F9: The Fast Saga

When Roman (Tyrese Gibson), Tej (Chris 'Ludacris' Bridges) and Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel) ride up to the farmhouse where Dominic Toretto’s (Vin Diesel) trying to lead a quiet life, they’re surprised to find guns drawn on them.  After showing them the urgent, breaking up video message they’ve received from Mr. Nobody (Kurt Russell), Dom is unmoved while Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) realizes hiding his five year-old son Brian from visitors is no way to live.  After Letty leaves, Dom views that video once more and spots a disturbing artifact from his past and so the team reunites to save the world and restore family ties in “F9: The Fast Saga.”

Laura's Review: C

Cowriter (with Daniel Casey)/director Justin Lin takes his first stab at franchise screenwriting after having directed the series' midsection beginning with 2008's "The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift" and if you’re at the point, as I am, where you roll your eyes every time Dom mentions family, Lin’s created a franchise family reunion, bringing back characters from multiple other films whether they’re dead or not. 

Speaking of family, how is it that we’ve made it through 8 prior films without knowing that Dom and Mia (Jordana Brewster) had a brother?  Not only that, but this brother apparently affected the course of Dom’s life and is about to become a major thorn in his side.  It’s also easy enough to predict how this will all end.

Lin reunites the team in Montequinto at the site where Mr. Nobody’s plane went down.  It’s not too long before Letty finds a hunk of plastic that will prove all important and military vehicles will storm in firing automatic weapons that hit exactly nobody.  In fact, it’s so obviously absurd, that Roman will become convinced they’re invincible, and that’s before he drives across a bridge while it collapses leaving only a wire for Dom to use as a slingshot for his muscle car.

After discovering that the other half of the thing that will give Otto (Thue Ersted Rasmussen), the son of a dictator now partnered with Dom’s brother Jakob (John Cena) and advised by Cipher (Charlize Theron), complete control over the world’s weapons is in Edinburgh, the team heads north.  This is where giant magnets come into play, magnets whose power can be controlled by dials so that the rest of the car chases include strategically sucking up vehicles and then releasing them for maximum crash impact.  With the two halves reunited, there only remains a mysterious key to be found and guess who has the answer – remember Han (Sung Kang)?  Turns out his death was an elaborate Mr. Nobody ruse.

Lin flashes back frequently to the young Dom (Vinnie Bennett) and Jakob (Finn Cole) and the shared trauma they experienced which opens the movie.  He also parades characters from films past.  Besides Cipher, there’s Queenie (Helen Mirren), who hooks up her ‘favorite American’ as she gets away from a jewel heist and the comic engineering trio of Sean (Lucas Black), Twinkie (Shad Moss) and Earl (Jason Tobin) whose experiments strapping a rocket engine to a Pontiac comes into play later.  New characters include Leysa (Cardi B), who gets Dom out of a scrape and Elle (Anna Sawai), Han’s adopted ‘family.’

The film runs almost two and a half hours and is utterly ridiculous, but at least it’s not boring.  This series jumped the shark long ago, but damned if I didn’t laugh when an international space station spies that Pontiac Fiero.

Robin's Review: C+

Sequels are like rockets. Once the first one launches successfully, what follows, especially in the “Fast & Furious” franchise, is longer, wider, faster…and noisier. This is not the exception with the longest, widest, fastest and noisiest yet with “F9: The Fast Stand.”

Way back in 2001, I saw the very first “The Fast and the Furious” with its nitrox-fueled, adrenalin-pumping story of tough guys, beautiful women and super-fast street hotrods. The second, “2 Fast 2 Furious (2003),” was more of the same. Then, “The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift (2006),” drifted in a completely different direction. Then, the new F&F franchise runners found their formula of action and F/X on an international scale. “F9” continues the tradition.

I pretty much gave up on the series after “Drift,” except for watching one of the later ones, briefly, on cable, where a huge safe was dragged around a city, somewhere, wreaking havoc and devastation. I have, otherwise, avoided the bombastic franchise until the obligation to watch “F9” forced my hand.

As I walked in to see the latest (but not last), the better film critic in the family advised me on what I was in for – sentimental, idyllic family scenes, followed by noisy action and F/X, then more family bonding, more noise and action and repeat, often. And, she was right, except for one bit with the family stuff that is actually a steeped-in-the-past sibling rivalry between Dom (Vin Diesel) and Jacob (John Cena). Fans of the franchise will know about this better than me.
At nearly two-and-a-half hours long, I expected nothing more of “F9” than a whole bunch of CGI F/X and little real action. I was surprised to see actual stunts being done with real stunt people mixed in with the more-prominent computer-generated effects. This throwback to old action films made sitting through the rest of it not the chore I expected.

There are many groan moments throughout “F9,” mostly because of the sheer implausibility of much of the action. Pontiac Fiero in space says it all. But, the filmmakers, headed by regular franchise director, Justin Lin, put the money where the mouth is and do a bang up job of entertainment. It is loud and ludicrous but that is the way it should be.

Universal opens "F9: The Fast Saga" in theaters on 6/25/21.