by @holocronJosh for @FilmCodex
The Fast and Furious reaches new heights of spectacle (and absurdity) in its newest installment F9. The tenth film in the franchise sees Dom (Vin Diesel) and the fast family team up once again to face a threat from Cipher (Charlize Theron), who teams up with Dom’s brother Jakob (John Cena) on a mission for revenge.
Few franchises have had the longevity and underwent the evolution that the Fast and Furious franchise has. What was originally a more ‘grounded’ street racing series evolved into a heist series, before its current iteration over the last several films breached into wacky, globe-trotting, spy territory. Unfortunately, it’s with the current batch of the films that the Fast and Furious franchise has seen more mixed results than ever. While Furious 7 and The Fate of the Furious were absurd in terms of the plots, action sequences, and character decisions, the franchise managed to still deliver entertaining installment after entertaining installment, albeit proving to be more lackluster compared to previous films.
F9 continues this trend in the franchise with another film that, honestly, bridges on parody for most of its duration. This isn’t to say the film fails to entertain. From the opening sequence to the very end, F9 delivers scene after scene of action expertly directed by Justin Lin (a true veteran of the Fast and Furious franchise at this point). The problem, however, feels very much akin to what happened with the James Bond films of the late 1980s. Bond films of the 1960s and 1970s didn’t take themselves too seriously, but still managed to feel raw and approachable. And it’s in this middle ground between seriousness and parody that the Fast and Furious franchise somewhat delicately balanced for a while. But the scales have completely tipped in F9. The characters are invincible, a joke that Tyrese’s character makes several times in the film. Cars behave in absolutely bonkers ways. They even go to space. No, this has never been a gritty, slice of real life franchise, but there comes a point where enough is enough – and F9 feels like that.
On a more positive note, John Cena is an interesting and really natural addition to the franchise. With the much publicized feud between Dwayne Johnson and Vin Diesel, Hobbs is obviously nowhere to be seen in this film, but his absence is never really felt. The Fast and Furious films have always been ensemble pieces and this became even more evident with the fourth film and beyond. Characters come and go from film to film, and there’s a few surprise inclusions that fans of the franchise will enjoy in F9.
Also a major positive of F9 is the return of Justin Lin. This marks Lin’s fifth time in the driver’s seat of the franchise and it’s a testament to his ability as a director that he can still deliver enthralling, preposterous action set-pieces film after film. On a side note, Lin has ventured into different territory with directing stints on True Detective and in Star Trek Beyond, but it would be really nice to see a director of his caliber take on an original project outside of the Fast and Furious franchise.
At 145 minutes, though, the action does grow tiresome and, like many of the more recent Fast and Furious films, F9 greatly overstays its welcome. The film peaks early with an incredible action sequence, but loses steam throughout. Trimming a solid 20-30 minutes off this film would’ve greatly improved the pacing and made the over-the-top ridiculousness of the whole film a little more digestible.
F9 misses the mark somewhat in an installment that takes the franchise to new heights of absurdity. The film is admittedly entertaining, in large part due to the unintentional humor that comes from the wooden performances and the incredible action directed by Justin Lin, but, ultimately, falls flat as F9’s attempts at grandiosity ultimately feel like parody.
Images courtesy of Universal Pictures