F9 is an entry that shows more stagnation for Fast and Furious than nitro in its tank.
F9 (2021) Review By Mark McPherson
Published on July 2, 2021
Rating 2.5 /5
The ninth entry in the Fast & Furious franchise comes with all the absurdities audiences have come to rely on for such an action saga. At this point in this blockbuster tentpole, everybody knows what the deal is with these films. Cars are tossed about into the most over-the-top of action sequences and there’s the glazed thematic element of family. This has pretty much been the familiar formula since Fast Five and there’s no sign of turning back now.
This commitment to the design, however, does come with issues of the familiarity of wearing thin. By The Fate of the Furious, there was already speculation that the only way to perform even wilder car stunts would be to take their missions into space. Sure enough, that’s what happens in F9. While it is fun to watch Tyrese and Ludacris bicker as they try to guide a car through the vacuum of space, how much does it say about this series when you can predict the next big stunt?
Dom (Vin Diesel) at least has a lot more development this time around, at least on paper. Having saved his baby son from the villainous Cipher (Charlize Theron), he has had some time to enjoy being a father. Living out in the country and on the lam has allowed him some quality time to share everything he knows about vehicles. But a different family issue arises when his estranged brother, Jakob (John Cena), pops up as the villain. Well, villain cohort. He’s hooked up with an egomaniac who wants to terrorize the world. No, it’s not the last film’s villain of Cipher (Charlize Theron), although she is present in the film. It’s instead a poor man's rich man who loves money and power but also has daddy issues.
So there are some shadows of the Toretto family that have to be resolved but it’s a bit concerning that such a film can only muster up mid-tier soap-opera exchanges. This mostly involves Diesel and Cena trying to give each other the sternest looks, as though they’re daring each other not to laugh while they spout such pretentious and blunt lines about their history. Sure, Fast and Furious was never known for its dialogue being robust but it’s surprising just how quickly this plot is resolved that by the climax Jakob is back on Dom’s good side without much redemption or questioning. It just feels more like an addition of John Cena to the family rather than a character arc.
Also feeling more like an actor addition than character is the surprise return of Han (Sung Kang) who had previously died in Furious 7. He has a better relation to the central plot of finding a MacGuffin that will save the world but his revival is approached in a manner that is more about getting back the actor than finding a viable means of his aversion to death. Then again, there’s a lot of actors shoved into this picture who have little time to do anything really. The likes of Hellen Mirren, Kurt Russel, and Nathalie Emmanuel all return for such brief and nothing moments amid all the action. The cameo by Cardi B is also so rushed that there isn’t even time to highlight her character having a past with Dom.
The action sequences still remain the highlight and why wouldn’t they be. Cars go flip and boom in ways that defy gravity, physics, and probably a few other scientific laws. The grandness of it all is still a draw and manages to maintain its energy far better than the aspects of family that lose focus quite easily. That being said, F9 doesn’t really surprise much either considering it delivers on all the theatrics everybody has come to expect from the series.
F9 is an entry that shows more stagnation for Fast and Furious than nitro in its tank. All the absurdity, pretentious family moments, and the goofing ensemble cast are still present that it can be easily argued nobody can be made with the movie they paid for. But there’s a saying about movies made around fandoms: A great film doesn’t give fans what they want but something they never knew they wanted. Right now, F9 is merely serving up more of the same.
Mark has been a professional film critic for over five years and a film lover all his life.