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F9: The Fast Saga (A PopEntertainment.com Movie Review)

F9: THE FAST SAGA (2021)

F9: The Fast Saga

Starring Vin Diesel, Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese Gibson, Chris “Ludacris” Bridges, John Cena, Jordana Brewster, Nathalie Emmanuel, Sung Kang, Michael Rooker, Helen Mirren, Kurt Russell, Charlize Theron, Finn Cole, Sung Kang, Anna Sawai, Jim Parrack, Lucas Black, Bow Wow, Jason Tobin, Cardi B, Gal Gadot and Jason Statham.

Screenplay by Daniel Casey and Justin Lin.

Directed by Justin Lin.

Distributed by Universal Pictures. 145 minutes. Rated PG-13.

If there was one movie that prompted people to return to theaters this month, it was the Vin Diesel-fronted sequel F9: The Fast Saga, garnering an estimated $70 million in its first weekend. Fast 9 – or F9 – nabbed the biggest opening since the pandemic began last year and the best since 2019. Dom Toretto would be incredibly proud of his (growing) extended family’s achievements.

As the latest installment in The Fast & The Furious cinematic franchise, F9 presents a conundrum for any sensible critic or reviewer. On the one hand, you can’t begrudge its success. At the same time, the franchise seems tired, and this film was a mess – with overly complicated plot points and, at times, incredibly absurd action sequences. I wasn’t always sure what was going on – who is the villain, who is the hero and why it even matters.

Besides being about cars, high-tech machines, muscles and guns, the series seems to focus on family – either real or by group affinity (hey, we’re all mechanics; hey, we can shoot well; hey, I can take a punch as well as you can). Throughout the endless melee and most of the screening, the oddness of this franchise became apparent.

It had started out simply with the first film, The Fast and The Furious, being about illegal street racers from the ghetto. It, then, evolved into a series about criminal enterprises – some of the team are and some are not criminal. Then, somehow, Dom and gang emerged as a secret-agent, law enforcement team avenging various wrongs against the world and his family.

More and more action performers joined the fray from Kurt Russell and John Cena to Charlize Theron. Organized as a bunch of set pieces hung on a very thin story frame, the films – especially this one – sometimes serve the progression of the plot, other times not.

In this film, Dom and the team come together to stop a world-shattering plot spearheaded by his brother Jakob. In 1989, Jack Toretto participated in a race, with his sons Dominic and Jakob in his pit crew. In the flashbacks, younger actors portray Dom and Jakob – but not convincingly.

Dom argues with rival racer Kenny Linder about his dirty tactics. As the race resumes, his rival’s car clips Jack’s bumper and sends the car into a wall and explodes, killing Jack. After the crash, they fight, and Dom is jailed. While serving his sentence, he recalls that Jakob had worked on Jack’s car that day and realizes that Jakob is responsible for his death. The plot shifts into the present day with an array of crazy car stunts and run-of-the-mill acting.

As hyper-kinetically directed by Justin Lin (who also wrote the screenplay with Daniel Casey) it’s the sequel to 2017’s The Fate of the Furious, the ninth main installment, and the 10th full-length film released overall in the franchise. Though Lim is an experienced director, he didn’t really advance the series in any substantial way other than introducing Jakob. But there’s not that much personality development here anyhow, so this addition to an already over-stuffed
array of characters just makes for one more person for audiences to remember.

Brad Balfour

Copyright ©2021 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: June 28, 2021.

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