PG Score: 6.25/10
F9 was released in theaters on 6/25/21
The Fast and the Furious franchise is back and wilder than ever. Writer/Director Justin Lin is once again in the driver’s seat and wastes no time in showcasing his flair for absurd, yet entertaining set pieces. F9 is often too ridiculous for its own good, but the thrilling action coupled with Lin’s familiar grasp on the saga still makes for a fun ride.
The latest lap around the globe finds Dominic Toretto's (Vin Diesel) younger brother, Jakob (John Cena) leading a diabolical operation that threatens all of humanity. It is up to Dom and his team to stop him.
After directing half of the previous eight installments, Lin hops behind the wheel for another spin and will stay there to bring the series across the finish line. There is no denying his ability to craft imaginative and extravagant action sequences. No distance is too far, and no stunt is too unreasonable for the fearless filmmaker as he concocts some truly outrageous mayhem. He continues to prove that when it comes to The Fast and the Furious, there are zero limits. Lin’s signature audacious style may benefit from being reeled in a bit, however, as his latest production repeatedly veers into the realm of farcical. Even going by the generous standards set by its predecessors, F9 is too silly at times. This not only reduces the impact of the action, but also detracts from some of the character development and storylines that have been building over the course of twenty years.
While it does push the envelope, the action is relatively enjoyable for the most part. Some segments are markedly better than others, but the stronger ones pack a punch. Fans who have been around since the beginning will likely be pleased to see actual races present in the movie. It is a shame that these nods to the franchise’s roots are merely infrequent detours as the focus remains on repetitive melees and high-octane spectacles. The departure into extreme car-based obliteration is nothing new and Lin handles these explosive portions with a skilled hand, but the old-school street racing that The Fast and the Furious was built on strikes a different chord. The weakest link in the action department is the hand-to-hand combat, which is relied upon far too often throughout the lengthy 145-minute runtime and lacks the force found in prior Fast entries.
John Cena is one of the new members of the sizable cast and his performance as Dom’s deranged brother, Jakob is serviceable. Much of the dialogue in F9 is quite cheesy so there is not much depth required of the actor, but his performance serves its purpose. The core group consisting of Dom (Vin Diesel), Letty (Michelle Rodriguez), Roman (Tyrese Gibson), Tej, (Ludacris) and Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel) is again in the spotlight, and the result is a mixed bag.
Dom and Letty’s scenes are hit and miss. Some of the exchanges that cover how far the couple has come resonate on a deeper level, while others ring hollow. The latter is through no fault of the veteran actors, but rather a subpar script. The usually humorous interactions between Roman and Tej follow a similar pattern as they only occasionally generate laughter this time around. Emmanuel’s Ramsey is involved in several of these gags and adds a refreshing comedic style to the mix. Helen Mirren and Charlize Theron reprise their roles, and both actresses steal the show in their limited screen time. Theron is cool and calculating as the villainous Cipher, whereas Mirren’s Magdalene Shaw is delightfully jovial in one of the movie’s more memorable scenes. Lucas Black and Bow Wow are back as Sean and Twinkie, respectively, and the pair operates in a similar comedic fashion to that of Roman and Tej. The most significant comeback comes in the form of Han's return, and his revival is arguably the most crowd-pleasing aspect of F9.
Absurd, but Enjoyable
The newest film in the series abandons all remaining ties to anything remotely realistic, and the ensuing chaos is a double-edged sword. Fortunately, Justin Lin’s expertise in large-scale vehicular destruction and the reappearance of a few fan favorites supply F9 with just enough fuel in the tank to keep the franchise on the road…or in the air.