‘F9’ Review: Time to Stick a Fork in the Franchise

F9 Fast and Furious 9

A plane uses a gigantic magnet to snatch a car midair and a Pontiac Fiero orbits Earth in search of a satellite. The only action scene missing from F9 is the “family” literally jumping sharks at some point during the ridiculously lengthy and unnecessary 145-minute running time.

The wacky plot revolves around the hunt for a high-tech device that will allow a spoiled dictator’s son named Otto (Thue Ersted Rasmussen) to take control of nuclear missiles. His goal: world domination. And, of course, it’s not the CIA, the FBI, Interpol, or even trained ninjas who are called upon to stop him.

Mr. Nobody (Kurt Russell) sends out a secret message to the gang informing them they need to find his crashed plane and retrieve its cargo. Roman (Tyrese Gibson), Tej (Chris “Ludacris” Bridges), and Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel) are tasked with delivering Mr. Nobody’s message to Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) and Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) who are holed up on a farm living a simple life and taking care of Dom’s son.

Letty’s immediately all in but Dom declines the invitation, insisting he needs to stay home and take care of his son. His desire to be a good dad who’s present in his son’s life sparks a series of flashbacks that intrude on current events at random moments throughout the film. We are finally privy to the Toretto family’s secrets, not that anyone was begging to be let in on what went down during Dom’s formative years.

Once Dom comes on board, more’s disclosed regarding Otto and his quest to take over the world. Part of his plan includes holding Cipher (Charlize Theron) in a glass cell à la Hannibal Lecter minus the mask.

It turns out Otto’s partner in crime just happens to be Dom’s estranged younger brother, Jakob, played by John Cena who bears no resemblance to Vin Diesel. Nine films in and we’re just now finding out about this mysterious younger sibling? And exactly how did the estranged Toretto brothers – along with sister Mia (Jordana Brewster) – wind up involved in the hunt for a high-tech device? Sheer coincidence, I suppose. Save your brain cells and don’t even try and figure out the odds.

The high-tech device consists of three separate elements – two halves and a key – that must be put together to activate the thing. The hunt for clues to the actual physical locations of the three parts sends the gang off on a globe-trotting adventure in which they encounter old friends/acquaintances including Sean (Lucas Black), Twinkie (Shad Moss), and Earl (Jason Tobin). Queenie (Helen Mirren) puts in a brief appearance to take Dom on a wild car ride and government agent Stasiak (Shea Whigham) returns for an even briefer, blink-and-you’ll-miss-it, scene involving the use of a plane.

The hunt leads to the discovery fan-favorite Han (Sung Kang) isn’t dead and instead has been in hiding just so that he can spring into action when his presence is most desperately needed. (And that would definitely qualify F9 as the right film for Han’s resurrection.)

No one watches a F&F film for its plot. Fans also don’t seem to care if the lead actors emerge victorious from brutal fistfights with muscular brutes who should be able to take them down in seconds. Who cares? No one. It’s all about the action and F9 does deliver some stunning sequences, including one gravity-defying scene involving a suspension bridge’s cable acting as a slingshot to deliver Dom safely to terra firma.

I love big, goofy action films as much as the next person. I’m also a fan of the first four Fast and Furious films. They didn’t need to make a lot of sense; they just needed to entertain. The franchise began by telling stories that were wild but not completely improbable. As the F&F franchise continues, each new entry further distances itself from the series’ humble beginnings.

The F&F saga has now reached the point where gigantic, powerful magnets that magically target only specific items the gang needs to move are not only incorporated into the story but are integral to much of the plot. Granted, the logic (and physics) defying magnets allow for cool action sequences. But, there’s a point where the fun factor vanishes and the ludicrousness of it all takes over.

F9 has it all…explosions, cool car chases, hand-to-hand fights, and all manner of insane stunts including rockets attached to a Fiero in orbit…so what’s left to conquer? There will be at least two more installments in the F&F saga but just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should go through with it.

Director Justin Lin returns to the franchise after helming The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift, Fast & Furious, Fast Five, and Furious 6. Lin understands the “family” and the F&F audience. That said, other than when Tej and Roman provide some comic relief F9 seems to take itself far too seriously. Less Toretto backstory and fewer deep thought moments involving Vin Diesel would have gone a long way toward lightening the tone. The laughs should be intentional and given the audience’s reaction at the screening I attended, those more dramatic moments missed their marks.

F9’s not a disaster. However, it is proof that even action franchises have an expiration date.


MPAA Rating: PG-13 for language, action, sequences of violence
Release Date: June 25, 2021
Running Time: 2 hours 25 minutes