Fast & Furious 9

Review by Hannah Strong @thethirdhan

Directed by

Justin Lin


John Cena Michelle Rodriguez Vin Diesel


They're going to space!


Old faces, new wheels, pleasingly free of pretense.

In Retrospect.

Compelling nonsense. How I've missed that.

Vin Diesel and his family kick it up a gear as they face off against old faces in Justin Lin's return to the high octane franchise.

“I live my life a quarter at a time,” Dominic Toretto told Brian O’Connor two decades ago in The Fast and the Furious. “Nothing else matters, not the mortgage, not the store, not my team and all that bullshit. For those ten seconds or less… I’m free.” Ten films and $6 billion in box office takings later, there’s seemingly unlimited gas in the tank for Vin Diesel’s star vehicle, which biennially appears with a certainty only matched by death and taxes.

Not even a pandemic could keep the Fast Family down; delayed from its original April 2020 launch date, ‘F9’ sees a whole host of familiar faces return to the fold, including beloved director Justin Lin, who exited the franchise after Fast & Furious 6. Crucially, the film also sees the gang boldly go where no car mechanics/street racers have ever gone before: outer space.

This plot point was teased last year, sending the internet into a frenzy along with the revelation John Cena had been cast as Dominic Toretto’s wayward younger brother Jacob – bringing another former WWE star into the fold following Dwayne Johnson, Ronda Rousey and Roman Reigns. Absolute lack of any family resemblance aside, it’s an inspired choice: while Diesel’s Dominic Toretto is the cool, calm and collected Head of the Family, little brother Jacob is the hotheaded prodigal son turned international super spy.

We kick off with a flashback to 1989, with the teenage Toretto brothers in the pit at the local speedway to support their racing father, providing some crucial insight into Dom’s tragic past which has been hinted at throughout the franchise. While the previous instalment gave us a surprise son, F9 provides more in the way of actual storytelling (possibly as a result of Lin’s involvement in the screenplay, which he co-wrote with Daniel Casey) which is a pleasant surprise given that The Fate of the Furious and spin-off title Hobbs and Shaw were a little thin on the ground. The weak point continues to be Charlize Theron’s villainess Cipher, who has a terrible new haircut and exudes a strange smugness for a supposed genius continually thwarted at every turn.

Following the events of the previous film, Dom and Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) are living in the boondocks, enjoying a quiet retirement (again) with Dom’s young son Brian. When his old crew turns up with news that their associate Mr. Nobody has gone missing, and Dom’s old adversary Cipher is somehow involved, it doesn’t take much convincing for the gang to reunite and get down to business. Cue the car chases, fight scenes and generic action set pieces that the franchise has become synonymous with – although this time, there’s fun with magnets.

During production it was teased that F9 would bring back a beloved member of the crew: Han Lue (Sung Kang) who was previously believed to have been killed in an explosion orchestrated by Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham). The exposition involved in bringing Han back to life is a little shaky, but it’s worth it for the audience elation when he shows up, alongside some other familiar fan favourites and, uhm, Cardi B in a cameo role helping Dom out of a tight spot.

The crew’s mission to save the world from Jacob and his camp rich European associate, Otto, takes them to glamorous locations including Montecito, Tokyo, and the exterior of a Las Iguanas in Edinburgh. Crucially, it also takes reigning franchise double act Roman (Tyrese Gibson) and Tej (Chris ‘Ludacris’ Bridges) to outer space in a delightful – if not completely ridiculous – scene involving a rocket car.

In one notable scene, Roman reflects on the strangeness of their exploits, and the fact no one has ever been seriously injured, pondering if they might be invincible. It’s a knowing wink at the complete lack of interest the F&F world has in obeying the laws of probability and physics, but slight enough to avoid being too cloying, which is a fitting way to describe the franchise, which – against all odds – has maintained an earnestness unmatched by any comparably sized IP juggernaut.

Naturally mileage may vary based on the tolerance one has for car chases and dialogue that has no basis in the way human beings actually talk to one another, and at least half an hour could have been shaved off the 145-minute runtime. But the F&F series is Lord of the Rings for the kids who grew up with Hot Wheels; you either get it or your don’t, and if you don’t, nine films in, that’s not likely to change.

For those who are willing to buckle up, Fast 9 is a return to form for Diesel and co after a few shaky movies, mixing familial tensions with elaborate stunt work. It’s brash, loud, and the buzz doesn’t last long after you kill the engine, but this is the sort of film the multiplex was made for, and I’ll be damned if it isn’t a joy to be back at the movies with escapism like this on offer.

Published 24 Jun 2021

Tags: Fast & Furious 9 John Cena Justin Lin Michelle Rodriguez Vin Diesel


They're going to space!


Old faces, new wheels, pleasingly free of pretense.

In Retrospect.

Compelling nonsense. How I've missed that.

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