F9 (2021)

The only thing worse than a bad action movie is a boring one; even with the “Fast and the Furious” series now reaching that point where it’s becoming self-aware and self-satirical, Justin Lin’s penultimate entry in to the long running movie series is terrible. I rarely see action movies with so much noise and activity that put me to sleep, but lo and behold, “F9” pulls it off. This is a movie that throws everything but the kitchen sink at audiences, bringing in the cast from “Tokyo Drift,” Helen Mirren and Kurt Russell for brief walk on roles, and jumping through hoops to explain away the big plot holes with something vaguely resembling logic.

Dom Toretto is living the quiet life off the grid with Letty and his son Brian, but they know that danger always lurks just over the peaceful horizon. This time, that threat forces Dom to confront the sins of his past to save those he loves most. His crew soon comes together to stop a world-shattering plot by the most skilled assassin and high-performance driver they’ve ever encountered — Dom’s forsaken brother Jakob.

Make no mistake that logic has never been this series’ strong suit, but “F9” painfully tries to rationalize everything we see and hear. And you’re either going to accept it and move on, or won’t be able to get past it. I’m the latter. They go through immense circles explaining why Han is suddenly not dead, and managed to live for so many years without being able to reach any of his Fast and Furious Friends in their trials and tribulations. The writers jump through huge hoops and give us the classic “Batman” death fake out, all for some convoluted explanation involving covert operations, and Kurt Russell’s mastermind character Mr. Nobody.

“F9” seems to be in a competition with itself in working overtime to explain the bigger plot holes. There’s Han magically surviving his assassination, and Dominic suddenly having a younger brother. All these years we’ve been told over and over that Dominic was a lower class individual who had a protective watch over his little sister. Now the writers magically bring a brother in from out of nowhere and, once again, work over time in trying to justify (and over explain) his entrance. John Cena is a decent actor, but he really doesn’t have much chemistry with Vin Diesel or even the returning Jordana Brewster. Her return as Mia is also curious.

Dom spent so much time trying to convince Brian that he should stop the thrill seeking and become a family man, and suddenly Mia is back jumping out of windows, and zooming around in cars? I don’t get it, but then there’s so much about “F9” that I never quite understood. When it’s not working hard to explain the humongous plot holes (there’s twenty minutes also devoted to explaining how Tej and Roman get to Space), it dives in to tongue in cheek comedy with the constant meta jokes about being in a movie, and the fact that none of them at any point in their exploits have ever really suffered any kind of injuries before. I mean it makes sense as in one scene Letty falls off a cliff and Dominic breaks her fall with the hood of his car. She simply gives a grateful smile and literally walks away.

There’s also the fact that Tej and Roman get to go in to orbit, paying homage to the critics’ joking about that there’s literally nowhere else they haven’t been in the movies.  For the most part, “F9” is all about more of the same fodder. There’s a huge weapon, covert operatives, overtones about family and betrayal, and loyalty, and of course the movie leaves the door open for Cena’s inevitable return (and redemption arc) for the upcoming “Final” film in the series. With “F9” there isn’t much flexing that has to happen for the cast. They’re there to basically play their characters about as stagnantly as possible, never aging, or evolving, or progress in to something different or new. Much like the “Fast and the Furious” series as a whole.

There have been talks of Vin Diesel continuing the series after the tenth installment with a solo franchise for Dominic Torreto. After everything we see in “F9” (and–don’t see), I don’t know what they could possibly bring to the table that’s new or unique. Especially since Dominic was never as interesting as Brian.