Friday, June 25, 2021

F9: The Fast Saga - Review


It’s difficult to say that the “Fast and the Furious” series has lost its way when it never really had a clear way to begin with. It’s re-invented itself on multiple occasions, with the most successful change coming with the fifth entry. From there, the entries have at minimum been fun, albeit mindless, action flicks, with enjoyable humor and a bit of heart. However, they’ve extended themselves beyond a very clear ending point with 2015’s Furious 7, seemingly determined to run said franchise into a wall at 100 mph.

Dom Toretto (Vin Diesel) is living the quiet life off the grid with Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) and his son, but they know that danger always lurks just over the peaceful horizon. This time, that threat forces Dom to confront the sins of his past to save those he loves most. His crew soon comes together to stop a world-shattering plot by the most skilled assassin and high-performance driver they've ever encountered -- Dom's forsaken brother (John Cena).

By now, the action in the entire franchise has reached a tipping point. The filmmakers can either lean fully into the absurdity or reign in the insanity before it completely jumps a car over a pit of sharks. Surprise, surprise, they don’t choose the latter. Instead, the action goes to space, something many have expected for a few films now, effectively ending any semblance of danger for Dom’s crew for the foreseeable future. The absurdity can be entertaining mind you, but when everything else around it is being delivered with an absolutely serious face, the facade of wild fun quickly crumbles.

Wrapped up in this globe trotting adventure are the usual suspects. Everyone returns to characters they basically could do in their sleep now, and it’s starting to show. A couple of additions to the cast go over with mixed results. The return of Sung Kang is a welcome one, though the explanation of his survival way back in the third entry is laughable. Even so, his addition feels like a piece that fits perfectly back into the crew and here’s hoping he does stick around this time. However, on the other side is John Cena, a villain that feels added simply to keep the former wrester turned actor quota firmly at one. The performance he gives is bad, there’s no way to get around it, and there is no logical sense in his inclusion in the “story”.

Story is, of course, used very loosely. Plot has been secondary now for a while in the franchise, there is always a bad guy with some McMuffin that will end the world, and this crew of formal criminals always has to be the one to stop them for some reason. They try to change things up by making the antagonist a family member, one that has never been mentioned before in 8 films, but the principal ideas remain. Bad guy shows up. Bad guy steals something dangerous. Crew of criminals somehow saves the world by driving cars really fast. It’s not doing a poorly paced and realized film any favors, and it’s a wonder where they even go from here in the tenth installment. 

There’s a reason most film franchises don’t make it to a ninth installment, often the results are exactly what happened with F9. You can only put cars in so many places they don’t belong before the audience starts to turn on you, and this might just be the final straw on that front. Apparently there are two more films coming, but maybe they should read the writing on the wall and not gas up the fleet for another couple of incoherent messes, and save everyone a lot of time and money in the process.

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