In celebration of the The Fast & Furious franchise’s twentieth(!) anniversary, I recently began to revisit the earlier instalments and it’s insane to see just how the series has evolved. What initially started out as Point Break remake, complete with nitro-injected street races and undercover cops infiltrating criminal gangs, has literally become faster and even more furious. Stunts have evolved to become larger and on an even more ridiculous scale, while the street racing plot has developed into more of a globe-hopping spy drama. Yet despite each instalment embracing a ‘go big or go home’ mantra, family has always been at the heart of the franchise – and none more so than the latest entry.
Directed by franchise returnee Justin Lin (Fast & Furious, Fast & Furious 5 and Fast & Furious 6) F9 The Fast Saga centres on an off-grid Dom (Vin Diesel), Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) and little Brian, who are seemingly living in rural bliss. That’s until his estranged younger brother Jakob (John Cena) returns, teaming up with billionaire Otto (Thue Ersted Rasmussen) to enact a world-shattering plan with the help of a tech device named Ares. It’s up to Dom’s crew, along with a few familiar faces along the way, to help put a stop to their plot and potentially bring Jakob home.
With Lin back at the helm, he manages to somewhat course correct the franchise with the return of a “family” driven plot, a number of nods to previous instalments and all the while embracing the more ludicrous elements of the saga, resulting in a hugely enjoyable ride. The central globe-hopping plot is undeniably bonkers, with a number of action sequences (involving ridiculous super strength magnets!) which send the franchise into an even more over-the-top territory, but it’s so hard to not grin at just how ridiculous it all is. At this point the cast and crew have clearly embraced the silliness of the franchise and completely committed to it, particularly in one absolutely insane sequence, along with the ridiculous orb-like MacGuffin plot device. There’s also an intriguing delve into Dom’s tragic backstory, with a welcome return of actual racing (swap drag with stock car), establishing a decent family tension between Diesel, Cena and Jordana Brewster.
While the Toretto family work through their issues, the supporting trio of Tyrese Gibson’s Roman, Ludacris’ Tej and Nathalie Emmanuel’s Ramsey continue to be one of the franchise’s highlight, bringing a lot of well needed humour to the flick. Their bickering dynamic really is entertaining, helping to fill the Dwayne Johnson shaped hole of charisma that’s certainly been lacking. Diesel shares a surprisingly brilliantly dynamic with Helen Mirren’s returning Queenie, clearly having the most fun in their getaway sequence than the rest of his scenes put together. Speaking of returning faces, Sung Kang’s Han is also another welcome return, along with a certain trio from an earlier instalment – resulting in a lovely nod to the larger franchise as a whole. However, the villain department really is lacking this time round, with Cena’s Jakob proving a bland and smarmy foil for Diesel, while Thue Ersted Rasmussen’s Otto really is just a spoilt stock billionaire villain. Even Charlize Theron disappoints as cyber terrorist Cipher, relegated to a plexiglass box spouting bonkers lines about Star Wars characters…
The ninth instalment continues to embrace the ‘bigger is better’ mantra when it comes to the insane action sequences and stunts, topping the submarine scene by sending a certain duo to literal space! Elsewhere, the high-powered magnet device smashes cars through buildings in a high-octane sequence through Edinburgh, while Cena’s Jakob ridiculously zooms around the city on a high wire. The franchise has recently tried to rival big blockbuster action flicks like Mission Impossible, none more so with the Indiana Jones style opening sequence complete with landmines, driving over rope bridges and a car literally caught by an aircraft with a magnet. The fight sequences are also well choreographed, with a standout sequence involving the women of the saga (Rodriguez, Brewster and newcomer Anna Sawai) holding their own in a thrilling sequence in Tokyo.
Fast and the Furious 9 is a bonkers and over-the-top thrill ride which marks a return to form, thanks to the return of franchise favourite director Justin Lin. Despite the lapse into an overly serious family drama, there’s more than enough action sequences and nice nods to the wider universe to keep fans of the franchise happy.