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Review: 'F9' Confirms 'Fast & Furious' Franchise Has No Mileage Left
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Review: 'F9' Confirms 'Fast & Furious' Franchise Has No Mileage Left

F9 starring Vin Diesel, John Cena, Charlize Theron is out now in Indian theatres.

Updated
Movie Reviews
5 min read

Review: 'F9' Confirms 'Fast & Furious' Franchise Has No Mileage Left

There’s a running gag in F9 about the seeming invincibility of the globe-trotting gearheads driving the Fast & Furious saga. The gag takes shape with an observation made by franchise mainstay Roman Pearce (Tyrese Gibson), who tends to speak without a filter. Roman has just survived a military ambush in Central America, where he has raced through a minefield and been shot at from all directions. There are no war wounds to show for it but 14 bullet holes in his jacket. Roman’s buddy Tej (Ludacris) and in-house hacker extraordinaire/exposition delivery system Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel) laugh off his knowing remarks, chalk up their continued survival to pure dumb luck, and call Roman a “dumbass.”

Vin Diesel and John Cena in F9.

(Photo Courtesy: Pinterest)

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Roman’s right though. In the eight movies preceding F9, Dom (Vin Diesel) and his team have parachuted cars out of planes, leapt from one Abu Dhabi skyscraper into another, and outran a nuclear submarine on a frozen bay — and lived to talk about them over barbecue. No calamity poses any peril to the heroes of Fast & Furious. Not even death — as F9 will attest. The 9 in F9 could very well be hinting at their number of lives.

This is a franchise where the most ridiculous plan is proposed in the most ridiculous detail, and someone will even comment on the general ridiculousness of it all. Dom and co still pull it off.

The franchise has been running on empty for a while now. Leaning into its soap operatic traditions, the new movie invents long-lost siblings and brings back old fan favourites. There’s really no mistaking the logic of the absurd that defines Justin Lin’s vision for F9. Each entry in the saga has been about one-upping the previous one. The scale this time is out-of-this-world. Literally. F9 sets part of its climactic mission in outer space.

There is a transgressive appeal to cars in action movies. Lines can be crossed by simply putting the foot on the pedal. But that appeal was lost when the franchise turned Dom from a street racer to heist-puller, super-spy and near-immortal. Diesel is always up to the challenge though, doing what he does best: he scowls, he stares into the eyes of his adversaries and he talks about the importance of family. A lot. Whenever he needs a new tough guy to stare at, the producers brings in a new one.

This time around, it’s John Cena as Jakob Toretto, a long-lost brother whom Dom never cared to mention until now. Flashbacks reveal they became estranged after Dom learnt Jakob had a hand in their father’s death, a tragedy which was mentioned in the franchise’s first movie and never again. Jakob has obviously inherited the Toretto gene. So, driving, scowling and spying are his superpowers too. But his resentment at always being in Dom’s shadow has mushroomed into destroy-the-world villainy.

Michelle Rodriguez and Jordana Brewster in F9.

(Photo Courtesy: Pinterest)

The Fast & Furious mythology has always been subject to retcons, a franchise-standard practice of retroactively revising the past to accommodate events in the present. In light of the fan campaign, the franchise brings Han (Sung Kang) back. Again. He had died in Tokyo Drift, resurrected in Fast & Furious 4, and died again in Fast & Furious 6.

F9 picks up two years after Team Toretto took down Cipher (Charlize Theron). Dom has since settled down somewhere off the grid with his wife Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) and his son Brian. Until he is pulled back into another preposterous plot. The plane carrying Cipher was shot down by a rogue agent who betrayed Mr. Nobody (Kurt Russell). So, the team reunites to retrieve a MacGuffin called Ares, which also went down with the plane. Putting a spoke in their wheels is Jakob and his Eurotrash business partner Otto (Thue Ersted Rasmussen).

Every time the plot runs out of gas or hits a few road bumps, a set piece puts the pedal to the metal.

Roman and Tej strap a rocket on a Pontiac Fiero and fly into orbit to destroy a satellite. Tej notes, “As long as we obey the laws of physics, we’ll be fine.” As if this franchise has ever been hampered by such trivial concerns. Case in point: there’s a scene where Dom drives off a cliff, hooks the bridge’s cable to the car and slingshots safely to the other side. All the vroom, crash and boom does make for a dizzying spectacle.

Nathalie Emmanuel and Vin Diesel in F9.

(Photo Courtesy: Pinterest)

In the same way previous entries used nitrous as some sort of elixir to get Team Toretto out of trouble, F9 uses electromagnets. As Jesse Pinkman would say, “Yeah, bitch! Magnets!” When cops or enemies are on the tail, the team’s cars outfitted with these magnets help clear a path. Of course, the magnets seem to have a mind of their own, judicious enough to attract only those that would benefit the team.

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No one cares about collateral damage in the Fast & Furious movies. Civilians are run off the road, and their parked cars destroyed without prejudice in F9.

It would be wise to get insurance policies which includes a Toretto clause besides other safeguards. A character in F9 actually says, “The worst thing you can do to a Toretto is take away their family.” Only Torettos, mind you. The rest of the world are apparently NPCs stuck in Dom’s co-op video game.

Like the cars, these movies too feel like they’ve been bundled together in an assembly line. Being sentient of its own silliness doesn’t make the F9 ride more enjoyable.

It’s time to admit the franchise has no mileage left. Best to dump it in the scrapyard. Put it down in the car crash column in Universal’s accident report.

At one point in the movie, Cipher describes Otto as Yoda as she tries to manipulate him. Otto thinks it’s a compliment, before she clarifies it’s an insult because he is nothing but a puppet with someone’s hand up his ass. It’s really a great analogy for how the Fast & Furious continues to bait its audiences while insulting their intelligence.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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