I recently revisited the first Fast & Furious movie. It may be a bit dated, but it is surprisingly well-written and well-acted. Vin Diesel, in particular, really impressed me. He had range, emotion, and brilliant moments that showed promise. The series has since become an obvious vanity project for him, and all his “emotional” scenes come off as stilted and lazy. Vin Diesel has set himself on autopilot. Tyrese Gibson and Chris ‘Ludacris’ Bridges return to play their legacy characters, Roman and Tej. They are the comedy relief, desperately trying to fill the void of the absent Dwayne Johnson, but both of them combined can’t live up to Johnson’s indisputably charismatic charm and his strong sense of comedic timing. They fall unmeasurably short and come off childish and grating. They have a way-too-meta conversation about how they’ve survived so many unbelievable situations and stunts only to walk away unscathed every time. This film straight-up references the “plot armor” this franchise has suffered through the past few entries, and that conversation has no payoff, comedic or otherwise. It’s almost as if those scenes are there to question the viewer’s collective intelligence.
Michelle Rodriguez has the worst lines out of the entire bunch, and I was genuinely embarrassed for her. Despite the bad writing, she had some emotional moments where her acting was allowed to shine past what she was being given to say. Helen Mirren makes a fun cameo, and I think the movie would have benefited from having more of her in it. By now, everyone knows fan-favorite Sung Kang is back as Han. The circumstances of his return are poorly explained, poorly written, and it almost completely ruins the emotional impact his character’s death had a few entries back. As much as I like the actor, bringing Han back was just distracting fan service. It added no dimension and no layers to the story or the future of the series. By far, this is John Cena’s worst role to date. The character of Jakob is clumsily shoved into the series, and John Cena plays the role with no pathos and no nuance. Jakob is just there to brood and be boring. Even though Charlize Theron’s Cipher has been set up as the series’ main villain, she’s hardly in the film. When she does appear, she’s trying way too hard to be cold and menacing. It comes off as a parody. Her haircuts are very unfortunate.
“…all the stars got high off their own testosterone…”
Fast 9: The Fast Saga is a stupid, stupid movie. It lacks the fun and humor of some of the better entries, and it also lacks in the character development department. This is one of, if not the worst, entry in the franchise. They should have stopped a few movies back, but we have at least two more films to look forward to after this one. Then we’ll probably be inundated with countless spinoffs and side tales. For some reason, these movies make big money. If you’re looking for a big, loud film that requires you to turn your brain off for two and a half hours, watch the fifth, sixth, or seventh entries of the saga. Better yet, watch Edgar Wright’s masterful Baby Driver instead. That film has style, substance, and some of the best-choreographed car stunts to ever be committed to film. F9 is sadly just one big, unenjoyable slogfest. It has terrible acting, a nonsensical story, and almost no heart. Crazy stunts and a weird Cardi B cameo just aren’t enough to stop this series from crashing into a proverbial wall of apathy.
Here’s a bit of shameful self-promotion. If you’re a fan of Fast & Furious movies, please check out my podcast So Fast So Furious! Writer/comedian Zack Beseda, filmmaker Vito Lapiccola, and yours truly break down all of the Fast & Furious movies 15 minutes at a time. We’ve had some amazing guests in the past, and we’re about to return from our lockdown-induced hiatus very soon. You can find us on all your favorite podcast platforms. If my negative review here deters you, just know that Vito and Zack are mega-fans who have far more favorable opinions on these movies than I do.
"…all the cringey and superficial mentions of family you could ever want in a Fast & Furious flick."