“F9” stars Vin Diesel, Michelle Rodriguez, Jordana Brewster, Tyrese Gibson, Chris “Ludacris” Bridges, Nathalie Emmanuel, John Cena, Sung Kang, Helen Mirren, and Charlize Theron. Released on June 25, 2021, the film has Dom and his team attempting to take down Cipher and a ruthless enemy from Dom’s past.
The film was directed by Justin Lin, who also directed films such as “Better Luck Tomorrow”, “Finishing the Game”, and “Star Trek Beyond”. It is the tenth installment in the “Fast & Furious” franchise. You better grab your gear, schedule your next family outing, and throw your physics books in the trash can because the Fast Family is finally back. Whether you like the recent films or not, we’re getting yet another round of physics-defying stunts and Vin Diesel’s obsession with “family” this weekend, which serves as an actual test to see if the summer movie season is back for good. There was no doubt in my mind that I was super excited to see this latest installment in this absurd yet popular action-packed franchise. Sure, the title looks lame compared to “The Fate of the Furious”, as they just put the letter F and the number 9 together and call it a day. But I was willing to look past it as long as I got my money’s worth. Since its first trailer debuted last year, I have constantly been filling my mind with excitement and curiosity. This was due to the return of director Justin Lin, the addition of Dom’s ticked-off brother, and the surprise resurgence of Han Lue, who was killed in “Tokyo Drift” by Jason Statham’s Deckard Shaw. Oh, and also the stunts, which unsurprisingly looked unrealistic and gleefully silly. But then the pandemic ruined my anticipation by forcing Universal to delay the film. Thankfully, it didn’t affect it by a considerable margin, and you can thank the marketing team for that. Now that we’re finally reunited with Dom and his crew, was it able to provide enough mindless action and heartfelt moments to keep the franchise racing, or was it showing signs that the series is running out of gas? Let’s put the pedal to the metal and find out.
The film takes place after the events of “The Fate of the Furious”, where Dominic Toretto (Diesel) and Letty Ortiz (Rodriguez) are enjoying their peaceful lives with his young son Brian. Their retirements are quickly put on hold when they discover that their old enemy Cipher (Theron) is planning revenge against them. To make things even more complicated, they also encounter an unexpected arrival of Dom’s younger brother Jakob (Cena), who holds a personal grudge against him and is working for Cipher. Dom and Letty will have to reunite and expand their family, including Dom’s sister Mia (Brewster) and a revived Han (Kang), for a showdown that will test Dom’s beliefs. If you’ve watched the recent “Fast & Furious” films, starting with the fifth installment, you can already tell just how balls-to-the-walls “F9” is, which features a mindless plot and a ton of stunts and sequences that tend to be more ludicrous than the last. No pun intended. They can also be very entertaining to watch with the right mindset. It’s the type of formula that helped revive the franchise ten years ago with “Fast Five” and made it into a household name ever since. It also included several moments that linked back to the previous installments so that newcomers won’t get easily lost. Much like its previous films, these elements alone make “F9” another diverting entry in the 20-year-old high-octane franchise. Although, they aren’t enough to satisfy everyone, including those who already gave up on it. The plot in “F9” showcased Dom facing the demons from his past while dealing with Jakob, who teams up with Cipher to retrieve a powerful device. Not only did it continue the franchise’s core message about family, but it also delved deep into Dom and Jakob’s childhood with its use of flashbacks. This was something that hasn’t been presented before, and while the execution was far from perfect, the film did a decent job at providing some tenderhearted depth in Dom’s belief in his family as well as Jakob himself. Outside of those sentimental moments, the main plot itself was just as crazy and idiotic as one would expect from a “Fast and Furious” film. But it was also a lot of fun thanks to its cast, Lin’s direction, and some suitable action sequences. However, it still couldn’t compete with what “Furious 7” brought to the table back in 2015. You can’t outshine the emotional beats of that film’s tribute to Paul Walker. You seriously can’t. With a runtime of two hours and 25 minutes, “F9” is now the longest installment in the franchise, beating out the likes of “Furious 7” and “Hobbs & Shaw”. Its pacing was acceptable in keeping the insanity engaging, but with a plot that’s as flawed as an old engine, it somehow bit off more than it can chew. The film also got wrecked by its formulaic elements, most notably the ones from “Fate of the Furious”, including a Toretto working for Cipher. The film also crashed hard by not providing enough emotional stakes in its world-saving scenarios. Fortunately, those things didn’t affect my experience entirely, as Justin Lin succeeded in delivering a good mixture of action, comedy, and tenderness. The main cast, including Diesel and Rodriguez, were once again appealing in their respective roles. Tyrese Gibson has been one of the franchise’s best moments since his first appearance in “2 Fast 2 Furious”, and his performance in “F9” is no different. His brand of humor never fails to make me chuckle like an idiot. Even some of his self-awareness jokes worked well in poking fun at the franchise as a whole. John Cena was also impressive in his role as Jakob, and Helen Mirren continues to be a well-deserved addition to the Fast Family as Queenie Shaw. As for Charlize Theron as Cipher, what else could I say about her? She’s just that good of an actress. Although, I was pretty disappointed in seeing her as a backseat villain compared to her role in “Fate of the Furious”, considering how much I loved what Theron did to that character in that film. The action scenes were unsurprisingly enjoyable and nicely directed by Lin. While it’s understandable that some of them were unrealistic, including Dom’s car swinging from island to island like Tarzan and a brief trip to outer space, there’s no denying the fact that the film wasn’t afraid to appreciate its silliness. If a movie can have fun with itself, then there’s a good chance the audience will too. I would also give Lin credit for relying on practical effects to bring these ridiculous stunts to life instead of taking some shortcuts with CGI.
Overall, “F9” speeds past its easy-to-distinguish flaws to deliver yet another round of mindless action and tolerable sentimentality. It’s easily inferior to the previous two main installments in my eyes, with “Furious 7” remaining as my favorite in the franchise. However, that didn’t stop it from being a joyful ride that’s worth seeing on the big screen. Thanks to its enjoyable cast, Justin Lin’s direction, tenderhearted moments, and delightful action scenes, the film marks a respectable return to the popular franchise after a two-year absence. If you enjoy the other installments in the “Fast & Furious” saga, then you’re going to have a good time watching this one. If not, then you’re better off waiting for the next “Mission: Impossible” film.
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