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Film Review: 'F9' shines with action, falls short everywhere else

Fast and Furious 9 picks up a few years after The Fate of the Furious with Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) and Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) in a state of semi-retirement with their son. They’re quickly pulled back into the world of action and espionage following a visit from Roman (Tyrese Gibson), Tej (Ludacris) and Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel). In their first mission back, Dom and his family discover his long lost brother, Jakob (John Cena), is working for their enemy. After that, everything quickly devolves into a global, explosive cat and mouse chase chock full of new and returning faces.

Justin Lin returns to direct for the first time since the franchise’s sixth entry. Having directed four previous entries in the series, Lin is right at home here. There’s great and ridiculous action on display, all thanks to Lin’s direction. If the action didn’t deliver, there’d be no reason for this movie to exist; thankfully, that isn't the case. All that being said, everything outside of the action scenes is completely awful in every possible way, especially the acting. Vin Diesel’s blind confidence in his acting ability and range is often hilarious, even if it’s unintentional. The rest of the cast is serviceable at best; John Cena is also pretty underwhelming in his role as well. There’s also a handful of flashback scenes that eat up quite a bit of runtime, often feeling completely out of place and slowing the pacing down to a crawl every time they rear their head.

It’s obvious to anyone watching that all the effort went to the action scenes as everything else has the minimum level of effort put into it. Nothing about it is meant to be taken seriously in the slightest. All of the action is just so excessive, in both the best and worst ways. At a certain point, all the car crashes, explosions, punches and engine roars just become noise. All those things are what longtime fans are there to see though. Still, the majority of the action scenes are endlessly entertaining, regardless of how dumb they are. 

The big set pieces involving cars or the other gimmicks later on are all extremely fun to watch, absurd, everything you’d ever want from a Fast and Furious movie. On the other hand, the hand-to-hand fight scenes not involving cars are very poorly shot and very underwhelming. Maybe I’m just spoiled by the marvelous fight scenes in the John Wick franchise, but F9’s fight scenes just aren’t up to snuff with other action franchises.

This franchise is almost impenetrable at this point, now comprising nine main entries and a spin-off, for any new viewers. F9 will make almost zero sense for people who haven’t seen or don’t remember all of the previous films, especially The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift. This is strange considering the rest of the entries in the series are easily understandable and watchable on their own. 

If you like the other movies in this series, you’ll probably enjoy watching this one. If you don’t like the others, F9 will do absolutely nothing to change your mind. By all metrics, this is not a good movie. That being said, I still recommend seeing it if you’re a fan of the franchise or just want something to sit back, watch and laugh at for two and a half hours. F9 is the definition of a popcorn movie: big, dumb, loud and required to see on the biggest screen with the best sound system possible. 


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