By Jason Delgado
Have you ever hosted a Thanksgiving dinner, and had a family member linger for too long after the party is supposed to be over? You were excited to see them at first, but then came the unfunny, cheesy jokes and outrageous stories to remind you that some guests are better company in smaller doses. After dinner, everyone is stuffed and you’re ready to pass out, but good ole Bob doesn’t want the party to end. That’s F9 in a nutshell.
F9 is a bloated, cheesy, over the top, global action adventure extravaganza that crosses the low stakes thrills of G.I. Joe with the spy action of 007, minus the wit and charm of Bond. F9 stars Vin Diesel (Guardians of the Galaxy) as Dominic Toretto, Michelle Rodriguez (Avatar) as Letty, and Charlize Theron (Mad Max: Fury Road) as the evil Cipher, along with Fast and Furious newcomer John Cena (WWE legend), among a host of other favorite returning characters from the past films.
I’ve been a fan of the Fast and Furious franchise since day 1, twenty years ago, when a little movie originally titled Redline became a surprise hit, and corny lines like, “I live my life a quarter mile at a time” entered the lexicon. I even enjoyed the much derided Tokyo Drift (partly due to the fact that I had just come home from my first trip to Tokyo when it was released), but still, I’ve been mostly ride or die with this up and down film franchise.
The last couple installments of the Fast franchise have gotten more and more outrageous in terms of plot and stunts (e.g. submarine attack, car jumps over skyscrapers), so it’s no coincidence that my enjoyment levels have gone down accordingly. F9 continues that trend and ups the ante by going to space no less, among other unbelievable things. The characters in space actually say the line, “No one is ever going to believe us.” How meta.
I’m able to suspend disbelief for a lot of flicks, but there comes a point of no return in absurdity (like when two characters just happen to see a sign in the window of something for which they were searching the entire globe, or when characters discuss possibly being invincible given all the incredibly lucky circumstances that they’ve lived through), and F9 goes there many times over.
That’s not to say that it’s a completely joyless film. The main theme of the franchise is still family, and these characters are so familiar that they feel like a de facto family for the audience. I enjoyed the scenes between Dom and his toddler curly-haired son Brian (named after Paul Walker’s character), but moments such as those were few and far between. It’s good to see old franchise characters that fans haven’t seen for awhile as well; I just wish that it wasn’t for 2 hours and twenty-five minutes.
There’s a whole new family backstory in this movie that’s supposed to carry emotional weight but it falls flat, like some of these actors’ emotional ranges. It’s also comical that we haven’t heard of these important family members before, over the course of the previous eight films (and one spinoff),. And don’t get me started on how F9 retcons an important emotional moment from one of the past films (since there aren’t many of those in the first place).
I wish that the Fast and the Furious would get back to the basics of the street racing subculture that built it into the mega-hit franchise that it is now, and leave the fighter jets, missiles, subs, large magnets, and spaceships to other, more capable and believable, action films. On a brighter note, there are a couple of really cool nods to the late Paul Walker in this movie, who was the real life emotional heart of the Fast and Furious.
I give F9 two out of five hot sauce packets. It wants to be on fire, but it’s more like watered down ketchup.