PG-13, 145 mins.
2021, PG-13, 145 mins.
Vin Diesel as Dominic Toretto / Michelle Rodriguez as Letty Ortiz / Tyrese Gibson as Roman Pearce / Ludacris as Tej Parker / Nathalie Emmanuel as Ramsey / John Cena as Jakob Toretto / Sung Kang as Han Lue / Jordana Brewster as Mia Toretto / Charlize Theron as Cipher / Helen Mirren as Magdalene 'Queenie' Shaw / Kurt Russell as Mr. Nobody / Vincent Sinclair Diesel as Younger Dom / Vinnie Bennett as Young Dom / Finn Cole as Young Jakob / Thue Ersted Rasmussen as Otto / J. D. Pardo as Jack Toretto / Michael Rooker as Buddy / Cardi B as Leysa / Bad Bunny as LookoutDirected by Justin Lin / Written by Daniel Casey and Justin Lin
remarkable to think that when the first FAST AND THE FURIOUS film was
released twenty years ago it was a relatively grounded POINT BREAK
knock-off that explored the underground world of Corona beer drinking and
tank top shirt adored street racers that stole high end VCRs and DVD
Yeah. Good times.
keep sounding those nostalgic bells in my reviews for these films, but
it's hard not to. Watching
the evolution - if one could call it that - of this cinematic universe -
if one could also call it that - makes for a fascinating case study.
The exploits of Vin Diesel's Dom Toretto and company began so
modestly with the 2001 series launcher, which showed his hoodlum with a
code and love for "family" going up against the late Paul
Walker's undercover cop Brian O'Connor, which later morphed into a highly
unlikely partnership and later bromance.
Each entry since the beginning has upped the ante - for better or
and to think that this series nearly creatively died after FAST
AND THE FURIOUS: TOKYO DRIFT is astounding, in retrospect.
Then a surprising thing happened: The makers got the old crew back
together, cranked up the incredulous action and stunts to level 11, and
the F&F franchise got jump started (sorry for the car puns) back to
life with the great FAST FIVE (the best
of the bunch) and have not looked back since...even after the death of one
of its original cast members.
- and some would aptly say preposterously - the series got grander and a
whole lot dumber, but in an infectious and non-condescending manner.
As we careened towards FURIOUS 7
(still maybe the best seventh film in a franchise...ever) and the last
sequel in THE FATE OF THE FURIOUS
those simple glory days of peddling hot electronics are all but gone for
Now, these films are less gritty, per se, and have fully embraced
the limits of vehicular and espionage ridiculousness,
with Dom becoming a makeshift super spy embroiled in the stopping
the plans of nefarious, world dominating evildoers.
That, and the action started approaching sci-fi levels of sheer
incredulity, almost laughably so.
That's not a criticism.
This long winded prologue finally brings me to F9 (or FAST AND THE FURIOUS
9, or F&F9...however you want to slice it), which might just be the
most insane entry of the bunch on a level of sheer unbelievable spectacle.
It doesn't have Dwayne Johnson deflecting torpedoes with his hands,
mind you, but if you want grander displays of physics and gravity defying
action...then this is for you.
out almost four years after THE FATE OF THE FURIOUS (curse you, pandemic!)
and two years after the last F&F centric spin-off in HOBBS
AND SHAW, F9 sees Dom and family after their dangerous altercation
with cyber terrorist Cipher (Charlize Theron), and now we see Dom and the
love of his life in Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) retired to the country for
a life of solitude off the grid with their young son in "Little
Unfortunately, as is always the case with these films, fate stomps
in to rob these people of any semblance of a normal life: Old friends
Roman (Tyrese Gibson), Tej (Chris Ludicrous Bridges) and Ramsey (Nathalie
Emmanuel) come to their country home to inform them that a super-duper top
secret weapon (is there any other kind in these films?) has been taken
from the mysterious Mr. Nobody (Kurt Russell, in cameo form here) out of
his hands and - gasp! - Cipher was kidnapped while in his custody
at the same time.
The man most directly responsible is Jakob (John Cena), and he may
outwardly appear like another beefy baddie for Dom to take out...but this
time it's hugely personal as Jakob - double gasp! - is Dom's long
get some backstory behind this sibling rivalry in the form of sprinkled in
flashbacks, during which time we're whisked back to the 1980s and see Dom
and Jakob in their youth (played by Vinnie Bennett and J.D. Pardo, both of
whom never once seem credibly cast as baby faced versions of these
brothers) and we learn of the once fabled story of their dad dying on the
race track, which Dom believed was orchestrated by Jakob, leading to their
hostile split from one another.
Flashforward to the present and the emotionally wounded Dom - still
deeply hateful of his bro and his perceived backstabbing ways - feels
obligated to come out of spy retirement and stop him and his partners from
acquiring three separate pieces to a device that will lead to the holder
achieving utter world domination (for realsies!).
Dom has his work really cut out for him and realizes the severity
of this mission, but he's soon surprised by a few other people from his
past (one presumed to be dead) re-emerging to give him and is squad a much
needed assist in taking his evil sibling down.
and co-writer Justin Lin has returned as well to the F&F fold here (he
was absent behind the camera in THE FATE OF THE FURIOUS) and he seems to
have no problems whatsoever in terms of spoon feeding precisely what die
hard series fans are always clamoring for in these films: Improbable
automobile madness of the most absurd kind set against the backdrop of
multiple world spanning locations (if anything, F9 certainly expands the
geographical terrain of this series to impressively varied levels -
characters race around areas as far ranging as Central America, the UK,
Japan, Eastern Europe, etc.).
And, dear Lord in heaven, this film's action and stunts are nuts to
Over the top is simply not an accurate descriptor here.
Moments involving souped up cars are the stuff of children's
sandbox play here, and it's kind of giddily exciting how these films
manage to find new ways to have cars achieve the impossible...and then
gleefully go past the impossible.
An opening sequence, for example, had me howling over with
affectionate laughter: It involves Dom escaping pursuers in a jungle with
his tricked out car, leading to him nitro boosting himself off a cliff,
shooting a massive harpoon from the car into the cliffside, and then
swinging the entire free falling vehicle into a Tarzan like swing onto an
Of course, Dom and Letty (neither of whom were visibly wearing
seatbelts) are unscathed by the horrendous crash.
another fantastically silly series of action beats involving Dom and his
pals navigating all of their vehicles around land mines (with predictably
explosive results) and an even zanier sequence with a truck containing a
massive electromagnetic device that's able to pull just about anything
metal within its vortex, leading to a lot of inspired car crashes.
Perhaps most joyously absurd is the return of the old crew from TOKYO
DRIFT that are now delving into rocket propulsion with cars, which leads
to the unavoidable of blasting a few of the heroes off into space
(literally!) in a franchise first (seriously, this was the only
gravity-transcending frontier these characters have not attained in their
All of this limitless inanity is done pretty tongue in cheek and
not to be taken seriously, but it at least builds to some sly meta writing
this go around, as Roman at one point begins to seriously ponder why
nearly everyone in Dom's tight knit street racing/spy group seems to be
To be fair, he might be finally on to searching for answers to
questions that most viewers have been probably asking several films ago.
only wished, though, that the entire film built around these outlandish
action beats didn't take itself as serious as a heart attack.
There's a weird tonal whiplash that comes to the forefront here
more than in any other F&F entry, especially when it comes to the two
perpetually brooding and steely eyed brothers at the heart of this story's
Diesel has always been fairly robotic in this franchise (but it at
least harnesses his physical assets and presence well), but his interplay
with the building sized Cena leaves a lot to be desired here.
The former WWE superstar has impressed me in some of his against
type roles (see his very underrated comedic performance in the equally
underrated BLOCKERS), but here he's a
disappointment in terms of carving out a memorable villain to go
toe-to-toe with Diesel.
The arc of this character has some interesting layers (I
appreciated the film trying to dig deep into the tragic Toretto family
history), but when all is said and done, Cena and Diesel don't have much
on-screen magnetism together.
They growl, stare, and hiss at one another, and not much else; it's
all posturing machismo.
Considering the possibilities that could have been explored here,
F9 is kind of a letdown.
It's not helped that the two granite jawed actors play things as
solemnly as Shakespeare, which works against the rest of the unbridled
daftness built around them.
are other problems that are inescapable too, like the fact that they're
perhaps too many characters vying for attention, with many others being
horribly sidelined with nothing to do (like Theron's Cipher and Russell's
Then there's the resurrection of the Han character (who was
brutally murdered by Jason Statham's Shaw...or was he?), which involves
some ultra convenient franchise reconfiguring that made even the F&F
apologist in me roll my eyes.
I do, however, like how these films have become more equal
opportunist as they've gone on, like giving the female players much more
to do here.
I like how Letty and her new sidekick in - double, double gasp!
- Jordana Brewster's Mia (baby sister to Dom) get to figure in heavily in
the action as much as their male comrades (granted, in terms of explaining
the absent Brain O'Connor, the screenplay never once feels plausibly
adequate in this regard...he's babysitting everyone else's
kids...sure...uh huh...you bet).
Then there are obligatory series beats that seem regurgitated here,
like a massive technological MacGuffin that everyone wants, characters
changing allegiances at the drop of a hat, and considerable simonizing at
the value of "family."
So much of this is getting awfully stale.