Before we begin, there are no spoilers in this review. I typically don’t watch trailers before I see a movie, but I have since gone back and watched the trailers for F9 so this review will only explicitly mention scenes that are already publicly available.
I didn’t think we’d be at the point where I would be writing a review for a Fast and Furious movie, but here we are. Up until about five days ago, I hadn’t seen any of the films, so I binged them all before watching this one. I’m now fully caught up on the Fast Saga, and ready to discuss where F9 sits in this massive franchise.
F1: THE FAMILY
The family is back together on another crazy mission, provided by Kurt Russel’s Mr. Nobody – one of the best recent additions to the cast. Dwayne Johnson is absent, as is Jason Statham, presumably due to some events that transpired in Hobbs and Shaw – the one film I didn’t see before F9. Luke Hobbs has been one of the strongest characters for me personally, so that lack of presence is pretty noticeable.
Conversely, there are some great reprisals here as well: Jordana Brewster returns, as do Bow Wow and Lucas Black (my favorite character, which I’ve heard is an unpopular opinion). But this film also brings back Sung Kang as Han, a character who already died in Tokyo Drift, came back, and died again.
According to my research, this is because Tokyo Drift actually takes place after Fast & Furious 6, and he only really “died” once – though F9 reveals that even that was just another ruse. I did not gather this at all via just watching the films, but apparently Tokyo was stuck in 2006 until about five years ago.
But that’s not the only surprising character update here. Dom Toretto, the family man himself, once turned his back on his own brother (John Cena), who has now come back with a vengeance. I like to think he was actually in every previous film, we just couldn’t see him.
F2: BACK FOR FUN
As a whole, F9 is a bit of a return to form for the series in my eyes. Not that I’m necessarily a long time fan, but this is definitely not one of the Fast Saga’s worst entries. 2017’s Fate of the Furious notably ditched some of the over-the-top stunts for a more reserved (if you could call Dwayne Johnson grabbing a torpedo ‘reserved’) spy romp. In a more devastating blow to fans, Fate also threw away one of the biggest aspects of the series: family. That is thankfully not the case with F9.
While Fate saw Dom turn against his new ‘family,’ in F9, we learn that once he did the same thing to his brother Jakob. I usually dislike the addition of family members late into a series who go completely unmentioned prior to their new introduction, but I wasn’t incredibly hung up on it here.
Story-wise, the Fast Saga has never been anything to write home about, at least not after the franchise reboot in 2009. I obviously wasn’t expecting anything grand here either, but I’ve seen worse. After the disaster of Fate’s story, the only place F9 could go was up. Fast and the Furious is the Olive Garden of film franchises – when you’re here you’re family. And this was perhaps the ‘family-est’ of them all.
The movie even has a few moments with Roman and Tej (who are both great here) that poke fun at the insanity of the series as a whole. Roman asks “Are we invincible?” to which the movie essentially answers, “lol.” It’s just a carefree action flick that is cool for the sake of cool and doesn’t take itself too seriously, and it’s way better because of that.
F3: FAMILIAR FOE
For me, the biggest hurdle for these films is the portrayal of their villains. I think to-date, Luke Hobbs was the only one enjoyable to watch, every other villain character has felt boring and dry, lacking an emotion that isn’t ‘Kill those people before they destroy my new tech-MacGuffin-weapon.’ Even Deckard Shaw, the villain that can’t seem to die, falls into this category for me, only really assisted by his evil British accent.
In F9, the family faces off against Cipher, the villain introduced in Fate of the Furious, played by Charlize Theron. While I thought her performance in Fate was one of the driest of them all, they really improved her here. She has a ‘smartest in the room’ energy that makes her almost seem like the mastermind villain in a great anime or an HBO series. She even has the same haircut!
The cast was fun to watch, the story was acceptable, and the stunts were once again out of this world. F9 wasn’t my favorite entry into the series, but it was a dang good one. I was anticipating making a reference to the F9 key – a button which these days has little to no default use – somewhere in this review, but F9 the film is worth more than that one joke.
F4: IN REVIEW
So where does this put the series? That’s a good question. Just about every film since Fast Five ends in a way that could be the end of the series if it needed to. That’s the case with F9 as well, but they’ve already announced a tenth film, so it seems like it won’t be the true end quite yet.
In a series that’s so committed to retcons that they changed a film from 2006 to be set in 2014 to bring back an actor, anything can happen. I would like to see the films end before it just writes itself into the ground, but given how much money they generate, I don’t think that’ll be any time soon.
The past year or so has been rough for big blockbuster films, because they truly benefit from the biggest screen possible. F9 is definitely the great summer blockbuster that theaters have needed. Go see it in person to experience all the magic of a truck with super magnets pulling a car through a building the way it’s meant to be experienced.
After this week I can say that these movies have changed me. I am truly a member of la familia. I am secretly Dom Toretto’s first cousin twice removed. I am played by Timothee Chalamet but he’s incredibly ripped now. I drive a Toyota Prius with a V12 engine and helicopter blades on top. I will be introduced in F13: Revenge of the Cars, a movie that was filmed in 1983 but will be released in 2024 with zero context.