Are you ready to ride or die once again, gearhead!? I know I am! Let’s be honest, if you buy a ticket to Fast 9: The Fast Saga (2021) the latest installment in the “Fast and Furious” saga and gullibly expect a coherent story line, realistic action, logic and a balanced tone, you unfortunately deserve to be disappointed.
Everyone and their momma should understand exactly what this franchise entails. And sanctimoniously acting like it should be anything other than the ginormous, loud, and gaudy monstrosity that it is sounds just as comedic as Vinny Unleaded spouting out “family” rhetoric for the umpteenth time. For many of us, we’ve ceremoniously embraced the unyielding craziness this series has to offer and expect it to wow us with its rampant absurdity.
Let’s think about this for a second. The franchise started off as a “Point Break” with cars rip-off, and throughout the years has produced a sequel, spin-off, semi-reboot, and even a complete rejuvenation. A street racing yarn that morphed into a heist film, revenge tale, cat and mouse game, great homage, stunning tribute, and now has reached a full-blown extravaganza of automotive insanity at an orbital level. Not bad for a franchise that possessed zero source material whatsoever to draw from. Other franchises like “Harry Potter“, “Lord of the Rings“, “James Bond“, “Mission Impossible“, and “Transformers” always had guidelines or a blueprint to follow. However, spanning twenty years and NINE films, this transmogrifying saga was always it’s own defiant creation. Which is why, for the most part, it can do whatever the hell it wants. And has. With gusto.
For this humble schmoe, I want it all – the rousing action, consistent destruction, fun fight scenes, and tons of stylish vehicles. I want the laws of physics to go on an extended pub crawl, consuming every alcoholic beverage imaginable before settling into a night of heavy drug use and chasing the dragon. I want it to obliterate itself and see what happens in the amidst of it. Then I want it to go to rehab in a failed attempt to get clean only to head down that disastrous road of debauchery again….just for our mere entertainment and amusement. Through the good, bad, and completely ridiculous, this institution has become a lucrative success and worldwide phenomenon the likes of which none of us ever imagined. At this point, we’re just along for the ride to see what universal heights it reaches next.
Personally I want a badass “Transformers” crossover. Dying for that one. Come on, tell me you wouldn’t watch that film? Toretto and company riding side by side with Optimus Prime and the Autobots, battling Megatron and the Decepticons …or Unicron. How freaking epic would that be!!? Getting giddy just thinking about it. So giddy. But until that nerdy time, let’s shift gears into this entry, shall we? As the story goes, after the events of the previous film, the Torettos – Dominic, Letty, (Vin Diesel, Michelle Rodriguez) and his son are living peacefully on the countryside fixing stuff and smiling at the quietness of it all. Their tranquility is cut short when the rest of the crew; Roman (Tyrese Gibson), Tej (Ludacris), and Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel) come calling with a dangerous mission.
Mr. Nobody (Kurt Russell) needs help after his cargo plane transporting the captured cyberterrorist Cipher (Charlize Theron), is attacked by an unknown assailant. When the team investigates the crash site, they discover Cipher and Nobody are gone and a strange technological device hidden in the wreckage. Before they can determine what it is, they’re attacked by the military and the identity of the plane’s attacker is revealed to be Dom’s long estranged brother, Jakob Toretto. (John Cena) Now the team must ban together and trek around the world to find out what Jakob’s big nefarious plan is for the mysterious device and stop him before it’s too late. Also Mia (Jordana Brewster) shows up to join the group and even the long-thought dead Han (Sung Kang) returns from the grave! The gangs all back together. Mostly.
Longtime franchise director Justin Lin also returns for another go-around in the saga, once again crafting a myriad of overblown action set pieces that work to continuously top themselves. We get cars swinging on ropes like Tarzan, tons of vehicular devastation, bombardments, and even MAGNETS bitch! There’s so much happening that the craziness literally comes back around full circle to something rather sensible in retrospect. Even with the thrilling insanity on display, the story never completely loses its roots of furious cars and faster family connections. Because of that, if you’re a fan, your investment in these characters and their bravery or follies stays intact, even when they’re doing the impossible. You can even sense the Late-great Paul Walker amongst everyone in spirit.
Speaking of which, let’s talk performances, as the entire cast drifts through their roles pretty well. They were either adequate or good, with the standouts being Rodriguez, Cena, Theron, Russell, and even Gibson, whose character has been modified from comedic straight man who mimics the audience’s reactions to a comedic philosopher who questions everyone’s limitless luck and plot armor through all their adventures. There’s even a bunch of fun appearances from past characters that fans will get a kick out of. (Cardi B shows up too, so take that how you will) And as far as Han’s revival goes, can we just change his moniker from fan favorite to franchise/genre favorite instead? Because you know you’re beloved when creators not only mess up the timeline AFTER your death so you can appear in more films, but then bring you back anyway after the timeline is fixed. This was a resurrection brought to you by Professor Hulk, Doctor Who, Tony Stark, AND Oliver Queen. And I loved it!
Make no mistake, boys and girls, this is an incredibly preposterous film. That goes without saying. But like the past, more modest installments, the charm and bravado makes it a relatively harmless and engaging watch. It’s not meant to be taken seriously. At all. The creators know it, the stars know it, even the characters within the story semi-break the fourth wall by knowing it. It’s just about the magnificent ride…and as I stated before, that’s one of the many reasons the franchise is accepted for what it is than other properties. Not to mention, like its progressive evolution from street racing gem to maniacal epic, we’ve changed as well over the years as its audience. From being its biggest critic to shifting it towards guilty pleasure to now being unapologetic fans. Been quite a journey, and once the end finally comes, we’ll be right there cheering this saga across the proverbial finish line. And we’ll know we’ve unquestionably had the drive of our very lives….a quarter of a mile at a time.
Review written by Marcus Wilturner