In the 20 years since the first Fast and Furious movie hit theaters, the series has relied less and less on reality to tell its story. What started as a smaller-budget action movie about street racing in Los Angeles evolved to people in cars fighting nuclear submarines, with the heroes all somehow surviving. In the latest installment, Fast 9, the franchise takes the final step in accepting how ridiculous the premise has become. And, thankfully, it works like a charm.
Whether it's Dominic Toretto's (Vin Diesel) family of misfits going to space or the shocking surprise of Han (Sung Kang) being alive the whole time--even after he supposedly died several movies ago--F9 has all the answers you're looking for. What's more, it's doling them out with some of the most ridiculous twists and turns the franchise has offered yet. What's different with this film, though, is that the creative team behind the series seems to be leaning into the ridiculousness harder than ever.
Yes, the fate of the world is still on the line, but even with stakes that high, the movie doesn't take itself very seriously. That's why, when it's suggested with a straight face that the two silliest characters in the franchise--Tej (Chris "Ludacris" Bridges) and Roman (Tyrese Gibson)--go to space as part of a plan, you don't question it. It doesn't make sense, but also it doesn't have to. Fans aren't lining up to see a rooted, realistic movie with actual stakes. They're here to see their favorite superheroes--which the Fast family absolutely is at this point--concoct ridiculous plans to save the day in the most explosive manner possible. And F9 is ready to fulfill their wishes.
That makes this, more than anything else, the perfect movie to welcome moviegoers back to the theaters. After a year of staying home, this is worth the trip to your local cineplex. It's loud, explosive, and filled with the type of action dying to be seen on the big screen in a room with other fans to go along with you on the ride.
F9 picks up some time after The Fate of the Furious, with Dom and Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) settling into a quiet life on a farm somewhere with Dom's young son. It's a peaceful life until Dom's long lost brother Jakob Toretto (John Cena) enters the picture. He's a deadly assassin that's somehow tied to Cipher (Charlize Theron) and bent on taking over the world--much like practically every other villain in the franchise at this point.
Naturally, the only ones who can stop Jakob are Dom and his chosen family and they set out to do so around the world. In the process, viewers see a bunch of familiar faces--including the resurrected Han--and get an idea of what childhood was like for Dom and Jakob in a series of flashbacks.
That's where one of the few nitpicks about the movie comes into play. With extensive looks back at Dom and Jakob's childhood and teenage years, it's surprising that the other Toretto child is largely absent. While Jordanna Brewster returns to the franchise in F9 as Mia Toretto, and makes it clear how much she loves her absentee brother, the flashbacks are so focused on Dom and Jakob that she feels like an afterthought. That's an odd slight, given how centered on family the franchise is.
Then, of course, there's Jakob as an adult. While Cena eventually warms to the role, early on it feels like he's trying to out-Vin Vin Diesel in terms of holding any charisma he has at bay, and it's a little awkward--especially if you know anything about John Cena's other major role as a WWE superstar who battle raps his opponents before throwing them around the ring in jorts. It can feel weird to watch him stand around in the shadows and stare menacingly at people. Thankfully, once he gets in on the action, it's full-steam ahead.
What's there to say about the rest of the cast, though? You've been watching them in these movies for two decades now. And after all this time, they've honed their characters pretty perfectly and the chemistry between them all is evident. They are a family off-camera, and it makes for an excellent dynamic on-camera.
In this particular film, Gibson's Roman stands out more than ever before. Normally the butt of the joke in these movies, Roman seems, at times, like the smartest person in the room in F9. While everyone around him just goes along with these ridiculous plans, he seemingly becomes self-aware and repeatedly wonders why they aren't all dead ten times over. It's a good question that only he seems to have, but for the first time in practically the entire franchise, he comes across as intelligent and a more-than-capable warrior. And he does it all while still remaining a total goofball who never stops bickering with Tej.
And while Mia may have gotten the short end of the stick in the flashbacks, she and Letty have more of the spotlight in F9, with their own mission that sends them around the world together. It's nice to see the two get time to shine, rather than mostly standing near Dom and reacting to him. It's refreshing seeing them given the time to work together outside of the rest of the family--and get one of the movie's best fight scenes.
Of course, it's hard to say anything about the cast without touching on the return of Kang as Han. His return fills in a lot of gaps left by the previous movies, while also providing some of the movie's most heartfelt moments as fans get to watch him reunite with the gang. Han is a member of the family that was hard to lose. Hopefully, this means he's back full-time for the next films.
Kang and Brewster aren't the only notable returns of the film, though. Director Justin Lin (Tokyo Drift, Fast 4, Fast 5, and Fast 6) is back behind the cameras for F9. He's responsible for what are arguably the most fun installments of the franchise and F9 is no exception. This movie is everything you want it to be and includes some of the wildest stunts yet--including the aforementioned trip to space and some truly incredible moments with powerful magnets.
The plot is important, but it's never going to be foolproof. After the credits have rolled you may sit around with your friends and pick out a few plot holes. Within seconds, though, you'll be back to discussing how, exactly, taking a car to space works or comparing the stunt set pieces in this movie to the other films in the series. While that might not be the kind of film all moviegoers are interested in, there is an audience for it and now, more than ever, it feels like the Fast and Furious franchise is playing directly to those fans and having an incredible amount of fun while doing it.
F9 is in theaters on June 25.