Vin Diesel, Michelle Rodriguez and director Justin Lin (Fast & Furious, Fast & Furious 6) return for the ninth installment of the franchise. While this new film proves to be a step up from Hobbs & Shaw, Daniel Rutledge found it to be a bit of a mixed bag.
The latest Fast & Furious movie continues the franchise’s race toward maximum ridiculousness, for good and bad. It definitely provides a few thrills, but its action sequences are largely underwhelming and it gets bogged down under the bloat of tying in every single character who has ever appeared in this cinematic universe. Well, all except the one played by Dwayne Johnson, because of a real-life pissing contest he got into with Vin Diesel.
Although Fast & Furious 9 is a mid-tier entry into the series, it’s definitely a step up from Hobbs & Shaw. That spinoff played like a bad Austin Powers-style parody, while the latest sequel is more like what Jason X is to the Friday the 13th series, complete with muppets in space. Instead of Johnson and Jason Statham cracking wise about everything, Diesel and John Cena are hilariously grim and sombre the whole way through a story overstuffed with more character revelations and retcons than ever.
Although those are fairly weak, they are expected by fans as very much obligatory for a Fast & Furious film. Of course, you can also expect the word “family” to be used a great deal, Coronas to be excitedly drunk and there’s a couple of classic Fast & Furious drag races, too. These are both done in flashbacks, which makes sense given the Mission: Impossible-style shenanigans the films have grown to be all about, and it’s nice to have the contrast of old and new in the one film.
But sadly, the visceral action and great practical effects that filmmaker Justin Lin used to make this franchise truly great is mostly gone, replaced by weightless fluff. There’s an unfortunate emphasis on magnet-based vehicle action which, for the most part, is not cool. The magical magnets are wildly inconsistent and absolutely stupid, which would be fine if they looked awesome, but their use by our heroes generally just looks fake and dumb. Not all of the action is bad—a massive chase through Edinburgh is the best scene, boasting many cool moments, with a fistfight inside a moving truck probably the greatest.
It also hurts that there’s not really any stakes. When Dom and Letty crash a car and roll it a dozen or so times, neither is hurt in the slightest, so car crashes aren’t a worry. That’s not such a new thing in this franchise, but now pretty much every character who died is alive again, which means even death doesn’t really matter either. The bad guys are stealing a MacGuffin that’ll give them full control of computers and humans or something, but even that seems like it’s a steppingstone in the story of Charlize Theron’s villain, who is mostly in this as setup for the next one.
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Which is to say, yes, there will definitely be a Fast & Furious 10. The ninth film is a mixed bag but it could serve as a wobbly course-correction that gets things back on track for the tenth. Fingers crossed it is— here’s hoping the next one ends the franchise on a high, with less bloat, ridiculousness that’s more fun than goofy and, most of all, more thrilling action.