraid of him. F9 tried its hardest, but just couldn’t excite me in the slightest.