F9: THE FAST SAGA movie poster | ©2021 Universal Pictures |

F9: THE FAST SAGA movie poster | ©2021 Universal Pictures |

Rating: PG-13
Stars: Vin Diesel, Michelle Rodriguez, Jordana Brewster, Tyrese Gibson, Chris “Ludacris” Bridges, Nathalie Emmanuel, Charlize Theron, John Cena
Writers: Daniel Casey & Justin Lin, story by Justin Lin & Alfredo Botello and Daniel Casey, based on characters created by Gary Scott Thompson
Director: Justin Lin
Distributor: Universal Pictures
Release Date: June 25, 2021

 F9: THE FAST SAGA is, as its title suggests, the ninth film (okay, the tenth if you count 2019’s spinoff FAST & FURIOUS PRESENTS: HOBBS & SHAW) in the FAST & FURIOUS franchise.

This all began with 2001’s THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS, a relatively modest action flick that starred Vin Diesel as car thief/street racer Dominic Toretto and Paul Walker as Brian O’Conner, the LAPD cop charged with catching Dom who winds up aligning himself with the renegade. It was the sort of thing Roger Corman used to make, with a bigger budget and a slicker look.

Since then, THE FAST SAGA (as it’s billed here) has not only gotten faster and more furious, but progressively more bonkers, with spy and science-fiction elements adding to the heft.

F9 is the most gonzo of the bunch so far. It’s got something for everyone, except fans of logic. There are aspects of James Bond, a wide variety of scenic locations, amazing stunts, vehicles that do everything, familial love, fraternal clashes, meta philosophy (just how do these people continually survive all of this mayhem?), old friends, old enemies, and absolute flouting of the laws of physics (to say nothing of traffic).

The plot involves Dom and Company, including his wife Letty (Michelle Rodriguez), his sister Mia (Jordana Brewster), and pals Roman (Tyrese Gibson), Tej (Chris “Ludacris” Bridges) and Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel), being tasked with going after a device that can give ultimate control of weapons satellites to a single person (hence the Bond aspect).

Walker died in an accident unrelated to filming in 2013. F9 deals with his absence sweetly and respectfully. For once, the filmmakers seem to understand that perhaps fans of the franchise don’t want to be told to abruptly get over the loss of a beloved character (losing Walker is quite tragic enough), so Brian is alive and in good standing with his loved ones, but kept offscreen for a reason that actually makes sense (one of F9’s few concessions in this area).

Director Justin Lin, who co-wrote F9 with Daniel Casey (from a story they crafted with Alfredo Botello), and who also helmed four other films in the franchise, stages most of the action excitingly (the exception being some moments edited so frantically that we can’t tell what’s going on) and has a good handle on the emotional tone. Lin has likewise reined some of the supporting characters in so that they fit more comfortably into the mix. They’re still larger than life, but they’re not to big for the context.

There are moments where it’s completely impossible to figure out how one character got from Point A to Point B, other moments when we’re told that there’s only so much time for X to happen, only to see that Y transpires over what has to be a much longer period, and so on. If this kind of thing is going to seriously bother you in what is clearly an absurd fantasy context at this point, F9 will not be your jam.

However, F9 does offer a complete big-screen escape, with soundtrack bass that tries to rearrange your heartbeat. It’s not a great film by any stretch, but it makes you remember what movie theaters can do that watching at home can’t, and at this point in our shared history, that will be good enough for a lot of people.

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