So it’s been a week since my last review. Hopefully that has been enough time for you to forget what I wrote about The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard. Not because I think it’s bad (I’m a writer, I hate everything I write), more because the review of Fast & Furious 9 (or F9 or The Fast Saga, still unsure) is going to read very similarly. I legitimately sat in bed the night after the screening and thought, “Boy that was a hell of a fun, dumb, very good, silly, funny, stupid, explosive time,” only to realize that I wrote those exact same words a week ago.
I am all for popcorn-blowout, check your brain at the door, explosion-riddled, continuity loose action flicks. They are a huge reason to go to theaters. Where else can you see this spectacle on this scale? But even in this genre where fun, a completely subjective measurement, is paramount, there are gonna be some losses. Luckily for Fast 9, this isn’t one of them?
The Fast & Furious series is long and convoluted, a fact that—for most other franchises—means you’ve got a problem on your hands. But for this series…who cares? Did you remember the agent that Dom falls in love with while Letty is presumed dead, that he also found out had his baby offscreen? No? Cool. Well, now you remember. Honestly, if this series does one thing really well (when it comes to “story”), it lies in its ability to make every movie an onboarding experience. If you’ve never seen a single film in the Fast Saga, that’s perfectly fine. They will dump the information you need to know on your head and quickly move on to the plot of the film you’re seated for. If you have kept up, good job!
Fast 9’s cast is immense. I mean, for all intents and purposes, these movies are the Hot Wheels equivalent of the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe). Vin Diesel (every other Fast Saga film, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 1 & 2), Michelle Rodriguez (Avatar, Widows), Jordana Brewster (Fast 7, Hooking Up), Tyrese Gibson (Black and Blue, Transformers), Ludacris (Fate of the Furious, Crash), Nathalie Emmanuel (Game of Thrones), and Sung Kang (Fast and Furious: Tokyo Drift, Raya and the Last Dragon) all reprise their roles from previous films, Dom, Letty, Mia, Roman, Tej, Ramsey, and Han, respectively. And, amazingly, that’s not it. Other cast members from previous films pop up throughout the movie. Honestly, even as someone caught up, I was constantly saying, “Oh yeah, they were in one of these.” In 20 years, the Fast and Furious Cinematic Universe is dense, and I mean that literally and as a figure of speech.
Fast 9 is Dumb with a capital D in the best way. Where The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard made me laugh constantly with direct humor, I laughed constantly at the abject ridiculousness of each action set-piece of this movie. To brief you on the plot, something this film really tries to make you care about: Charlize Theron’s Cipher is back and in the custody of Dom’s hitherto unknown brother Jakob (played by the unfathomably beefy John Cena), for god knows why. Together with a “rich prick” named Otto, they plan to…well…hold the world hostage by hacking it. Yes. You read that right. Hacking the world. Oh and that somehow involves magnets that behave in ways that magnets DO NOT BEHAVE! But like…it’s awesome, so it’s fine.
To stop Jakob and his team of mercenary stunt drivers, Dom and the crew have to launch an assault of financially biblical proportions. The cars they drive alone all rest somewhere near the $50k mark (some far higher), and that doesn’t include the copious damage they cause, the rocket-propelled Fiero they launch into freaking space, and their mysteriously free travel from California to Tbilisi, to Tokyo, to Germany, to London, to South America, to Scotland.
It’s hard to not sound hyper-critical of this universe. There was a time where these movies were about street races and semi-truck heists, but it has been more than a decade since the writers took that ol’ nugget of fun and rolled it around in a bucket of spectacular sprinkles. At this point The Fast Saga is in an arms race for the biggest possible stunt against all of their previous stunts. There is no outside competition here. Sitting in a Marvel movie, I am never confronted with the thought, well this is ridiculous, with anywhere close to the frequency that I audibly laughed at this movie. But you know what, it’s not a sudden change or even anything new. I sat down expecting just what I got: miraculous feats pulled off by “normal” people with startling frequency, with no real world repercussions. Tyrese’s Roman even draws the conclusion that maybe…just maybe…they can’t be killed. And while Tej laughs at him, it’s literally the truest statement in the whole movie. These characters have plot armor so thick you could drop a planet on one of them and they would have found a car with the perfect rollcage to survive it.
Earlier in this review I wrote that, in this genre, “there are gonna be some losses. Luckily for Fast 9, this isn’t one of them?” My use of the question mark is on purpose. Fast 9 plays out like the fever dream of a five-year-old who is sleep deprived but absolutely amped on Mountain Dew. Letty gets knocked off a motorcycle in mid-air and Dom repositions his car to catch her on the hood. The crew drives through a minefield that somehow only kills the bad guys. A hero landing pose as flaming debris whistles by your head leaving you unscathed entirely? Sure, why not? There is a moment in this movie where John Cena gets knocked off of a speeding big rig, another character hits a car that flips underneath him and catches him as he then slides onto yet another vehicle to be caught by Mia. I don’t want to judge anyone’s strength too much based on their appearance, but Jordana Brewster, holding John Cena, with one arm, off of a speeding APC, should end with Brewster’s arm uncoupling like a set of Legos and John Cena careening towards the fast moving concrete. But in the FFCU, it doesn’t. And you know what? It shouldn’t.
Fans of these movies know exactly what they are in for. In many cases it is literally why they go. If the physics of these car crashes make you scratch your head you will claw your own scalp off, so why bother finnicking with the rationality of it all? This film is every car chase you ever imagined as a five-year-old, smashing Mattel cars between your drooly hands. And guess what? It’s a blast.
If you can’t go into a Fast and Furious movie without your rational brain, stay home. But if you like laughing maniacally as CG explosions light up the screen and a beautiful car comes out completely unscathed, well, fasten your seatbelt, mamma-jamma. Get ready for a movie that is all about family, but more about cars, but definitely about family, but ostensibly about explosions and muscles, but deep down about family, but clearly about hot people who also know Kung Fu for some reason, but in the end…all about Family.
P.S. If Fast and Furious 10 isn’t called Fast Ten: Your Seatbelts I will riot. | Caleb Sawyer