The Fast & Furious family is back for a ninth adrenaline-soaked adventure in “F9,” an energetic and unexpectedly emotional roller coaster ride that shoots for interstellar orbit, and almost achieves it.
Picking up a few years after 2019’s “Fate of the Furious,” “F9” finds Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) and his wife Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) raising his son on an isolated farm and trying to stay out of trouble. Naturally, trouble finds them in the form of an S.O.S. from Mr. Nobody (Kurt Russell, in one of the movie’s many minuscule cameos), who has gone missing after capturing their nemesis Cipher (Charlize Theron). Soon enough, a satellite-hacking McGuffin is on the loose, necessitating a reunion of the entire Fast family — from Dom’s sister Mia (Jordana Brewster), and core comic relief Roman (Tyrese Gibson) and Tej (Ludacris), to long dead and/or forgotten faces from “The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift” (the third film which is actually #6 ½). The only one who doesn’t show up is Hobbs, who was never played by Dwayne Johnson with the same self-seriousness as his co-stars, and whose absence goes conspicuously unmentioned.
Like the James Bond or Mission: Impossible movies, which the Fast franchise appears to be increasingly emulating, these films are now defined by their antagonists (who often become allies in a sequel), and the egocentric aristocrat Otto (Thue Ersted Rasmussen) is easily the least imposing baddie so far. Fortunately, his head henchman Jakob (John Cena) turns out to be Dom’s long-estranged brother, setting up a violent sibling rivalry that fuels Daniel Casey & Justin Lin’s script. The dialogue is largely shouted exposition (“God is in your heart” is as deep as it gets), but at least it does more than simply set up concussive WWE-style smackdowns between the pair — which are admittedly satisfying. Through grain-laden flashbacks, we see the brothers’ falling out after their stock-car racing father’s death, and finally get to see some psychological cracks in Dom’s facade as the “hero of his own story.”
After nine films (including the 2019 Hobbs & Shaw spinoff) and over $5 billion at the box office, fans know exactly what they want out of the Fast & Furious saga, and F9 delivers it with with a nitro boost. Returning director Lin (F&F3 through 6) brings back a sense of weight and geography to the action sequences that was absent in the last two installments, utilizing jaw-dropping practical car crashes that are only marred by a handful of obvious CGI stunts. The signature set pieces, which start with an explosive chase through a jungle minefield, and climax in a magnetically-charged armored truck hijacking, once again manage to be patently ridiculous and absolutely riveting at the same time. But for once, the characters acknowledge their own increasingly improbable invincibility, giving a meta wink to how they’ve evolved from humble East L.A. street criminals into later-day superheroes.
With so many characters given so little introduction, this is clearly not the best place for newcomers to come aboard, but “F9” is clearly built for the series’ long-time fans; anyone who hasn’t been along for the whole journey will probably see the finale’s “Moonraker” moment as the series’ jump-the-shark nadir, rather than the logical peak of its mounting absurdism. While “F9” doesn’t quite hit the heights of “Fast Five” (my personal favorite), it’s a definite comeback after the seventh and eighth episodes. If you’re fully vaccinated and have been waiting for a big-budget excuse to return to the big screen, “F9” is the perfect propulsive popcorn flick to launch your post-pandemic summer.
Spoiler Alert: There is brief scene with a fan-favorite frenemy midway through the credits, but nothing after the credits.
In addition, now through June 27, guests visiting Universal Studios Hollywood can get an in-person look at some of the franchise’s most iconic cars, including the signature black 1968 Mid-Engine Dodge Charger driven by Dom Toretto in “F9,” which is on display outside Universal Cinema on CityWalk.
Inside Universal Studios Hollywood, guests can see select cars from the films on display within Universal Plaza, including Dom’s black 1970 Dodge Charger R/T from 2001’s “The Fast and The Furious,” Roman Pearce’s 2003 Mitsubishi Eclipse Spyder GTS from “2 Fast 2 Furious,” the 1970 Plymouth Roadrunner driven by Dom in “Furious 7,” and the 1940 Willy’s Coupe seen in “The Fate of the Furious.” Two more vehicles from “F9” can be seen in Picture Car row aboard The World-Famous Studio Tour.
At Universal Studios Florida in Orlando, Fast fans can snap a photo with Dom’s black 1968 Mid-Engine Dodge Carger from “F9” through July 19. A larger-than-life eight-panel photo-op accompanies the car display so guests can pose with their favorite stars from the new film.
Check out the latest trailer for “F9” below, and catch the film in theaters starting June 25.