“F9: The Fast Saga” which we will just call “F9” for the sake of time as this two hour and 25 minute film has already stolen enough of my time. The story, if you can call it that, continues to follow the globetrotting characters of the “Fast and Furious” crew as they find themselves sucked into another “mission” by Mr. Nobody (Kurt Russell).
If you’ve seen one “Fast and Furious” film, you’ve seen them all; at least the ones which don’t have the supercharger persona of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson in them. His absence has powered down all of the subsequent films leaving the saga idling in neutral. (Yes, the car analogies will continue throughout this review.)
While there are eight previous films and even an off-shoot (“Hobbs & Shaw), there’s no need to see them all before you find that there is absolutely nothing else to do and the only option is going to see “F9.” The skeletal backstory is this: Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel), chiseled and always wearing a white v-neck t-shirt, ironed and spotless with myriad close ups of his biceps and triceps, is the father of the adorable Brian (Isaac and Immanuel Holtane). The mother was killed by the notorious Cipher (Charlize Theron) in a previous “Fast & Furious” film, and Letty, who miraculously hasn’t died after all, is living with Dominic off the grid to raise this child together. It’s a peaceful existence, but all of that is immediately upended as Tej (Ludacris), Roman (Tyrese Gibson) and Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel) careen onto the property to alert the couple to a secret mission needed to stop Cipher from controlling the world.
Sound familiar? It should. There is absolutely nothing new or creative in this even as writers Justin Lin and Daniel Casey attempt to give us a back story of Dominic and Jakob (John Cena) who are ripped apart by their father’s intentional car racing death when they were just teens. Using flashbacks, we watch young Dominic (Vinnie Bennett) and young Jakob (Finn Cole) experience that devastating day and the subsequent moments which lead the once tightly-knit siblings to loathe one another.
If you’re a fan of this franchise, you’ll see the return of characters who, as Roman vehemently discusses the seemingly immortal characteristics of their group, never die or even gets a scratch on them during militaristic combat events. Roman and Tej are the highlights of this movie and I found myself rousing from near sleep when they were on the screen. Thankfully, they provide the comic relief and do the most possible with the bare bones dialogue they are given, but we need more. Director and co-writer Lin and Casey also drop the ball with this comedic pair’s narrative about immortality. It was the only narrative thread that held me in my seat.
This sequel, not surprisingly, becomes nothing more than never-ending fight scenes and car chases that, while they are cool to watch, the CGI takes away its impressiveness. However, what remains impressive are the locations of filming much of which is in Tbilisi, Georgia and Thailand. Additionally, there is a cameo from Helen Mirren (Queenie) who drives a hot car, stick shift, in one of the most incredulous chase scenes you’ve ever witnessed. But she’s having fun and so is the audience because of her. Theron who has a lackluster character also makes the most of it and she, too, brings some energy to Cipher who inexplicably is in a glass box for much of the film.
There are plenty of inexplicable and even low-tech aspects in this film making it more of a film to watch at home with friends so you can talk and laugh about the ridiculousness of it. “F9” is a comedy but it just doesn’t know it.
With the superficial and dull script comes with it equally dull and cardboard performances from our main characters. Diesel has one gear, performing much like my daughter’s beach bike in the mountains. He’s mad. He purses his lips and has no inflection or body language. He’s just mad. Rodriguez mirrors Diesel’s performance and Cena fits right into this mold. This is the perfect recipe for a lullaby and it works as I found myself dozing off a couple of times.
Sometimes it’s best just to slam the brakes on a concept and know when you’ve already crossed the finish line. “Fast” is finished.