In 20 years and 10 films, the Fast and Furious series has relentlessly maintained that the saga is really, really about family.
With all due respect to Vin Diesel’s Toretto clan, I disagree. The Fast and Furious movies are really about reaching new nitro-injected realms of absurdity. If you can put up with the macho melodrama, these movies are ridiculous big screen ballets, with cars shooting out of skyscrapers and airplanes, which are the right kind of dumb at best. More than family or cars, they’re about the film’s blazing fast ability to ridiculous grandeur to accelerate and leave logic behind in the rearview mirror.
It wasn’t always like that. The Fast and Furious movies, which have moved so fast that their original articles flew out the window somewhere along the way (the first entry was 2001’s The Fast and the Furious), started more humbly on the road racing streets of Southern California. But especially by the time of Justin Lin’s Fast Five,” the series continued to expand, reaching all over the world and, eventually, through F9, into space. As if she was always looking for another outfit of outrage, the franchise hunted down new, implausible roads for gravity-defying mayhem and inexplicable traction.Cars here, cars there.Cars everywhere.
So when I sat down for F9, which hits theaters Friday, I was looking forward to some of that good old stupid fun. F9 finally gets there, thanks to a comical, cosmic foray by Roman (Tyrese Gibson) and Tej (Chris Ludacris Bridges) in a Pontiac Fiero with rocket fuel. But for a healthy chunk of its 145-minute movie length, it feels more like a franchise that’s running low. There’s a bit of a hangover to F9, and not just because it’s been sitting on the shelf for the past year in anticipation of the pandemic being more blockbuster-ready. F9, in which Lin returns as director after a seven-year hiatus from the franchise, follows the most dramatic chapter in the Fast and Furious series, as the real-life tragedy added an echo of pathos in the death of Paul Walker and sparked off-screen feuds. to a spin-off for Dwayne Johnson, with Jason Statham, in Hobbs and Shaw.
But when it feels like the dust has settled, F9 promptly begins reviving old beefs, introducing new ones and, within the first half hour, a detour to Central America to see the cars from Fast and Furious. to swing the jungle like Tarzan. But first, we have a flashback that Lin and co-writer Daniel Casey return to throughout the film. It’s 1989 and Dominic Toretto (Diesel as an adult, an engaging Vinnie Bennett when he was younger) and his younger brother (John Cena later, Finn Cole here) are teenagers working with their race dad on a speedway when he dies in a fiery crash. A possibility of foul play is there, and the consequences send a brother to prison, and their bitterness over their father’s fate drives them apart.
Years later, it turns out that Jakob (Cena) has plans to take over the world to show his older, estranged brother. (Family dramas are no small potatoes in the world of Fast and Furious.) Part of those plans is Cipher (Charlize Theron), a villain of the latter who returned here as a prisoner of a glass box who is nevertheless sure of her powers. It’s a limiting position for the mighty Theron, whose presence in these films is mostly a reminder that if you want gas-guzzling action, the magnificent Mad Max: Fury Road is still around.
Both the rock-jawed Cena and a steely Theron don’t open the film up for much fun, nor does the oft-recurring backstory that saps some of the film’s speed. What gives F9 a boost? Well, Helen Mirren did, during a layover in London. The best are Ludacris and Gibson, who, more than anyone else, give F9 a much-needed nod of self-awareness. It’s Taj who says one of the most defining rules for a franchise that never slows down for scientific reality: as long as we obey the laws of physics, we’ll be fine.
They then prepare to launch into orbit in a car/rocket ship, making Doc’s time-traveling DeLorean look like a relatively sensible vehicle. I’m not exactly sure why they’re shooting something into space about destroying a satellite, but I loved every minute of it. Much of F9 is some sort of slog. There are some not very dynamic chases, lots of flashbacks, ho-hum villains and an oddly prominent role for magnets. But when Taj and Roman reach gravity, the movie finally takes flight with crazy grandeur. Some will no doubt be less enthusiastic about Fast & Furious running a full-length cartoon, but I’d take that from the solemn speeches about family any day. The Fast and Furious movies are best when they’re not fast or furious, just a little silly.
At some point, as a combination of four-wheelers floated through the air, I started to wonder what these movies will look like for future generations, possibly generations that have moved beyond the car, at least the gasoline variant, or those living with more serious ones. consequences of climate change. Will Fast and Furious seem a reflection of our dubious belief in the limitless possibilities of cars, of our tendency to live by our cars? Or an admission of how ridiculous that addiction is? Either way, the joy ride probably can’t last forever. Vin Diesel’s contract expires one day.
F9, published by Universal Pictures, has been rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association of America for sequences of violence and action, and language.
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