After twenty years and nine movies (well, ten if you count Hobbs & Shaw), we all know what to expect from The Fast and the Furious. Action sequences that defy all logic, Vin Diesel mumbling through several speeches about family, a cookout where Corona is the drink of choice, and the main characters walking away from every set piece without a scratch. Even the characters who do die, i.e. Sung Kang’s Han, can always come back through… eh, let’s just say magic. The gang has cheated death so many times that Tyrese Gibson’s Roman almost becomes convinced that they’re invincible. At this point, it wouldn’t have been surprising if they drove a car through the fourth wall.
In typical Fast and Furious fashion, F9 will leave some cheering, some laughing, and some doing a little of both. I’m willing to go along for the ride as long as filmmakers keep finding new ways to top the insanity and stupidity. In some respects, F9 is the franchise’s most ridiculous outing yet. In other respects, it’s not quite as ridiculous as one would hope. If you’re going to jump the shark, jump over the moon.
Dominic Toretto and Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) are happily raising little Brian until the gang recruits them for one last one last job until the next one last job. They’re recruited to stop Jakob Toretto (John Cena), Dom’s estranged brother who he forgot to mention for the past two decades. In flashbacks, we see the roots of their sibling rivalry where Dom is played by Vinnie Bennett and Finn Cole plays Jakob. While both young actors look the parts, it is kind of distracting that Bennett has a few feet on Cole while Cena is taller than Diesel.
Having turned to the dark side, Jakob is after a plot device resembling the Power Stone orb. Jakob’s presence also provides an excuse to bring Dom’s sister Mia (Jordana Brewster) back into the mix, but Brian is on babysitting duty for obvious reasons. Other returning players include Helen Mirren’s Queenie, Charlize Theron’s Cipher, and Kurt Russell’s Mr. Nobody, although they’re all sadly sidelined. Dwayne Johnson is also missed, but it’s only a matter of time until we get a Hobbs & Shaw sequel.
Of course, the star of any Fast and Furious movie is the mind-numbing action. Assuming you’re in the right frame of mind, F9 does deliver with several magnetic set pieces. In a strange twist, though, the most inexplicable sequence is the biggest missed opportunity. Yes, this is the movie that finally sends the franchise to space. As ludicrous as that sounds, the sequence is strangely subdued for a Fast movie. Only two characters are sent into orbit and little time is spent beyond the stars. Maybe they’ll elaborate on the idea of space travel in the next film or, if they really want to up the silliness, a time-traveling DeLorean will enter the equation. After all, Universal also owns Back to the Future.
F9 doesn’t reach the heights of the previous four main installments, but it’s still more fun than the franchise’s earlier outings. There’s just enough high-octane action and testosterone to appease longtime fans. For those who are starting to experience franchise fatigue, though, a shorter run time would’ve been welcome. Love it or hate it, the film will inspire some fun conversations walking out of the theater. And after such a lengthy hiatus from in-person screenings, that’s a special feeling.