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Saturday, December 2, 2023

Fast And Furious 9 Review: A Spectacular, Mind-Boggling Car Crash

Since the pandemic, we have been craving the Hollywood blockbuster experience. With films like Tenet and Wonder Woman 1984, we’ve had a taster for action spectacles.

But what we were missing, until now, is the thrill of car engines rearing and loud visual aesthetics jumping off the screen.

For that reason, Summer 2021 is the time for Fast 9, the ninth chapter in the saga that has endured for almost two decades and has earned more than $5 billion around the world.

Dom Toretto (Vin Diesel) is leading a quiet life off the grid with Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) 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 (John Cena).

Justin Lin helms the franchise since Fast 6 and first directed the franchise in 2 Fast 2 Furious. Given his experience of working on the film, we are familiar with his style and vision. But for me, this has to be the weakest work in the series.

It is understandable that The Fast Saga is not supposed to be a critically acclaimed piece of cinema. One reciprocates that it constitutes what we coin as ‘escapism’ and I am okay with consuming such content because such movies are an integral part of cinema. However, the physics-defying action scenes and special effects are taken too far and the movie tries too hard to impress.

There was a time when Dhoom 3 was scrutinised for its ridiculous action scenes and the type of machinery or vehicles created. But seeing what is included in Fast 9 (I won’t reveal because of spoilers), is a testament to how films can go pear-shaped when attempting to make a film ‘epic’ rather than just making a focused piece of cinema – that too which is unnecessarily lengthy.

A lot of the aspects in such films we are supposed to take with a pinch of salt because of the style of cinema it is, however, the direction here is way too clumsy. There is a scene where Dom and Letty escape a catastrophic car accident from a CLIFF. The car flips over many times yet NOT a scratch (if any at all) on them.

What also makes it worse is the way characters justify the screenplay of conveniences through dialogue. For instance, in another sequence where Roman (Tyrese Gibson) escapes a lethal accident and Tej (Ludacris), in his usual comical way, says: “How are you not dead?” Hearing such dialogues amuses me, not because it’s funny, but because of how they attempt to justify the filmmaking mishaps.

Usually, in The Fast Saga movies, it is the camaraderie of the main crew which is appealing and endearing. In this instalment, though, that affinity is lacking where it feels disjointed, almost. It majorly lacks the human touch – although there is plenty of comic relief moments.

Having said that, if there is anything that works then for me, it is the poignant backstory of Dom and Jakob. As Bollywood-esque as the plot sounds, the story and that resentment for one another are quite compelling.

Performances by Vinnie Bennett and Finn Cole (as young Dom and young Jakob, respectively) deliver brilliant performances. I could feel their pain and anger. Of course, the sequences featuring both Diesel and Cena are cool to observe… Though I am more fascinated by the flashback sequences.

For fans of the franchise, Fast 9 provides plenty of nostalgia as it brings back several faces from previous movies. Sung Kang as Han from Tokyo Drift returns from the dead and the popular femme fatale Charlize Theron returns as Cipher since the eighth instalment and Helen Mirren returns as Queenie from Hobbs & Shaw. So for the ardent admirers of the series, it is a treat.

Irrespective of how much we review potboilers like Fast 9, essentially, these are the films that gain immense commercial traction. Therefore, given the immense excitement for this and the series as a whole, I am sure it will succeed financially. 

In fact, when I experienced it in IMAX, there was an array of cheers and applauds. The first time I’ve witnessed such euphoria in a cinema since life pre-COVID. Thus, Fast 9 will certainly appeal to many who visit the cinema for pure escapism.

Nonetheless, given that the franchise has since driven far away from its original context about illegal street racing, I believe it’s long overdue for a pit stop.

⭐⭐ (2/5 stars) 

Fast & Furious 9 releases in UK cinemas on June 24. 

Anuj Radia
Journalist and film enthusiast.

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