There comes the point when enough is enough, and that time has arrived for the Fast and Furious franchise. Either a studio and a filmmaker are committed to making a quality product, or the all mighty dollar drives them. Some might argue that it matters little how some are driven to make a film, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. If the general public begins to accept haphazard plots, subpar stunts, and trope-filled dialogue, then what does that say about us?
If studios continue to make money with terrible titles, why would anyone invest time to make sure their releases are quality? Is this about protecting our cinematic experience or protecting cinemas? To put it bluntly, F9 is atrocious. Director Justin Lin’s latest project is lacking in any redeemable qualities. The film is over 2 hours long and feels like it was 5—the stunting in the film is below average. In addition, the narrative lacks any sense of direction. It’s as if the team of writers just decided to throw a bunch of ideas on the wall in hopes that one would stick.
The dialogue between Dom and Jakob (who happens to be his brother) has a very paint by numbers feel to it. They certainly do say “family” a lot. Anyone interested in creating a drinking game where everyone takes a shot when someone in the film says “family” will likely be shit-faced within the first 10 minutes of the film. Some might argue that one has to suspend all notions of reality when watching one of these films. To them, this is about entertainment when in reality, it’s about buffoonery.
Take any action film and think about its plot? What did you notice? The correct answer is each of those films has a linear storyline. Simply put, there are identifiable beginnings, middles, and ends that shock of all shockers, actually connect in some fashion. F9 is a collection of incomplete plot points, thinly developed characters, laughable premises, and below-average stunt sequences wrapped in a narrative that’s over two hours and twenty minutes long. It’s a struggle to come up with any redeemable qualities in F9. If this film is what entertainment is supposed to be then the pandemic has warped our perception of what that is.
The film centers around Dom Toretto (Vin Diesel) and Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) coming off the grid to join Roman (Tyrese Gibson), Tej (Chris Ludacris Bridges), Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel), and Mia (Jordana Brewster), who go up against a scowling Jakob (John Cena) who is attempting to track down a weapon that will unleash hell on a world by taking over anything that’s computerized. We also have Han (Sung Kang) and Cipher (Charlize Theron) making appearances in this ridiculous plotline. Never mind the fact that Han clearly died in F5; he’s now back with us and apparently a secret agent (shrugs). Apparently, he’s protecting the world from this weapon Jakob’s after by not allowing the key to fall into the wrong hands. On a side note, any attempts to try and connect the dots here would be a complete waste of time and energy.
We have to remember that even the greatest action films of our time had a storyline that made sense. Any of the Rambo, Cobra, or Chuck Norris films would be a perfect example of that. Yeah, it’s over the top. Yeah, they are entertaining as hell because they provide escapism for the audience. But, what happens when the film is so over-the-top, it snaps audience’s out of that need for escapism and leaves them questioning why they’re even in the theater. If I’m spending most of my time wondering, “what the hell,” then the film becomes nothing more than expensive background noise.
Even the performances in the film leave a lot to be desired. Between Vin Diesel emoting his lines in grunt form and John Cena’s apparent interpretation of being a bad guy involving Jakob having this constant look of being constipated; each one of these characters seems out of place. Han has this continuous look of bewilderment as if he’s become self-aware that him being in the film makes no god damn sense. Even the attempts at humor by Roman and Tej seemed odd at best. Michelle Rodriguez and Jordana Brewster’s characters have become essentially extras in this universe which with this film has now officially jumped the shark. I don’t understand why Justin Lin and Daniel Casey tried weaving a storyline involving the death of Dom’s father. It seemed long, overdramatic, and easily could have been cut from the film, and no one would have known. We don’t need to know what drove Jakob to be a bad guy; tell us in some way and move forward. Also, blow up some cool cars in the process.
What shocked me about F9 is how lackluster the stunts came out. Perhaps, it’s because the bar has been set so high, but the action sequences felt off. Electromagnets are cool, but they aren’t the same as watching massive car wrecks occurring. If you argue that going to this is more about saving movie theaters than watching a quality action film, you are off base. There are so many other titles that are worthy of your attention. Demanding a quality product from the studio isn’t a statement against theaters but more about preserving the experience for everyone.