This is a spoiler-free review of F9: The Fast Saga.

Normally a film franchise nearing it’s tenth entry either has a brand new cast of characters or is telling a story that’s focused over many years. In the case of F9: The Fast Saga, you have the same characters, around the same time period (minus stealing DVD players), and the action is turned so far past the point of no return, there’s nowhere else to go. The one conclusion that I can draw from F9, is that family matters, and action matters even more. Through the course of events in the series, they’ve had to ratchet up the ridiculousness of the whole series to keep up with itself. We’re not really in an action movie arms race these days, but it’s normal for a series to get more ridiculous as it goes on.

You have to find a way to keep people invested. and in the Fast and the Furious’s case, it’s by going balls to the wall. And adding Dwayne Johnson. This series was dead as dinner after the fourth entry. How many times could they race cars and foil some smaller bit criminal plot. It needed a shot in the arm. After this movie, it feels very much the same. The series has cannibalized itself into going bigger and badder and it can’t go anywhere else from here.

Unless you’re going to add dinosaurs, which Universal will inevitably do. F9 was a disappointment, if you’re looking for a movie with a plot and functional dialogue, this ain’t it.

An Unbelievable Moment Every 15 Minutes

Courtesy of: Universal

The Fast and the Furious series usually has like 1-3 moments where it goes beyond the suspension of disbelief that you have to tap into to watch a movie. Bullets not hitting their target, cars magically not getting wrecked, the antagonist not doing their due diligence, it’s all classic movie stuff that we look past as an audience. However, in F9: The Fast Saga, one of these mythical moments happens every 15 minutes. The stuff in the trailers that they show you? That’s really nothing compared to the meat of this movie.

It’s not normal. It’s like watching the Roman Empire crumble. When you go so far over-the-top, you reach a tipping point. The Fast and the Furious franchise might be reaching that point. I don’t have enough fingers to count the moments in this movie that took me out of the experience because they were so outlandish.

If you can get past that, the film is entertaining. It’s funny in spots, because you do need to lighten up the mood. But when the explanation of why Han is back and not dead, is probably the 25th least probable thing in the movie, there’s a big, big issue with your franchise.

Not to sound like a grump, action movies are great, they’re designed to act like a roller coaster, but the best roller coasters only have a couple drops to scare you. When everything is improbable and in your face, it cheapens the entire experience.

Family, Family, Family, Family, Family. Did We Mention Family?

Dom (Vin Diesel) and Jakob (John Cena)
Courtesy of: Universal

We get it, the Fast and the Furious franchise is about family. Especially after the untimely death of Paul Walker, the whole franchise circled up and became about the family that Dom Toretto had built. It made sense after Walker’s death, but when you have the audience laughing during a serious scene because they put a hard emphasis on the word “family” twice in a scene, there’s another big issue with your movie. Vin Diesel doesn’t need to record any dialogue of him saying family ever again, because you have 500 instances of it in this series.

The whole crux of the story is built around Dom and his estranged brother Jakob. It’s framed around the death of their father and how it affects them and the people around them. You have younger counterparts for the two of them, and the flashback scenes are actually done pretty well. The actor they got to play young Jakob (Finn Cole), looks pretty well like John Cena, but the actor that plays young Dom (Vinnie Bennett) is not a perfect analog for Vin Diesel. It’s small, but it does take you out of the drama a bit. Speaking of that…

Melodrama In Droves

This is a dramatic movie in between the action set pieces. You have very dramatic and emotional scenes involving Dom and Jakob alongside cars crashing and things blowing up. The overly dramatic pieces of the movie are where the script really does not shine. Cypher (Charlize Theron) has a particularly well delivered but incredibly hammy section where she is describing our “B” villain, Otto (Thue Ersted Rasmussen) through Star Wars characters.

You go to action movies to have fun, and yes, they need plot and drama. This movie took that fun out and tried to replace it with more jokes.

What’s Good About It? There Has To Be Something Good In F9

Elle (Anna Sawai), Letty (Michelle Rodriguez), and Mia (Jordana Brewster) in F9
Courtesy of: Universal

While completely unbelievable and distractingly improbable, the action scenes are great. They’re the type that make you pump your fist in a crowded movie theater and cheer out. So they did the job in that department. The fight scenes between Jakob and Dom are fantastic and well choreographed. John Cena wasn’t the shot in the arm like Dwayne Johnson was, but his presence is felt in the movie. He’s a huge hulking figure that rivals Dom in the same way that Hobbs did.

Seeing past characters that we haven’t before is also nice. Having a fan-favorite character like Han back is one of the highlights of the movie. The fight scenes involving his friend Elle (Anna Sawai) are some of the best in the film. She gets a couple great badass moments that you wouldn’t expect for a newer character.

There’s one moment near the end of the film with Jakob that is pretty awesome, and overall, John Cena is really a saving grace for the film. His scenes are the best of the movie.

The performances, desipite the sometimes horrific dialogue that they’re given, also work well. Tej (Ludacris), Roman (Tyrese Gibson), Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel), Mia (Jordana Brewster), and Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) all get their moments to shine throughout the film. The only character that is pretty wasted is Buddy (Michael Rooker), he is just here to give you plot exposition, and he doesn’t do anything. For an actor like Michael Rooker, it’s disappointing that they couldn’t get him in on something else here. This film made him feel unimportant.

No Heart, No Soul In F9

Through it all, F9: The Fast Saga is overblown, bloated, and like a star collapsing in on itself. Unlike a supernova, this wasn’t a dazzling light show, it’s turning into a black hole. This series needs something to keep it going for one film, because they can’t go bigger and better than this one. Unless the next film is just The Expendables of Fast and Furious and they bring everyone back that they can; it’s hard to see where it goes. The ending of this film didn’t feel definitive, it just felt a whole lot like the other films in the series, with less soul.

Bring back Hobbs and Shaw, add in more action stars, do something Universal. Your biggest tentpole franchise that’s been going for nine (now ten) entries, is losing steam. This film was entertaining, but had too many moments where you lost interest, or were taken out of the experience through subpar writing, and far too overzealous action. Somehow they figured a bunch of actions scenes involving magnets would be able to drive the movie along. Impressive at first, sure. After five uses, the magnets became a crutch.

The Avengers Is More Believable At This Point

Tej (Chris “Ludacris” Bridges) and Roman (Tyrese Gibson)
Courtesy of: Universal

F9: The Fast Saga had a point where it seemed like maybe the characters were becoming self-aware of their exploits. It’s quickly dropped and used for a joke, but that might be something to roll with as this series goes along. Through the whole thing, you’re reminded that these are basically superheroes without the capes. Marvel and Co. can be unbelievable, because that’s in a superheroes nature. However, here, it isn’t. We started the first movie by stealing DVD players. Now we’re performing acts of physics and calculating landing spots for people in math problems like it’s high school again.

You can check out F9 in theaters June 25th, 2021.

F9 is worth the watch for fans of the series, but this is not a good entry in the series.

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