There’s a line in Fast and Furious 9 that made me laugh out loud. One of the characters says ‘as long as we obey the laws of physics we’ll be fine’. This is hilarious because this film series, that has now been running for twenty years, hasn’t even marginally abided by the laws of physics since 2013 and it is questionable what heed they gave them before that.
This is actually not the only time that this movie seems to be addressing how silly the ‘Fast Saga’ has become (even calling it the Fast Saga is comically grandiloquent). Tyrese Gibson’s Roman has a whole thing in the story where he becomes convinced that he and the rest of the crew are invincible and cannot be killed and judging by what has happened to them over the years; falling from great heights, being hit with heavy objects, getting blown up, being crushed by masonry, getting shot at and finding themselves in numerous car crashes that also involve several of the above, this appears to be a sound supposition. I only recall one character ever being hospitalised and oddly that was Dwayne Johnson who seems better equipped for taking a knock than the rest of them. There’s even one person who actually died in an early film, before things had got quite so ridiculous, who comes back alive in this one and he’s not the first.
Somehow the Fast and Furious films have become unimpeachable and it certainly isn’t because they are faultless. They are just so far past jumping the shark that to criticise them for it is redundant. There aren’t many series that have managed this. Bond didn’t and neither Die Hard, both having taken things too far and fallen at that hurdle. Even the X-Men movies that have never been based in any kind of physical or biological reality got too daft toward the end. Decrying a Fast and Furious film for going too far is like watching a Road Runner cartoon and saying ‘well that wouldn’t happen in real life’ and the people making them know it.
What this frees them up to do is have fun and this is where the treats are for the audience. There is no question that the series is waning but there are still some great sequences here. Who isn’t going to enjoy seeing a car chase across a mine field and there is a series of sequences which can only be described as ‘fun with magnets’. There is nothing here as audacious as the safe towing from Fast 5, the runway scene from 6 or the skyscraper jumps from 7 but to there is still plenty to make you smile.
This film doesn’t have the franchise’s biggest personalities, Johnson and Jason Statham both having stepped out and Paul Walker having sadly passed away, but Vin Diesel carries on gamely, Michelle Rodriquez brings the gravity (in terms of solemnity of manner rather than the physical force which is largely ignored) and Gibson and Chris ‘Ludacris’ Bridges stay just the right side of annoying. It is fitting that these movies has given the best acting opportunities to someone with the nickname Ludacris, the whole cast should adopt similar monikers. How about Michelle ‘Wotdahell’ Rodriquez, Tyrese ‘Tirelees’ Gibson and Vin ‘Ravin’ Diesel? (Actually that last guy’s name is already pretty well suited to these petrolheaded films. It’s like old Mark Sinclair knew where his career was heading from the start.)
I like John Cena (John ‘Insana’ Cena?) but his appearance in Fast 9 doesn’t make up for those we’ve lost. What does help plug the gap is a series of cameos from people who have had supporting parts in these films before. It is great so see flashes of Kurt Russell and the scene where Diesel gets a lift to his next destination, pursued by cops, in a souped up car driven by none other than Helen Mirren is almost the highlight of the movie. Lucas Black returns from the third one, Fast and Furious: Tokyo Drift, too although he is almost unrecognisable from that more serious film both in appearance and character.
The person I am most pleased to see back is Jordana Brewster as Mia. A key part of the original line up, she was benched for the last film because she had become linked to Paul Walker’s Bryan and when he was written out she needed to go with him. It was wonderful to see her again though, no longer shackled to a male character or left holding the baby as she was in number 7. In fact there is an interesting scene where she and Rodriguez’s Letty, who has also now found herself in a position of motherhood, have a discussion about the old life and their new roles looking out for the little ones like they were once working mums and are now stay at home parents. Their situation is not quite the same, what with them previously having been international master criminals, but the conversation will resonate with lots of women. It is also great that shortly after this chat they are beating the crap out of some bad guys, switching from Claire Dunphy to Natasha Romanoff in the blink of an eye.
There a couple of other cameos including one from Cardi B who appears to have just wanted to be in a Fast and Furious movie like all those people who turned up with tiny roles in The Force Awakens. Speaking of which there is also some dialogue about Star Wars which while not quite the like in films of Kevin Smith is amusing. Of course, everyone has been waiting for these films to just deny the existence all limitations and head into space themselves which if they did (maybe they did, no they wouldn’t would they, would they, did they?) would not feel out of place anymore.
With the dark year we’ve had we didn’t get any of these last Summer but finally with Fast and Furious 9 it feels like the season of blockbusters has arrived. This, for me, was a fun one to see speeding out of the pits.