24th Jun2021

‘Fast & Furious 9’ Review

by Matthew Turner

Stars: Vin Diesel, Michelle Rodriguez, Jordanna Brewster, Tyrese Gibson, Chris “Ludacris” Bridges, Nathalie Emmanuel, John Cena, Kurt Russell, Charlize Theron, Sung Kang, Anna Sawai, Helen Mirren, Lucas Black, Thue Ersted Rasmussen | Written by Justin Lin, Daniel Casey | Directed by Justin Lin

Super-charge your engines – the ninth (or tenth, if you count spin-off Hobbs & Shaw) instalment of the frenetic Fast & Furious franchise is finally hitting cinemas, following a pandemic-related delay to its original release date. As expected, the film ticks all the boxes the fans care about, delivering fast cars, furious fights and outrageous stunts, but it also hits a roadblock or two along the way.

The film begins with Dom (Vin Diesel) and Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) reuniting with their fast car-loving team – techy Tej (Chris ‘Ludacris’ Bridges), motor-mouth Roman (Tyrese Gibson), genius hacker Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuelle) and Dom’s sister Mia (Jordana Brewster) – and facing off against an old foe, after entitled Euro rich kid Otto (Thue Ersted Rasmussen) finances slinky supervillain Cipher’s (Charlize Theron) escape from captivity.

Things get even more personal for Dom and Mia when it turns out that their brother Jakob (John Cena) – who they have mysteriously never mentioned before – is the mastermind behind Cipher’s escape. Soon, a deadly race against time ensues, as Dom and his gang attempt to stop Jakob from getting his hands on a device that could hold the world to ransom.

For a franchise that repeatedly stresses that “it’s all about family”, it’s frankly hilarious that Dom and Mia have a black sheep brother they never talk about. The film tries to explain how that happened with a lengthy series of flashback sequences, but they really needn’t have bothered. In the end, the best thing you can say about the flashbacks is that at least they cast actual actors as Young Dom (Vinnie Bennett) and Young Jakob (Finn Cole), rather than attempting to digitally de-age Diesel and Cena.

Speaking of Cena, it’s fair to say that when his participation in the film was announced, there was a distinct ripple of excitement, as his established screen persona seemed tailor-made for the franchise. Unfortunately, however, he turns out to be one of Fast 9‘s biggest disappointments, as the script completely wastes his comic talents, giving him no funny lines and having him alternate between glowering and punching things for the whole movie.

On the plus side, the stunts are every bit as good as they always are. The franchise has always felt duty-bound to out-do itself with each new instalment, stunt-wise, and that’s exactly what happens here, with whoop-and-cheer-inducing set-pieces including a car crossing a canyon on a rope swing (so good they put the whole thing in the trailer), a rocket-powered car in space (oh yes) and a sequence where the gang somehow manage to flip a vehicle as long as a small train so that it’s standing vertically on its front.

Sadly, the same can’t be said of the script, which is shot through with painfully poor dialogue, to the point where the only vaguely amusing line comes from a Star Wars-related diss from Charlize Theron, and absolutely everything else falls flat. The whole thing smacks of laziness, as if the writers literally couldn’t be bothered to write any decent dialogue and just let the actors improvise their lines.

There are other problems too, such as the fact that the fight scenes – usually a highlight – are shot and edited really badly, robbing them of any excitement, thrills or fun. This is especially annoying because you can tell the fight choreographers have done their jobs properly, it’s just that the cameras are constantly in the wrong place.

On the plus side, there’s some entertainment to be had with the location work, especially if you’re familiar with either London or Edinburgh. Similarly, if you’re a fan of giant electro-magnets, then Fast 9 offers all the giant electro-magnet action you could possibly hope for, somehow managing to include them in every single set-piece. In fact, they’re used so often that you can’t help wondering if the entire film is actually a feature length commercial for the electro-magnet industry.

In the end, Fast 9 does enough to ensure an entertaining night out at the cinema and there are plenty of fan-pleasing moments (pretty much everyone gets a cameo or a flashback), but it’s hard not to feel that the film could have been so much better if they’d paid a bit of attention to the script.

*** 3/5

Fast & Furious 9, Fast 9, or F9 (whatever they’re calling it this week) is in UK cinemas now.


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