Wednesday, June 23, 2021

F9 Review: The Fast and Furious Spy Agency

Release date: June 25, 2021
Running time: 130 minutes
Cast: Vin Diesel, Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese Gibson, Chris “Ludacris” Bridges, John Cena, Nathalie Emmanuel, Jordana Brewster, Sung Kang, with Helen Mirren, with Kurt Russell, and CharlizeTheron
Directed by: Justin Lin

F9 is the ninth chapter in the Fast & Furious Saga. Vin Diesel’s Dom Toretto is leading a quiet life off the grid with Letty and his son, little Brian, but they know that danger always lurks just over their peaceful horizon. This time, that threat will force Dom to confront the sins of his past if he’s going to save those he loves most. His crew joins together to stop a world-shattering plot led by the most skilled assassin and high-performance driver they’ve ever encountered: a man who also happens to be Dom’s forsaken brother, Jakob (John Cena).

The Fast series has always been about fast cars, family, and crazy action.  Around Fast Five, the film started leaning heavily into all of these, with some amazing and ridiculous situations that kept one upping the previous films.  That led to more and more memorable scenes and more insane action.  The film also heavily emphasized the family side of this, bringing more and more characters in to the fold.  These have all been smart additions from Jason Statham, to the Rock, and recently to John Cena.  
The Fast franchise roster has grown considerably over the last 8 movies (plus 1 spinoff) and almost everyone comes back in some way or another for F9.  The film has characters that you haven't seen or thought about for ages, but it was really good to see how the movie integrated all these different personalities into one crazy scenario.

And although the film franchise started as more of a heist movie, it has since turned into a superspy, paramilitary, band of misfits film.  The franchise leaned into this for the last few iterations and hits the NOS in F9.  The scenario is that much more insane, with several instances that I think would be acts of war or at least major international incidents if not for the wonderful world of the Fast Franchise.  And the film ups the destruction and crazy stunts quotient as well, with some of the most intense and bonkers "race" sequences I have seen.  And along the lines of the super spy organization, the film has some new gadgets and gizmos to assist with the insanity and the destruction.  The Fast Franchise keeps upping the ante every time and I am not sure where it will go next but I'm definitely interested to see it.

However, the Fast series has always been about family.  This was ingrained in the early movies and has been a constant part of the franchise ever since.  I love seeing this crew over and over again, but when the movie went into more the ridiculous stratosphere, it makes some of the references to family throughout the film feel like they are from a different time.  You have a movie that tries to literally launch into space, with these strange references and serious sections pulling it back down to earth.  If done correctly, you can have a nice grounding for the film, but here it felt like the family superlatives just came out of nowhere.  And I don't remember the references being as pervasive in other films, so when they kept coming up, it again felt out of place.  Kind of like a billionaire living in a mansion and traveling the world on their private jet consistently referencing stayign true to their roots.  But maybe that is because I also really enjoyed the insanity of this movie.  F9 is at its best when Luda and Tyrese are doing some sort of over-the-top sequence and are cracking jokes while yelling for their lives, and I just wanted more of that.  The movie leans into the crazy, but then tries to pretend like it is still just about a BBQ in the backyard with your friends and family.  

F9 also explores more of Dom's past, and for the most part does a decent job.  It ties in his brother--who it is strange we have never heard of until now--and also gives some insight into how he became who he is.  These feel heavy handed and again, just feel like a different film, but I appreciated the attempt.  However, these--along with the overall giant cast--make this a much longer movie than it needed to be.  I guess that's what happens when the film expands in scope so much, everyone gets their screen time, every character is referenced, and the plots gets larger and more grandiose.  It feels like this movie could have used another cut but maybe it also just needs more spin offs to give more time to the characters.  I would love to see Luda and Tyrese have their own spin off, and I wouldn't mind seeing more from the Tokyo Drift crew.  The film was kind of setting those up, so I wonder if there might be more Fast spinoffs in the future.  Overall, if you go in looking for something coherent that makes sense, you'll be disappointed.  The story has just become too large, insane, and convoluted for that.  But if you go in and just lean into the wild ride that has been the Fast Franchise, you'll have plenty there to get excited about.

F9 hits the NOS on all the Fast Franchise themes, with plenty of family, fast cars (and other vehicles), and a whole extra helping of insane action and ridiculousness.

Rent it.

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F9: The Fast Saga is available in theaters on June 25, 2021.  For showtimes, click here.

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