Vin Diesel, Michelle Rodriguez, Jordana Brewster, Tyrese Gibson, Chris ‘Ludacris’ Bridges, Nathalie Emmanuel, John Cena, Charlize Theron, Sung Kang, Anna Sawai, Vinnie Bennett, Finn Cole, Thue Ersted Rasmussen, Lucas Black, Shad ‘Bow Wow’ Moss, Jason Tobin, J.D Pardo, Michael Rooker, Helen Mirren and Kurt Russell
Cipher enlists the help of Jakob, Dom’s younger brother to take revenge on Dom and his team.
Dom Toretto is leading a quiet life off the grid with Letty and his son, little Brian, but they know that danger always lurks just over their peaceful horizon. This time, that threat will force Dom to confront the sins of his past if he’s going to save those he loves most. His crew joins together to stop a world-shattering plot led by the most skilled assassin and high-performance driver they’ve ever encountered: a man who also happens to be Dom’s forsaken brother, Jakob.
Fast and Furious 9 sees Justin Lin return to direct for the first time since Fast & Furious, with the screenplay written by Daniel Casey and Lin. Set a few years after the events of 8, Dom and Letty are retired from the spy life, settling quietly at a farm raising their son Brian. They get a surprise visit from Roman, Tej and Ramsey, who are there to inform them that Mr. Nobody’s plane has been attacked by rogue agents after he just captured Cipher. Upon tracking the plane down, Dom and family learn that not only is a rogue element after a device known as Ares, which can hack any computer-controlled weapons system in the world, but that Dom’s younger brother Jakob is involved with the rogue faction.
Returning to helm the film, Lin provides some of the fun that was missing in the eighth film in the franchise, giving Roman and Tej a memorable angle in which Roman comes to an existential crisis after surviving multiple moments of death, beginning to recall and question the insanity of their lives and how they have survived for as long as they have. While it’s nice to be self-aware and have a moment to poke fun at the absurdity of it all, it might do it a bit too much, but there’s a certain plot that they participate in during the finale and, while we were waiting for it for a long time, I couldn’t help but embrace the madness of it and how Tyrese and Ludacris played that sequence especially. The opening sequence I thought was very well edited together and structured as a whole, as we finally get to see the tragic accident on the race track that befell Jack Toretto.
I don’t know whether it’s because the script for this installment was written by Justin Lin and Daniel Casey, rather than Chris Morgan, who had been writing the franchise since Tokyo Drift up until Fate of the Furious (well, he’s also penned the spinoff film Hobbs and Shaw), but there definitely felt for me to be a lack of balancing the fine line that the previous films used to have of teetering on jumping the shark. For instance, as much as this film tries to make certain storylines work, but the introduction of a long-forgotten brother-turned-enemy sub-plot simply didn’t work for me, and worse yet it’s the main anchor of the story and we have multiple, and way too many, flashbacks about young Dom and Jakob, as well as their father Jack, nothing against the actors involved (Vinnie Bennett, Finn Cole and J.D Pardo respectively). Another strong talking point leading up to the films release was how they bring Han back into the fold, whose ‘death’ scene in Tokyo Drift is arguably one of the most retconned in recent film history, and while they do their best to make it make sense, I don’t think Han was particularly utilised that well here in the film personally. And that’s another thing that hampers the film for me: death is now literally off the table. The franchise from six onwards have had crazy stunts, but there was always a sense of suspense particularly when a few characters met the grim reaper along the way, but now, all these sequences and spectacle just feel like noise as Dom and family can be thrown around the place like ragdolls and come away without a scratch on them, making me care less about how the journey pans out as we end the destination at the end and while you know what you’re getting with the Fast & Furious franchise, but for me it’s now starting to get a bit stale. On the ensemble side of things, I felt a few members of the cast felt wasted: Unless there’s a long-term plan from Lin and company in regards to how Mr. Nobody is handled, Kurt Russell barely has a minute of screentime, and Charlize Theron doesn’t really fare better as Cipher (though there is talks of her getting her own spinoff film). Then there’s the reintroduction of the Tokyo Drift trio: Lucas Black, Bow Wow and Jason Tobin. As great as it is to see them being brought back into the fold, but how they are back is so undeniably dumb that you can’t help but laugh at it.
While it has its moments and I did find it better than Fate of the Furious, Fast and Furious 9 still didn’t quite work for me overall, due to the evil brother storyline and how much time is spent on that during the films ridiculously lengthy two-hour-and-twenty-three minute runtime.