F9: The Fast Saga movie poster
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F9: The Fast Saga
F9: The Fast Saga movie poster

F9: The Fast Saga Movie Review

Now available on Blu-ray and DVD (Buy on Amazon)

About 20 minutes into F9: The Fast Saga (huh?), it donned on me what the franchise’s trick is: after writing each scene in the movie, they bring in a consultant who specializes in making moderately dumb scenes even dumber, and they make each moderately dumb scene in the movie even dumber.

It’s the only possible explanation, and it’s also an insulting and lazy approach to making movies, even check-your-brain-at-the-door movies.

Some people have relished, and continue to relish, in the franchise’s steady descent into inanity, and kudos to them (you?). To enjoy something that attempts to own its stupidity and yet so obviously fails to do so must be a special gift. I don’t mean to be insulting, but why care about a movie that clearly doesn’t care about you?

F9 continues the Fast and Furious franchise’s efforts to wrangle with explosive spectacle, smarmy humor, and Vin Diesel’s squinty-eyed acting ability. Oh, and its painful attempts to continue its emphasis on “family,” which got tired about 17 sequels ago. 

The family bit, which at this stage in the franchise’s life evoked mocking laughter from the cynical audience I saw the movie with (there was lots of laughter throughout, approximately 20% of which the filmmakers likely expected), is evidence that F9 isn’t as intentionally funny as some claim it is. Director and co-writer Justin Lin, who made the franchise’s best film, Fast Five, plays every “family” scene and line of dialogue incredibly seriously, but any attempts at seriousness are hamfisted and almost nauseating to watch.

It of course doesn’t help that the writing is atrocious. The characters go out of their way to explain details through dialogue (though slightly helpful, as the movie reintroduces characters I don’t really remember), the movie relies heavily on cringe-inducing flashbacks, and even when it’s more obviously poking fun at itself, it’s so over-the-top it’s not even funny. The plot, too, is tired, introducing a previously unknown brother (John Cena) who can do all the same things Vin Diesel can do, but who’s evil. Or angry. Or jealous. Or a spy. Hard to say.

Oh, and Charlize Theron is back to mail in her performance, perhaps in retribution for her awful haircut (luckily, even in prison, she is allowed to keep her fancy earrings). 

Everything about F9 is over the top and larger than life, which is fine, but the franchise’s best moments are found several films ago. Still, Lin manages to scrape together some decent action sequences, most notably a reasonably creative climax involving industrial magnets that send cars, trucks, and everything else literally flying through the air. Less impressive are the action scenes where the filmmakers practically declare “we don’t give a damn, and neither will our audience.” A scene where John Cena drives his car off a cliff, only to be snatched middair by an airplane that swoops out of nowhere, is ridiculously dumb, and that isn’t even the most obnoxious moment in the scene.

Oddly, the stuff set in space didn’t bother me.

As over the top as it all is, F9 also feels tired; the plot, the villains, the macguffin have all been done before. The main cast, led by Diesel, Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese Gibson, Ludacris, and Jordana Brewster, appear to be going through the motions. And Lin wastes John Cena, whose best talent is comedy, by turning him into a bland and overly serious villain with unclear intentions. 

F9 is a movie for fans of the last few entries--this review surely isn’t going to sway them (you)--but there is such things as dumb and fun, but F9 is just dumb. And the dumber it gets, the harder it is to care about these characters we’re supposed to care for, or feel any sense of real stakes when everything has become so cartoonish. Let’s blame the consultants, shall we?

Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.

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