F9: The Fast Saga (2021): Go F9 Yourself

“F9: The Fast Saga,” otherwise known as the egotistical title of the ninth installment of the “Fast & Furious” franchise, is directed by Justin Lin, a veteran director of this ongoing franchise, and stars Vin Diesel (xXx, The Last Witch Hunter), Michelle Rodriguez (Smurfs: The Lost Village, Widows), Jordana Brewster (Dallas, Lethal Weapon), Tyrese Gibson (Transformers, Ride Along 2), Ludacris (Show Dogs, Crash), John Cena (Wipeout, Bumblebee), Nathalie Emmanuel (Game of Thrones, Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials), Sung Kang (Better Luck Tomorrow, Motel), Michael Rooker (Guardians of the Galaxy, Slither), Helen Mirren (RED, Hitchcock), Kurt Russell (Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, The Thing), and Charlize Theron (Bombshell, Atomic Blonde). This film, as recently suggested, is the latest installment to the “Fast & Furious” franchise. The film follows Dom Toretto and his car-obsessed “family” as they take on their latest mission of high-speed hijinks. This time, Dominic must face off against his younger brother Jakob (John Cena) as they reunite after years of separation.

Wow. We’re actually here. The Hollywood machine continues. It is time I update you with my status regarding the “Fast & Furious” franchise. I like all these movies except for maybe 2 and especially not “Tokyo Drift.” The first film is kind of like “Point Break” with cars, but I like it because I enjoy media where we see a ton of customized vehicles and people gathering to street race every now and then. I spent much of my childhood playing racing games so to see a movie like “The Fast and the Furious” out for public viewing is quite fascinating. I will also say, having seen every “Fast & Furious” installment, including “Hobbs & Shaw,” I’ve noticed every movie since the fourth one seems to obviously embrace shark-jumping to some degree. And usually it works. “Fast Five” and “Furious 7” are neck and neck to be my favorite films in this franchise. “The Fate of the Furious,” the eighth movie, was kind of on the brim of top tier crazy where the main characters have to outrun a submarine in ice, but it was still enjoyable, and I was nevertheless attached to the characters. I liked the story where Dom turned his back on his family and the consequences he had to face along the way. I also liked the end of the movie where they paid homage to Paul Walker’s character because the actor passed away before “Furious 7” came out and Dom decided to name his kid Brian. “Hobbs & Shaw” also had some absurd stuff going between Idris Elba being “black Superman” and the skyscraper freefall. But that movie showed great chemistry between the two leads and had some hilarious writing.

Now let’s move onto “F9.” If you know me, you’d know that I have been anxious to see this movie. I’m not saying it was my most anticipated of the year or anything. But when ticket sales were announced, I jumped the gun. I bought my tickets three months in advance to secure my seats (and possibly win a chance to go to the world premiere of the film in Los Angeles).

That was in 2020. But of course, the inevitable happened. The film was delayed, movie theaters shut down, and most big movies had to be put on hold. So even though I did not have “F9” as my top movie to see this year, I did recognize my pent-up desire to see it as the release date got closer. If “Godzilla vs. Kong,” a film with mostly action and little story, taught me anything, I could definitely use a big dumb movie every now and then.

But instead of a big dumb movie, I think I got a braindead one. There are things to like about “F9.” There are some occasional funny lines, although not as many as some previous films, the chemistry between Tyrese Gibson and Ludacris is not bad, and the same can be said for the chemistry between Dom and Letty. These characters have been with us for so many years that returning to a world like this can feel occasionally palatable. But this franchise has become so massively associated with absurdity that I left this movie talking with my dad and I told him, “This movie gave Sharknado ideas.”

There are no stakes in “F9,” at least none that stand out. Yes, there are things that go on in “F9” that could potentially mean life or death. The fast family is on a mission in Central America where they have to investigate a plane and avoid a ton of land mines. Dom reunites with his younger brother, and the two are now rivals. There are some occasional spur of the moment things that come up, but overall, I had no reason to think that any of these characters would not get out of any situation alive. I can think of particular situations where the movie tries to convince me otherwise, but I am watching the movie realizing, these characters are basically superheroes without costumes or actual powers. Are they lucky? Are they aided by gods? I don’t even know! These movies are becoming so ridiculous that they are boggling my mind!

I like Vin Diesel as much the next guy, but I am concerned that this franchise is really going from “Fast & Furious” to “Watch Vin Diesel Grow His Ego.” Dom Toretto is insanely overpowered in this film. There is a scene where he’s fighting at least twenty dudes at once and he beats them all without assistance from another human being. Why? Because he’s Dom Toretto. No other reason. If Vin Diesel has a production credit, you gotta let him have all the spotlight! That’s how things work, right?!

I also find it hilarious that “Fast & Furious” has always been, perhaps beyond a memeable degree, about family, and now apparently we find out Dom has a brother named Jakob. By the way, Jakob is played by John Cena, who quite frankly served his purpose within his role. John Cena has played a number of roles over the years. He is improving his craft, but I still think he’s got a ways to go before he is pristine. Although I do think he’s an okay comedy actor, so if you want my recommendation, dump “F9” in a fire and go watch “Blockers” starring John Cena! Please, it’s a much better movie.

Harkening back to why I found this movie so unwatchably absurd, I was watching a particular moment from the first twenty minutes of the film, where Dom needs to get from one piece of land to another, but he does so in a way that reeks of convenience. Watching certain portions of this movie reminds me of why I make fun of certain commercials. You ever see a car commercial for something like a Nissan and the driver is trying to escape an impending doom where debris is continuously falling behind them? They’re not screaming, they’re not happy, they literally have no emotion whatsoever. While there is definitely more on-screen emotion displayed in “F9,” I feel like I can read the inside of Dom’s mind, and as Dom drives in danger, his mind is almost likely stoic.

I’m not gonna spill every detail about this movie, but if you watched the trailers, you’d notice that “F9” takes some leaps that the franchise almost to my surprise has not taken before. Han, a fan favorite character, is back. The way they address it is like the rest of the movie, it left me confused. I know the “Fast & Furious” franchise is not always meant to be taken seriously, but at least in the past number of movies, they’ve left in some semblance of reality. Remember that scene in “Furious 7” where Dom and Brian are in a car near the top of a skyscraper in Abu Dhabi? They drive that car out of one tall building to another without getting anywhere towards the ground? And because there is apparently no better solution, the duo has to stay in the car driving out of that building and landing into another one? Then they escape the car, letting it fall out of that building to its inevitable crash? Remember that scene? That was the perfect mix of escapism, humor, absurdity, and stakes! Those last two things are important. Because the characters in “F9” have become so invincible that I can no longer take them seriously or root for them to get out of a sticky situation because I already have a preconceived thought that they will make it out even if it means breaking every law of physics in existence ten times in a minute! These movies are beyond reality at this point. They feel like they come from another planet! I don’t mean that in a good way!

Heck, there’s even a scene where we see Ludacris and Tyrese Gibson together and they’re even making fun of how in the past, they’ve been on all these crazy missions and they wondered how they are still alive today. They’ve brought up the same ideas I’ve been talking about. Are they just lucky or invincible? Who knows? Having seen their main sequences in the movie, part of me wants to go with the latter!

I will admit, one thing I kind of sort of liked was seeing the magnet scenes play down. That was one cool idea they had for this movie, where everything in sight just flies around on the street, including cars, onto a moving vehicle. I kind of like the concept and it made for some okay action. I want to say, I have seen other movies where maybe I would throw out the critique, “this movie sounds like it was written by a nine-year old!” That phrase is often used as a negative because I think we as audiences can mostly agree that we want most of our movies to have a semblance of maturity and logic. Turns out, this idea of the film came from the Justin Lin’s son, Oqwe, who happened to be nine-years old. See? Some nine-year olds do have okay ideas! With that being said, I don’t think there’s a better opportunity to say this, “F9” literally sounds like it was written by a nine-year old!

“F9” in a way kind of reminds me of “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” because if I have to address a single observation from that movie, it feels like that movie tries extra hard to cater to the fans based on things they address through the Internet. In that movie, we see Luke diss his past self for “disgracing” his own lightsaber, and at the end, we see Rey and Kylo kiss… for… what reason exactly? Here in “F9,” Han is back, and the whole meme about “Fast & Furious” going to space becomes a reality here. The two big wishes I have seen on the Internet regarding “Fast & Furious” have been brought to life in “F9” and it makes me ask, where do they go from here? This movie really put the “Fast” in “Fast & Furious” and ended up blowing its load way too quickly. The only way I can imagine this franchise becoming any dumber is if it crossed over with “Jurassic Park” or “Sharknado.” That’s about it. I do not know at this point if I will be excited for the inevitable “Fast & Furious 10.” This movie has a mid-credits scene that seems to promise something interesting, but until I actually see some material, I am just going to assume at this point that the next movie will be unwatchable. Who knows? Maybe it’ll be more grounded. Maybe the characters will get into some serious trouble. Maybe there will actually be stakes. But until I get a greater glimpse, I cannot do anything at this point but assume that the worst has yet to come.

In the end, unlike the characters who have shown themselves off on screens for years, “F9: The Fast Saga” is nowhere near invincible. “F9: The Fast Saga” is honestly the worst “Fast & Furious” movie since “The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift.” That film bored me, felt somewhat out of place in the franchise, and I have not watched it since my first viewing. Much like “Tokyo Drift,” I cannot see myself watching “F9” again anytime soon. Just a reminder, this franchise started out as a “Point Break” wannabe with street racing and people stealing electronics. Now apparently Dominic Toretto is the world’s most badass spy. Just… Because. No other reason. I absolutely hated this movie. I think it is a massive disappointment and it goes way too far in terms of how campy and unrealistic it wants to be. As Hogarth says in “The Iron Giant,” “You are who you choose to be.” Looks like this entire cast chose “Superman.” And frankly, I’m furious. I’m going to give “F9: The Fast Saga” a 3/10.

“F9: The Fast Saga” is now playing in theaters everywhere. It is also available in large formats including Dolby Cinema and IMAX.

Thanks for reading this review! I just want to remind everyone that this week I will be beginning my brand new review series in honor of “Jungle Cruise,” the upcoming film based on the Disney theme park ride, “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Chest of Reviews.” In this series, I will be talking about all five “Pirates of the Caribbean” movies, beginning in chronological order with “The Curse of the Black Pearl” on July 1st and ending with “Dead Men Tell No Tales” on July 29th. Stay tuned, mateys! If you want to see this and more, follow Scene Before either with an email or a WordPress account! Also, check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “F9: The Fast Saga?” What did you think about it? Or, what are some movies you personally enjoy despite acknowledging their stupidity? For me, I’d say “The Meg” and the “Bill & Ted” films come to mind. Let me know your dumb picks down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

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