Reel Reviews | F9

by Tim Gordon

Twenty years after thrilling audiences with hi-speed racing hijinks and familial vibes, the core crew, as well as extended members return for a thrilling new adventure in the mind-numbing but highly entertaining F9.

Since the beginning of this long-running series, fans have watched it evolve from street racing and small heists to envelope-pushing stunts and more daring adventures featuring a list of A-list talent. Their latest foray finds them all living comfortably after the last international adventure in 2017’s Fate of the Furious.

As the team tries to regroup, we find Dom (Vin Diesel) and Letty (Michelle Rodriquez) living in isolation raising his son, Brian; Tej (Ludacris) and Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel) are up to their usual hi-tech hijinks, and Roman (Tyrese Gibson) is simply being . . . Roman. But if you’ve watched the Fast Saga over the past two decades, you know that their solitude will be short-lived. Right on cue, the team receives an ominous transmission from the mysterious, Mr. Nobody (Kurt Russell) under duress and after some not-so-gentle prodding by Letty, the “F-vengers” have reassembled.

Co-written by Daniel Casey and director Justin Lin, F9 fleshes out Dom’s family origins and how traumatic events from thirty years in his past help him with his latest adversary – his brother, Jakob (John Cena), who is working for his former nemesis, Cipher (Charlize Theron). The two are in search of a valuable object that once combined with a key could mean world domination (doesn’t it always?) The only thing stopping them is the F-vengers, who continue to expand with past members returning throughout the film.

(from left) Dom (Vin Diesel) and Jakob (John Cena) in “F9,” directed by Justin Lin.

The relationship and chemistry between Dom Toretto and Brian O’ Conner (Paul Walker) often served as the emotional backdrop for many of the earlier films, as well as a touching tribute after Walker’s death in Furious 7. While that emotional vacuum will never be replaced, Dom goes through a similar psychological roller-coaster dealing with his brother/adversary Jakob. As the older brother, Dom appeared to be his father’s favorite, much to the chagrin of Jakob, who was eager to prove his worth. After a painful transition, Jakob and Dom fell out over a simple race, which fueled and solidified Jakob’s anger – and his incessant need to beat his brother in everything.

With Lin back at the helm, there is an undeniable sense of energy and excitement around the Fast Saga. As the series has continued to grow, the filmmakers continue to build more elaborate and exaggerated stunts and F9 has plenty of them to give fans of the franchise the emotional jolt they need when watching these adventures. In addition to cars doing stunts, audiences are encouraged to NEVER try on their own, it is the reunion of many past characters that fans are familiar with that gives it an Avengers feel, complete with their own “infinity stone” (sort of).

The tenth film in the Fast Saga, counting the spin-off Hobbs and Shaw, and with at least two more to come, the franchise doesn’t seem to show any signs of slowing down. This latest film, despite elements that DEMAND you leave your brain in the lobby of the theater, is a cinematic jolt of electricity and as audiences ease back into theaters, the perfect emotional panacea that we need.

While lacking in logic and physics, Lin and his talented crew of action stars more than makeup with thrilling stunts, wonderful chemistry, and those beautiful fast cars. One could appreciate that the filmmakers know that aren’t saving the world but are providing audiences a fun, thrilling, and satisfying hi-energy adventure that will put a smile on your face as well as anticipate the next time you can get together with Dom and his friends.

Grade: B+