“F9 (The Fast Saga)” (Rated T)
Cast: Vin Diesel, John Cena, Charlize Theron, Michelle Rodriguez
Where to watch: In theaters
Dwight’s Rating: One Star
What a perfect letter for this latest installment in the exceptionally and increasingly ludicrous, and seemingly never-ending “Fast and Furious” film series.
“F9” is the ninth film since “The Fast Saga” began a whopping 20 years ago (not including the “Hobbs & Shaw” spinoff from 2019)! And with the school year just having wrapped up, that “F9” title calls to mind the worst student in the class’s end of year report card – with nine whole Fs.
Or maybe, the F represents the number of times you might use the F word every half hour in this nearly two-and-a-half-hour spectacle.
Perhaps, like me, you’ll find yourself saying things like:
“What The F(9)?”
“You’ve got to be F(9)-ing kidding me!”
“No F(9)-ing way!”
“For F(9)’s sake!”
“How the F(9)?!”
“Who the F(9)?!”
“Why the F(9)?!”
“F(9) my life!”
This series has been the very definition of uneven. For every watchable one, there’s a complete dud. The initial “The Fast and the Furious” was quite enjoyable. But more recently, “Fast & Furious 6” was stupid, but still fun. And while “Furious 7” was among the worst, the eighth film, “The Fate of the Furious” was pretty decent.
However, with “F9”, we have now reached the nadir – the franchise’s greatest stinker ever.
Vin Diesel is back as Dom Toretto, living the quiet life off the grid with Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) and his son. But they know that danger always lurks just over the peaceful horizon. This time, that threat forces Dom to confront the sins of his past to save those he loves most. His crew soon comes together to stop a world-shattering plot by the most skilled assassin and high-performance driver they’ve ever encountered – Dom’s forsaken brother.
That’s right folks. Dom’s brother!
Huh? In eight previous films starting back in 2001, and in this series that is obsessed – almost to the point of hilarity – with family, there has been not one single solitary time anyone has ever mentioned a brother.
Yes, we know Dom is obsessed with protecting his sister Mia (Jordana Brewster). That relationship has been a driving force for the franchise from day one. As had been his partnership with Brian (the late Paul Walker), who became like a brother to him, especially after Brian and Mia became a couple. And there’s Dom’s deep love for his motley crew of nerdy, goofy criminals/heroes, his surrogate family.
So how in God’s name could a man so very enthralled with fast cars, fast money, and accepting any old person off the street as “family”, completely erase any and all thoughts about his brother (John Cena joins the cast as banished sibling Jakob Toretto) for two whole decades?
In any event, new relatives popping out of the woodwork marks the latest in the progressively more preposterous storylines helping to drive this franchise further down into the dark abyss of daytime soap opera.
Remember Letty’s “amnesia” in the atrocious “Furious 7”? Add to that the number of people we’ve seen coming back from the “dead” over the last few editions, and it’s enough to make even a writer on “Days of our Lives” say, “Wow, this is some wacky stuff!”
All we need now is Dom’s evil twin. Perhaps they can do that for the 10th installment and call it “Furious X”.
Speaking of X … are these people humans? I’ve been wondering that for a while now. But it’s becoming clearer that they may in fact be mutants, like the X-Men.
That would be the only thing that could explain why when someone smacks them in the face or dropkicks them – and it sounds like two tanks have collided – they’re somehow able to get up as if a mosquito just bit them. The fists are flying and the kicks are kicking, but nothing happens, and nobody seems to get hurt! Not the good guys, not the bad guys! Plus, they also have a special type of skin that’s impervious to cuts, lacerations and bruises.
Oh, there’s like one or two drops of blood: Dom and Jakob try to bash each other’s skulls in. And after the punishment they unleash, where most of us would be in the morgue, or at least the hospital, there’s only a tiny trail of red stuff near the temples of their faces. (I saw more blood gushing out of my own body last month when I had a can-opener mishap and sliced open my thumb.) I guess it was really important to get that PG-13/T-rating.
Yes, last week I complained that “Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard” was far too bloody and gruesome. And now “F9” isn’t bloody enough? Well, you can’t hit someone 58 times in three minutes, and there not be one scratch.
“F9” thinks it covers this conundrum by having Tyrese’s Gibson’s annoying-as-usual character Roman Pearce ask questions about whether this crew is invincible. But, until it is revealed that they are robots or aliens, I can’t accept Roman’s premise that they’re just lucky.
Along with far-fetched daytime drama, “F9” also completes the franchise’s transition to full-on cartoon. The action sequences – which many years ago, abandoned applying the theory of gravity to any scene involving motor vehicles or flying machines – are so shockingly insane, they’ll have Marvel and DC movie and comic-book writers shaking their heads in disbelief. Not even they are allowed to have The Incredible Hulk or even Superman perform such mindboggling feats.
“Calm down!” you say. “This is just an action flick to get our minds off all the woes in the world”. Well, obviously, devastatingly dumb dialogue, cheesy jokes, and nonsensical superhuman action don’t have the same damaging effects on your braincells as they do mine. And trust me, I’m not the problem here. Apparently, it’s too much to ask for some realism and restraint in today’s action films.
At some point we’re going to have to admit that this franchise has outlived its nine lives. And it’s time for “Fast and Furious” to “F(9)” off!
• Dwight Strachan is the host/producer of “Morning Blend” on Guardian Radio and station manager. He is a television producer and writer, and an avid TV history and film buff. Email firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on twitter @morningblend969.