PLOT: Dom Toretto’s family loyalty is tested when he discovers his disgraced younger brother is working with Cipher to go after Dom and the crew.
REVIEW: Rev up the engines. Ramp up the music. Get ready to rumble because Dom Toretto and crew are back for yet another adventure. Vin Diesel, Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese Gibson, Chris “Ludacris” Bridges are ready to roll, and even Jordana Brewster is joining the gang along with a few other notable returning fan treats, and don’t forget the cars and explosions that keep getting bigger. The 9th film in the series goes to places you’d never imagine, for better or worse. And yes, we have villains galore, old and new, trying to destroy the world or whatever. More importantly, they come between family, and you know what they say about “family” in these flicks? Either way, the gang is back so fasten your seatbelts, and strap in, let’s see if F9 is a ride worth taking.
Dom (Diesel) and Letty (Rodriguez) have finally settled into family life. Of course, since this is a Fast and the Furious movie, something is bound to pull them back in. And that someone is Jakob (John Cena), the long-lost, younger brother of Dom and Mia (Brewster). Things get far more complicated for the crew when they realize that their sibling is working with the dangerously wicked Cipher (Charlize Theron). Now we aren’t talking about a simple family squabble. We’re talking power beyond the likes anybody has seen before… well at least since the last F & F flick. This all leads to exactly what you’d expect, and perhaps a few things you won’t. If you are looking for a more spoilerific plot description, I’m certain you can find that and more if you do a simple Google search, but I’ll keep this spoiler-free.
F9 is Justin Lin’s return to the franchise after James Wan gave us Furious 7, and F. Gary Gray carried on with The Fate of the Furious. And there are moments here that harken back to Lin’s earlier work in Fast Five and Fast & Furious 6. However, as insane as it was to see a massive safe dragged down a busy street, the new film takes you to some truly outlandish heights. Get ready for Roman (Gibson) and Tej (Bridges) to take you on one of the silliest escapades ever belonging to an already silly franchise, and that’s truly saying something. Even with that, there are certainly a handful of impressive sequences that attempt to raise the already high bar of wild car imagery that is beyond impossible. In the latest, aside from the cast, the cars are the highlight. Especially when they’re a bit more grounded than they have been as of late.
Sometimes Lin’s imaginative ideas worked, but oftentimes they didn’t. If you’ve ever taken the Universal Studio Tour, you might get the feeling you’re seeing some of that popular attraction right here in Dom’s world. Perhaps I’m wrong, but the plane crash from War of the Worlds, as well as a location that looked eerily like Isla Nublar, appeared to make a cameo here. Even though there are a few thrilling moments spread throughout – one involving a much-needed bit of comic relief in London for a chase with one of my favorite characters in the series – a few of these fast and furious moments felt a bit been there, done that. Needless to say, this massive blockbuster occasionally looked as though less of the budget was actually put on-screen.
In addition to taking a stop on the studio tour, there are a few flashback sequences designed to give you an idea of what happened to Jakob’s character. The look of it didn’t quite work. It’d be a safe bet that they were attempting to match the tone of the original film. Instead, these moments felt off and didn’t quite look like they belonged in the same movie. In addition, the extended sequences only added a superficial character arc for Jakob. And remember all the cool locations in the previous installments? Well, here they sometimes appear to be shot on the lot with a handful of impressive establishing shot for whatever part of the world we are about to see. Maybe with all the talent involved, they had to cut the travel expenses, especially because this was in front of cameras pre-pandemic when they ideally could’ve gone anywhere.
That’s not to say this is all bad. It was terrific to see Jordana Brewster and Sung Kang back – although I’m not quite sure about the direction they went with Paul Walker’s character. As well, the many other returning actors were a treat, and it’s always fun to see the regulars work together and tear up the asphalt in mayhem-fueled ways. And while this won’t please everyone, it’s likely that if you are already invested thus far, you won’t mind the ridiculously insane script by Daniel Casey and Justin Lin. Since this might be the first movie many of you see on a big screen, the loud booms and the nutso action with a bag of popcorn may be all that you desire. And frankly, there’s not a damn thing wrong with that.
F9 will please fans expecting vehicular lunacy but may simply tire others hoping for something slightly less dopey. Throughout the film, I found moments that started to make the pulse pound, yet on a whole, it just gave out right before the finish line. Still, it’s entertaining to see a few familiar faces return, John Cena broods a bunch, and perhaps a couple of surprises will put a smile on your face. Yet as a whole, this just feels like an in-between rehash saving the best for last – we can hope. right? Considering that the 10th and 11th films appear to be a two-part final chapter, maybe that’s all this needs to be. Well, until they reboot it with a brand new cast of course. If you’re already invested, you’ll probably watch this and maybe even like it a little more. However, if you’ve already started looking for the exit, F9 will hardly keep the wheels in motion.