Tactical gear? Gadgets and equipment? Nope. All Dominic Toretto needs for a mission is a t-shirt, specifically one that’s skin tight.
The protagonist for all but two of the “Fast and Furious” movies, portrayed by Vin Diesel, is back but not in action at the start of “F9.” Dominic is living in peace now, raising his son and continuing his relationship with Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) in a rural area. However, this peace is broken when he’s approached by his crew of Roman (Tyrese Gibson), Tej (Chris “Ludacris” Bridges) and Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel) for a new mission.
The crew’s government covert operations contact Mr. Nobody (Kurt Russell) was attacked for a high tech military device and it could destabilize the world. On top of the global threat, the stakes are raised more with this mission, as the one who attacked Mr. Nobody was Dominic’s long lost brother Jakob (John Cena).
This one broke really broke me. Aside from Tokyo Drift, my scores for the main “Fast and Furious” series have all been positive. Unfortunately, the car ran out of gas with this one.
There are two speed bumps that really cause damage to this flick. One is how over the top it gets, and the other is it’s far too convoluted.
On the latter, this movie’s story becomes so overloaded by the introduction of Dominic and Mia’s brother Jakob that it stretches the run time to an obnoxious two and a half hours. On top of making the film too long, it also forces the movie to basically retcon its own continuity.
Retconning is where a piece of media introduces something or changes an established story element, and actively works to insert this alteration into the series. In this movie’s case, it means a lot of flashbacks to young versions of Dominic and Jakob.
Not only does the film become bogged down with these flashbacks, it’s also a sign of running out of ideas. Pulling out a long lost relative at this stage of the game really comes across as grasping at straws.
On top of all that, the drama with the Jakob character isn’t even all that necessary, because there was a more compelling side plot featured. As the trailer reveals, the character Han (Sung Kang) is actually alive and back in action.
It turns out that Han was on a special mission, protecting a girl named Elle (Anna Sawai), who’s connected with the weaponry device. The whole story thread with Han and Elle offers enough narrative engagement on its own, and Jakob could have just been introduced as a new villain to take on.
Of course the main reason why people watch these movies, though, is the action, not the family barbecues. Sorry to report, the action here is so absurd and non-consequential that it’s hard to be invested or wowed by the spectacle.
Another thing shown in the trailer is that some of the characters actually go to space in a car with rockets strapped to it. It’s so stupid that it’s funny, and not in a good way.
It’s one thing for this type of thing to occur in an action movie like 2007’s “Shoto Em Up” or this year’s “Shadow in the Cloud,” where the spectacle is clearly meant to be more cartoonish. However, in a series that attempts to still be grounded at times, it simply doesn’t work.
Outside of the space travel, the car-related action is pretty much more of the same. The safe-pulling stunt the crew pulled in Brazil in part five or the bridge battle with the tank in part six did the whole city street chaos much better.
The characters are about as tired as the action, too. The Roman and Tej duo are given rather poor comedic lines again, while Dominic spends more time spouting off dialogue about family. The whole crew just seems stuck in neutral.
John Cena’s stone faced, stoic villain does offer somewhat of a nice contrast to the more witty Deckard Shaw from a few films ago. Although he could have been written as more menacing.
“F9” never gets to the point of bad where it’s frustrating to sit through, but it is immensely hard to recommend. If you’re a diehard fan of the series or an action enthusiast with some time to kill on a weekend, it’s watchable. For the most part, though, this is easy to skip. 2 out of 5.