The Fast and the Furious 9 is the Terminator Genysis of the franchise. The number of past incidents that have been subverted, corrected, altered or changed, to accommodate this narrative, will make your head spin. If you have to go back and alter key moments in your movie series to have the new one work, clearly something is amiss. Due to this, it can be very hard to follow, even for series veterans. I saw the newest instalment with a fan, who kept asking me questions to confirm what was happening – and to be honest, more than once, even I didn’t have an answer.
You will notice that Chris Morgan and Gary Scott Thompson do not have writing credits on this film, and believe me, their departure shows. The franchise had pushed the suspension of disbelief factor to its limits, but what happens in this film teeters on the edge of just plain silly. There is a running gag in the film, as characters point out how they constantly survive, theorizing they are ‘immortal’. This only draws attention to the fact that characters are in one car wreck, explosion and shoot out after another, and constantly come out without a scratch. What originally made the Fast series so likable was that these were ordinary people, doing extraordinary things. They were mortal, and could be killed, which made it all the more exhilarating. Now, they are invincible, which makes every accomplishment that much less entertaining, because we know the outcome. This inevitably leads to predictability.
As for the story, this is one of the weakest parts of the feature. Dom (Vin Diesel) has hung up his cape, so when Roman (Tyrese Gibson), Tej (Ludacris) and Ramsey (Nathaniel Emmanuel) come to him with a gig, concerning the disappearance of Mr. Nobody (Kurt Russel) and the re-emergence of Cipher (Charlize Theron), he initially ignores the call, wanting to instead focus on raising his child. That is, until he finds evidence suggesting that his long-abandoned brother, Jakob (John Cena) is responsible.
The interweaving of Jakob into the plot, which is done non-chronologically over the course of the film, going back and forth between 1989 and the present-day, touching on past events merely spoken about in previous entries, is probably one of the best executed parts of the movie. The theme of love, family and friendship is ever prevalent, however, the clashing of two powerhouses; Diesel and Cena, is nowhere near as phenomenal as viewers may have hoped. This is not like the time when The Rock and Diesel had their confrontation in Fast Five, and the chemistry overall is less explosive. In fact, it’s almost non-existent.
Cena’s Jakob is the only character in the film with a decent ark. This ultimately makes for a pointless story, for almost every character starts at the same place that they end up. There is zero growth. With that said, Cena does a good job with what he has; the problem is, there isn’t much of it. There are entire scenes where he says nothing. He is severely underused. Worse still, is Cipher. Theron easily has the best lines in the movie; despite only having about 5 minutes of screen time. She is cold, calculating and menacing, and you truly wish she was the lead character. Instead, the film introduces Otto (Thue Ersted Rasmussen) as one of the lead antagonists; a young man with daddy issues, who wishes to take over the world. He is not taken seriously by the other characters, and his hyperbolic persona leaves him looking like a c-grade cookie-cutter Bond villain. Sheesh!
Similarly, to its predecessor, F9 is bloated with an over-abundance of characters, some of which could have been removed from the film entirely, as they do little to move the plot forward. Bringing back Mia (Jordana Brewster) is actually one of the film’s best decisions, and unlike instalments 6 and 7, she actually has a meaty chunk of things to do here. The always entertaining Sung Kang as Han is back, and this time he’s accompanied by a cute ninja girl (Anna Sawai), because apparently, every Asian girl is a cute ninja girl.
Seeing what has happened to Sean (Lucas Black) however, seems insanely out of character for him. This leads into yet another issue with the movie; the action set-pieces take precedence over character and story, and thus, many things just seem forced. Take Mr. Nobody as a further example, who has gone from a character, to a plot device; suddenly, half of the cast in the franchise are his agents, a technique attempted to explain away every bizarre decision in the film.
Then we get to the editing. Let it be known, Justin Lin’s fourth, fifth and sixth entries, are my favorites in this long-running franchise. That said, I don’t feel his exceptional attention to detail in this film. Often, scenes sporadically cut from one thing to another, and it honestly feels like we, the audience, are missing out; as though the movie is so desperate to show the next confrontation or joke, that they gloss over everything else. By the end, I had so many unanswered questions. I know; it’s a movie, but there was so much in this film that was not even addressed. Don’t even get me started on the end credit scene; I’m still shaking my head nonsensically over that one.
Moving on, nothing negative could be said for the score, which really intensifies the moments, though, what we see on screen rarely lives up to the impact the music touts it as. The stunts, though utterly bonkers, will often bring a smile, though there is noticeably less mayhem than in the previous few entries. Don’t get me wrong – plenty of things are destroyed, but compared to past entries, there is a sizeable downgrade.
Overall, that’s just it; compared to the other movies, F9 does not measure up. So much has been changed to get us to where we are with this franchise, and after everything that happened, only to basically end up exactly where we were at the end of F8, I’m left wondering, seriously, what’s the point?
Review by totalovrdose