Released: 17th June
Seen: 9th September
Remember when the Fast & Furious franchise was just about underground car racing? Remember the early films that were just about this cop who infiltrated an underground racing ring? Feels so long ago, now they’ve turned into superhero films but with cars instead of superpowers where every movie has some giant cataclysmic world-ending event that can only be stopped by Vin Diesel doing a really sick burnout off the top of a skyscraper. It’s the dumbest movie franchise and it is just endlessly fun almost because it is so spectacularly dumb. Now we’re up to Fast & Furious 9 and god damn it keeps getting dumber and I keep just enjoying its celebration of stellar stupidity.
Fast & Furious 9 is another “the world will end if we don’t do awesome driving and stop the bad guys” movie, except this one has the team of bad guys lead by Jakob Toretto (John Cena) who is the estranged brother of the lead character Dominic (Vin Diesel), a character who has always had a brother and why the hell would you dare question that? Between the action set pieces that make up the reason that Fast & Furious 9 exists, there’s a story of world conquest and espionage, a continuation of the franchise’s saga involving the villain known as Cipher (Charlize Theron) and a bunch of other things that no one cares about because it’s not the cars doing big stupid stunts while loud dramatic music tries to pretend that any of this can be taken seriously… oh, also some of the characters go to space because of course, this franchise would end up putting a car in space.
The fact that Fast & Furious keeps trying to have serious plots in between the action scenes is honestly just adorable at this point. It’s like back in the 80s when porno films shot entire sequences where the actors discussed what pizza they’re going to order, no one is here for that! We don’t need to see Vin Diesel try to show emotions, lord knows that’s not why you hire him, we’re here to see what laws of physics can be destroyed by an average looking race car and when Fast & Furious 9 decides to show off those moments is when things start really becoming fun. The plot is incidental, it’s there to give your voice a rest so you can be ready to scream “HELL YEAH” when Fast & Furious 9 blasts a car into outer space.
Still, as far as the plot that doesn’t matter goes, Fast & Furious 9 brings back Han Lue (Sung Kang) who apparently died back in the third movie… something that I’m sure would be impactful if Han hadn’t also appeared in the 4th, 5th and 6th movies in this franchise. They certainly try hard to make it into a major moment, explaining how Han faked his death and all that. They put more effort into explaining how Han somehow came back to life than they did back in Fast & Furious 5 when Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) came back from the dead. It really means nothing, he’s there so there’s another body for the big final fight scene and that’s it.
The other big addition to the franchise is John Cena, who honestly feels like he’s there because The Rock really hates working with Vin Diesel, who really has a nothing character to work with but somehow makes it work. It’s kinda hilarious to me that John Cena is turning into this actor who I genuinely look forward to seeing in things, even in films where his job is to be the big wall of muscle that throws people around (which is effectively his job here). He fits well into this franchise full of big dumb action scenes and melodramatic monologues about family, I look forward to him popping up in more of them.
Sidebar, it kinda amuses me that this franchise is just about how messed up this one family is, last family I knew that caused this much destruction because they couldn’t be bothered to go to therapy was named Skywalker so I wonder how long until one of these characters just builds a death star and tries to blow up the moon… but yeah, John Cena is a fun addition to this franchise. Hell, throw him over to the Hobbs & Shaw spinoffs for a while, let’s have him and The Rock battle for supremacy over there.
Other than those two actors, there’s very little in Fast & Furious 9 that’s actually new. It’s a very similar plot to the other recent films in the franchise, they don’t even really up the level of insanity when it comes to the stunts. Previous films had moments like the glorious shot of a car driving between skyscrapers or the submarine chasing the main characters through a frozen lake and this one… I mean, it has the space sequence but that’s not bombastic, it’s just gloriously stupid. Maybe I’m being picky but this franchise has promised me bombastic stupidity that will make me laugh and scream while they defy the laws of physics and blow things up like the Mythbusters on a coke binge, and this film just isn’t giving me that. I know it’s a big ask, but that’s what the other Fast & Furious 9 have made me expect!
The Fast franchise has become known for the biggest most over the top stupid bullshit that can be put on film and maybe they’ve hit that wall because none of these set pieces feels as over the top like the ones from the most recent movies in this series. Now, that doesn’t mean that the set pieces in Fast & Furious 9 aren’t over the top, they are still so stupid that you can feel brain cells dying while watching them BUT they just can’t meet the high level of “What the actual fuck am I watching?” that the last few films had.
Fast & Furious 9 is still a fun time, it’s the movie to switch your brain off and drool while watching because you don’t really need to pay attention and can just enjoy it… but it feels like they’re about to hit the upper limits of just how dumb a film can be before you can’t pull anything new out. Once you’ve driven a car into space, I don’t know where you go from there. The films have built up this expectation that they’re going to keep topping themselves and if I look back to Fast 8 or even Hobbs & Shaw, this film just doesn’t match what we saw back then. It’s still fun, but I can see the wear on these tyres starting to take a toll.