F9 Review – Putting the Franchise in Reverse


There were a lot of us that believed the Fast franchise would live on forever. However, with the announcement that the Fast films will end with 11, the pressure is on Vin Diesel and company to go out with a bang. Unfortunately, the start of the final trilogy of films, F9, starts with a whimper instead of a bang. Fresh off his short turn as a heel, F9 follows Dominic Toretto and the crew as they go on the hunt for Dom’s younger brother, Jakob.

With Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham participating in their spin-off universe, they leave behind some big shoes to fill in the ninth installment of the Fast franchise. Enter John Cena and the return of Sung Kang. Unfortunately, John Cena’s Jakob Toretto leaves much to be desired in the antagonist department. For someone who talks about family a lot, there’s a legitimate reason why Cena’s Jakob is nonexistent through eight films. The problem is that the film takes so many breaks to explain the history behind Dominic and Jakob. As a result, it kills the film’s pacing.

Also, the celebrated return of Han isn’t without its issues either. While they explain how Han survived his crash, the answer is still murky due to some shaky editing. Not to mention, Han’s inclusion in the film doesn’t feel natural. Instead, it feels like a shoehorned attempt to appease fans angry that Deckard Shaw is now a good guy. If you were to take out Han from the story, the story would still move along. Despite these issues, the reunion between these legacy characters is heartwarming to watch—especially for long-time fans of the franchise like myself. However, between Jakob, Han, and the search for the film’s MacGuffinF9 is a convoluted film with seemingly endless exposition.

With no Paul Walker, Dwayne Johnson, or Jason Statham, the charm of F9 is severely lacking. A lot of the heavy burden in uplifting this dreary installment falls solely on the shoulders of Tyrese Gibson, Ludacris, and Nathalie Emmanuel. Roman and Tej have always been the comic relief in the previous films, but they have more responsibility here. Otherwise, the rest of the F9 cast goes all-in on the emotional family drama between the Torettos. It’s just a shame that Justin Lin doesn’t build any emotional weight in the film. It tries to play into the melodrama, but it doesn’t quite land.

Between Jakob, Han, and the search for the film’s MacGuffin, F9 is a convoluted film with seemingly endless exposition.

Not to mention, the emotional stakes don’t drive the action at all. Sure, it’s fun and occasionally thrilling, but they feel hollow, and the larger picture suffers. In Justin Lin’s return to the Fast franchise, he lets loose and goes for the most ridiculous ideas one can do in a car. One can appreciate the constant one-upmanship of the action sequences from film to film. After all, Mission: Impossible does it with ease with each installment.

For the Fast franchise, it’s the defiance of the laws of physics and the suspension of disbelief that drives these over-the-top action sequences. With F9, these sequences walk a fine line between sheer stupidity and inspired inventiveness, often bouncing back and forth between the two. Though the characters and formula are the same, it throws the whole kitchen sink at you to compensate for some key missing ingredients. The ninth chapter feels like something different and not necessarily in a good way.

Overall, F9 is a drop in quality in the franchise—a first since 2015’s Furious 7. While Furious 7‘s issues are related to the completion of Brian O’Conner’s story after the tragic death of Paul Walker, F9‘s problems stem from its one-upmanship over the previous installments and the wooden and lifeless tone of the film. The series has had a good run for the last few installments, but F9 is downright average.

Rating: 3/5 atoms

F9 hits theaters on June 25th.

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