July 4, 2021 – Twenty years ago, The Fast and the Furious became a surprise hit film about small time crooks hijacking trucks with high performance cars. This simple concept has now evolved into a James Bond-type spy franchise featuring a team of skilled operatives who routinely save the world from megalomaniacs.
The franchise filmmakers chose to increase the degree of improbability in the action sequences of successive film in the series. Each film tops the previous films in terms of stunts, pyrotechnics and impossible escapes. As a result, any semblance of realism keeps getting smaller and smaller in the rear view mirror. F9 tops them all, and the action now ranges from silly to absurd.
The makers of F9 are fully aware of this, as evidenced by the frequent references to it by a main recurring character Roman (played by Tyrese Gibson). He keeps remarking that throughout all the gunfights, crashes, fights and explosions, he keeps emerging without a scratch. “We are not normal,” he remarks after emerging unharmed from a gunfight in which he is badly outnumbered. He talks about being invulnerable, like Superman, and he says the team seems to have superpowers. Also, the telltale line, “If this was a movie ... ” is also spoken in this film.
This movie starts with flashback scenes that date back years prior to the events in the first movie, to when Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel, the main star of this film series) was a teenager (young Dominic is played by Vinnie Bennett) in his father's stock car pit crew. We are introduced to Toretto's brother, Jakob (played as an adult later in the film, by John Cena of “Playing With Fire”).
Returning to the present day, we discover that Jakob is now a villain, working to steal advanced computer technology that threatens world order. Dominic, who blames brother Jakob for their father's death, vows to stop Jakob and end the threat. Lurking in the background is the devious villain, Cipher (Charlize Theron, reprising her role from the previous film, “The Fate of the Furious”).
The usual cast of characters joins Dominic in this quest, Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) sister Mia (Jordana Brewster) Tej (Chris 'Ludacris' Bridges) computer wiz, Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel) and Roman. Just to make things even crazier, a character who was killed off in a previous film is brought back to life in this one, just as Letty was brought back to life in an earlier film in this series.
As indicated earlier, the action in this film is extreme, with a car swinging on a cable like Tarzan swings on vines in the jungle (look, no hands) and to top it all off, there is a car, driven by Roman, in space, chasing down a satellite! Really. This reminds me of an old SCTV comedy skit about a car in space, powered by a rifle (I think John Candy was in that crazy sketch). This is not the first time such a comedy spoof has come true. A car was actually launched into space for real in 2018, and it is still up there. We live in strange times.
As far as pure escapism goes, laced with plenty of action, this is passable entertainment, but I got the distinct feeling watching this at a local theater that the Fast and Furious franchise has finally jumped the shark and become a spoof of itself. This film rates a C.
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