By Elias Savada.
As Chris ‘Ludacris’ Bridges says during one of the 145-minute sequel’s many jokes-pointed-inward moments, ‘As long as we obey the law of physics, we’ll be fine.’ Not. Gonna. Happen.”
The latest entry in the over-sized, mega-budgeted Fast and Furious franchise doesn’t need another review to exist. Just plenty of concessions. Like popcorn, candy, and soda. Oh, you mean those other concessions? That any of the following have been lacking in the numerous entries since the initial one 20 years ago: a sense of logic, the laws of physics and gravity, death from any barrage of bullets aimed at the series’ intrepid team of good-hearted, wise-cracking mercenaries, or that any of the film’s continent-hopping characters has ever suffered from jet lag. Forget the highfalutin story line (wait, there was one?). As Chris “Ludacris” Bridges says during one of the 145-minute sequel’s many jokes-pointed-inward moments, “As long as we obey the law of physics, we’ll be fine.” Not. Gonna. Happen.
The executives at Universal Pictures expect another blockbuster, and it broke North American pandemic-era box office records with Thursday previews. Courtesy of director Justin Lin, F9 is pumped with enough action, stunts, and chuckle-worthy dialogue to adequately please the fan base nine times over. The Taiwan-born Lin, who helmed the third through the sixth episodes, wrote the script with Daniel Casey, with both of them joined by Alfredo Botello (who consulted on Star Trek Beyond, also directed by Lin) on the movie’s story. All of the cartoonish characters originally created by Gary Scott Thompson are back, except for Brian O’Connor (Paul Walker, who tragically died back in 2013). Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel, gruff as ever), Letty (Michelle Rodriguez), and Dom’s sister Mia (Jordana Brewster). Others added to the mission really impossible team through the years also return in varying indestructible modes: Roman (Tyrese Gibson), Tej (Bridges), Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel).
As if the well-recognized cast wasn’t already in overdrive with the addition of Helen Mirren and Charlize Theron in 2017’s iteration The Fate of the Furious, the Fast mythology — both are back in limited capacity — F9 expands in an unexpected manner this go around, with the addition of a previously undisclosed Torreto sibling. The screenplay spends a fair amount of time building up a 1989 professional car race in which Dom’s father is killed. Also on the track that day is Jakob, Dom’s brother. The adult version of this long estranged relative, played with just as much fierceness as Diesel’s, is portrayed by John Cena, now a skilled killer and high-performance driver. Their meet-and-greet 30 years down the road is anything but on friendly terms, and it’s played out as a full steroid-induced Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em battle. Then, the filmmakers toss in some old favorite cast members from even earlier chapters. And a slew of cameos, especially one in the end credits that indicates who the bad guy might be in the next installment. For F9 it’s Otto, a snooty billionaire played by Thue Ersted Rasmussen, who ultimately gets tossed into the garbage bin of cast-off villains.
One of the highlights in this chapter in this push-the-envelope series (having always been provided audiences with an unending stream of high-powered, tricked-out sports and utility vehicles to jump buildings, highways, and submarines in a single bound), involves a leap skyward. It’s a ridiculously entertaining sequence with two of the cast members and an assortment of candy wrappers and duct tape. And a hilarious toss-away line paying tribute to the studio’s well known, one-eyed cartoon creations.
You might call all these antics silly, but it’s as entertaining as all heck. Sit back, wait for the Dolby-size rumble, and enjoy the ride.
Elias Savada is a movie copyright researcher, critic, craft beer geek, and avid genealogist based in Bethesda, Maryland. He helps program the Spooky Movie International Movie Film Festival, and previously reviewed for Film Threat and Nitrate Online. He is an executive producer of the horror film German Angst and the documentary Nuts! He co-authored, with David J. Skal, Dark Carnival: the Secret World of Tod Browning (a revised edition will be published by Centipede Press).