Well, it happened, I’m speechless, F9: The Fast Saga has left me utterly bewildered, way beyond what the previous films have given us. Let me make that clear, this is not a good speechless, this is an angry, confused speechless feeling that resembles emptiness in the pit of my stomach. If you think you know this franchise (like many of us claim to) with how ridiculous each installment has become over the past decade, think again. It’s unbelievable how far removed from reality this franchise has become. Long gone are the days of the street level criminals boosting 18-wheelers for DVD-VHS combos to make a quick dollar while racing for pink slips.
When I walked out of the theater after the 145-minute runtime the one word that kept repeating in my head was audacity. F9 and returning franchise director Justin Lin have the audacity to deliver the world this installment.
Is it entertaining, sure it is, The adrenaline is still raised to 100 just like every installment has been up to this point but the feeling that these characters exist in the real world gets slimmer and slimmer to the point where whatever mess these characters get into is too unbelievable. That has been the evolution since Fast Five when the tone shifted to more globe-trotting super-spy criminal activities and less about a quarter mile race and culture. The progression alone is enough to confuse anyone given the technical level skills Dom (Vin Diesel) and his crew possess.
Add to that increase in skill level that none of the characters possessed in their introductions to the series is the level of fight and brutality of the bad guys and the main villains that have never once mattered to the story. The moment after the big opening sequence where nothing makes sense whatsoever – Tej (Chris ‘Ludacris’ Bridges), Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel) & Roman (Tyrese Gibson) drive up a destroyed bridge that is hanging on by a thread straight upward like a rocket taking off. On the other side is Dom and Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) catching a stake of said destroyed bridge and using it to swing to safety (all in the trailers) like Spider-Man. What bothers me and what has been bothering me with this franchise is the fact that with all these dangerous stunts, the life and death situations the team is placed in, not one person is filled with any kind of panic or anxiety. All we see is the blankest expressions that relay calmfullness and peace of mind.
Except Roman, Roman reacts exactly how any sane person would in the circumstances.
Dominic and his team are psychopaths.
They need to be studied for science as to why none of the explosions or serial murder bother them. They don’t even suffer from PTSD. At what point is this enough? With the release of a new installment the stunts get bigger, wilder and less realistic. In any real world what person could survive in an elongated tank that flips on its top at 70 mph and walk away with no scratches.
What’s even more troublesome with F9 revolves around the dialogue between characters. Not that the dialogue has been a strength to begin with but here screenwriters Justin Lin and Daniel Casey are straight up mocking us. Dialogue is written to portray that the characters are self-aware, occasionally breaking the 4th wall when really its borderline insulting. How dare Roman bring up the fact that with all the adventures and missions they have been on, being shot at by high-powered rifles, that all walk away with zero scratches or injuries. Articles of clothing take the brunt of it but skin, bones, and flesh: nothing.
To add insult to injury, Lin and Casey throw more salt on the wound by preaching how important science and physics are to their ventures into space. Are they kidding? That’s enough to almost walk out on. Yes, F9 goes to space, you read that correctly. How does a franchise that has never once cared about science or physics suddenly reverse its stance? The moment doesn’t land either, the impact just washes over you while shaking your head at how stupid the events in this film are. Every cut back to Tej and Roman is just comical – though the two are the comic relief and their chemistry is better than ever as if there was no gap between Fate of the Furious and F9.
F9 perfectly reminds us that the plot just doesn’t matter and never once mattered. Same can be said about the villains. A good villain is written with an actual point of view and sympathy to their cause. Jakob (John Cena) (I really missed Dwayne Johnson’s screen presence) has no sympathy to his actions against his estranged family. Ever since the introduction of Mr. Nobody (Kurt Russell) in Furious 7 characters that have never existed are being shoehorned in to expand the universe but instead makes it feel as contained as the first film. All these newer reoccurring characters are being retconned which begs the question: Is Mr. Nobody the center of this universe instead of Dom? The Fast saga eerily mirrors Star Wars – we can never get away from a character named Skywalker nor will we get past a character named Toretto.
Everything surrounding Jakob is predictable, I even whispered to my friend after his intro that by the end of the film Jakob would work with Dom and his team. Lo and behold, the theory that the villains are never true bad guys remains constant. Family trumps all, even when family turns its back on you.
The Fast saga has become cursed with convenience. It’s convenient that every single person in the ensemble cast (minus Ramsey at first) is a professional level driver, hacker, fighter and thief. Even the lesser supporting roles like Queenie Shaw (Helen Mirren) is a pro at drifting, driving a stick shift and evading cops. It’s convenient that even surrounded by 20 plus men Dom can tear down an old, abandoned catacomb with his bare hands to stop them from catching Letty. How has this guy not broken a rib or pulled a muscle? Yet again Dom is inches away from being incinerated by an explosion but this time he does it with a superhero landing.
F9 is the second longest installment to date by a few minutes. Justin Lin adds so much exposition for Jakob to make sense that the other actors that play the younger versions are a parody of their current selves. Did someone tell Vinnie Bennet to speak in the same tone as Christian Bale’s Batman?
With how problematic F9 is, bringing Han (Sung Kang) back while not explicit in his survival in Tokyo Drift brings the question back to Mr. Nobody. Where is the continuity in the grand scheme of things? Emotionally, the reunions land how they’re intended to but there is no justice for Han or this franchise. It’s time to move on..
F9: The Fast Saga is written by Justin Lin & Daniel Casey based on characters by Gary Scott Thompson, directed by Justin Lin is Rated PG-13 and has a 60% on Rotten Tomatoes. F9: The Fast Saga was released on June 25, 2021 in the United States and has a runtime of 2 hours and 25 minutes. F9: The Fast Saga is currently in theaters. 2 out of 5.