F9: The Fast Saga
Starring Vin Diesel, Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese Gibson, Ludacris, Nathalie Emmanuel, John Cena, Sung Kang, Charlize Theron, Helen Mirren, Jordana Brewster, Lucas Black
When Universal won’t screen its latest franchise flick to critics in IMAX, you should already start anticipating the worst. For a decade (counting “Hobbs & Shaw”), audiences have either been entertained by these brainless action sequels or repelled by their lack of restraint for the absurd. Muscle head star of the franchise Vin Diesel, who once walked away from the series, has insisted Dwayne Johnson not be involved in the latest installment. Diesel has struggled his entire career to be more than just the “Fast & Furious” guy, settling into the reality around film five that Dominic Toretto is the extent of his acting ability. Director Justin Lin, who helmed Furious’ three through six, returns for the ninth edition, which expects audience to be familiar with sequels seven and eight. These movies are a mess in their dissociation of reality, laughable acting and script and inability to finalize anything.
Roman (Tyrese Gibson), Tej (Ludacris) and Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel) pay a surprise visit to Dominic (Diesel) and Letty (Michelle Rodriguez), who burst out of their farmhouse looking like Mark and Patricia McCloskey with guns drawn. News is delivered that Mr. Nobody (Kurt Russell) has gone missing, Cipher (Charlize Theron) has been extricated and imminent danger exists that only an aging street racing crew can combat. Flashback scenes invent a backstory and brother for Dominic and Mia (Jordana Brewster). Jakob Toretto’s (John Cena) reappearance brings back painful memories from the past for Dominic while Letty tries to keep him focused on his son and the future. The crew race around the world defying gravity and all odds, which Roman continually points out, picking up pieces of a weapon and puzzle that suggests a cyber weapon that can cause mass destruction.
“F9” will challenge even the franchise’s most staunch defender as it pushes the limit of absurdity one can tolerate.
In these movies just because you die in one sequel, doesn’t mean you will be dead in the next one. Gravity is once again defied; a special magnet is used throughout the film that can instantly pick and choose what it wants to attract. You already know to turn your brain off along with your cellphone during these movies. “F9” will challenge even the franchise’s most staunch defender as it pushes the limit of absurdity one can tolerate. Characters in one scene want world domination and seconds later side with the good guys, which is silly on its own, but this franchise has become so recycled that even bad guys turning good is a reoccurring theme.Around Fast Five (2011), Diesel married himself professionally to the franchise, and it stopped focusing on racing and began to evolve into a “Tomb Raider,” “Mission Impossible,” mystery-solving stunt.
The greatest accomplishment in “F9” is how it can make so many action sequences and crazy stunts so lackluster. The inevitable “race cars in space” becomes a reality in this sequel, as director and screenwriter Lin goes up and way beyond what many viewers, perhaps even fans, will tolerate. By trying to top what they did in the first one, eight times over, we have ended up with something that does not resemble where the franchise started and what initially drew audiences in. There is a joke about duct tape, but the franchise feels virtually duct-taped together with stunts, characters rejoining the cast just because the film can do it and throwing in stars such as Oscar-winners Helen Mirren and Theron to create the illusion of prestige.
You can almost feel brain cells dying as you watch.