In the latest ‘Fast & Furious’ movie, Dom (Vin Diesel) is now retired and living a peaceful life off the grid with his son Brian and wife Letty (Michelle Rodriguez). An assignment comes up which involves an old foe, Cipher (Charlize Theron), and it takes about two seconds to convince Dom to buckle up on another exploit (because apparently driving cars really fast totally qualifies you to work for the government). Who should pop up along the way but Dom’s estranged brother Jakob (John Cena), because of course it wouldn’t be a ‘Fast & Furious’ movie without a bit more family.
Look, one can readily admit that the ‘Fast & Furious’ franchise is not made for critique and movie reviewing purposes. But this writer has seen all nine instalments (sad or awesome? You decide) and at the end of the day, you can at least compare them to one another. ‘F9’ strikes one as perhaps the weakest installment of the franchise yet as everything about it is so formulaic and careless that even the typically stupid fun of the series is all sucked away.
Clichéd lines like “I’ll always be in your heart,” “Things change” and “Oh hell no” dominate, though of course, again, we haven’t come for the dialogue. The feature is populated by far too many characters and side plots, at one point there being a bloated build-up to, yes, that sequence the filmmakers promised, a space car. At a bizarre pacing, the characters globetrot to Tokyo, Cologne and the UK, seemingly just to show off that the filmmakers have the budget to do so. But most frustrating of all, in a franchise that promises to deliver on thrills and action, there are fewer practical stunts than ever, with the emphasis now shifting to nonsensical CGI (look, obviously that double skyscraper jump in ‘Fast & Furious 7’ wasn’t real but damn, it was so much fun).
Naturally, our villain is Russian, and the son of an oligarch (as has been the case for every action movie since ‘John Wick’) and naturally, a Japanese apartment gets trashed (why else do they fill those places up with paper walls and dainty objects?). There’s every action movie cliché ever in this movie between the inept driver forced into a car chase, roof jumping, and a standoff between protagonist and antagonist as they point their guns and stare reeeeally intensely at each other (Like seriously, Vin and John just spend the entire movie frowning or glaring at each other while spewing their mores and value system whenever they get together). And don’t worry – John Cena’s origins get a nod here too as he wrestles a large man atop a moving vehicle in one scene.
Anyone who’s seen a few installments of the ‘Fast & Furious’ movies will recall the frequent trope of women dancing around cars (apparently we can’t get enough of it). Well for this ninth chapter, you’ll be treated to not one but two such sequences. One of these occurs in a flashback sequence, involving a young Dom and Jakob, played by Vinnie Bennett and Finn Cole, respectively. In fairness, when the film turns to such flashbacks, it’s actually quite good – especially considering Cole gives the best performance in the feature – and leans into that nostalgia factor just right. But then the throwback scenes get just a little ruined by such moments as Dom and Jakob’s father likening taking care of a car to taking care of – you’ve guessed it – family.
We’ve had too many ‘Fast & Furious’ movies at this point and Vin Diesel and the gang just need to park it once and for all. One just feels embarrassed for the likes of Ludacris and Tyrese Gibson having to play the comic sidekicks routine over and over. The inclusion of Theron and Helen Mirren is also cringe inducing, even if they were shooting for about a day. Forcing Theron into another terrible hairstyle shouldn’t be worth any pay cheque.
The plan seems to be to make two more ‘Fast & Furious’ movies regardless, so as long as fans go see this, it matters little what the critics have to say. Having done every stunt possible on Earth, and starting to venture into space now, we’d put good money on the franchise heading into time travel and the multiverse next.