To call me a Fast & Furious fan is a major under-statement. I fell in love with this franchise when I saw the first film on the day it opened back in 2001. At the time, I was almost unaware of Paul Walker or Vin Diesel, but by the time I left the cinema – I was wishing I was them. As I write this review right now, just above me on my wall is one of my most valuable possessions – framed signed stills from the cast of F7.
Over the years, I have never really hated any of the films. Sure, there have been some that I have enjoyed more than others, but I have even found things to like about 2Fast 2Furious and Tokyo Drift, which others have described as weaker films in the franchises. What I found this time is that while F9 may not be my favourite in the series, it certainly is up there with the best.
This time around, the film open with Dom (Vin Diesel) and Lettie (Michelle Rodriguez) who are living a quiet country lifestyle with Dom’s son. That quiet life is quickly pushed to the side, however, when Roman (Tyrese Gibson), Tej (Ludacris) and Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel) shows up with an encrypted message from Mr. Nobody (Kurt Russell) asking for the group’s help.
After viewing the message himself, Dom soon realises that this isn’t going to be a simple search and rescue mission because he recognises the work of his arch nemesis – the dangerous hacker Cipher (Charlize Theron) and a ghost from he and Mia’s (Jordana Brewster) past – their brother Jakob (John Cena).
What makes F9 work so well is the same as what has endeared me to this franchise for so long – the film’s have heart and are not just big soulless action flicks. As an audience, we have come to know and love Dom, Letty, Mia and their crew and here, the screenwriters and director Justin Lin feed off that.
The fact that this film explores the relationship between Dom and Jakob, and even shows the moment that Dom changed from being a teenager into a man in a flash second gives this film a heart and soul that the fans are just going to love. Those flash-backs instantly show the haters that there is still a lot more to explore in this Fast & Furious universe. And the way that they intertwine the action sequences with the modern-day action shots, shows that Lin is a director that knows how to tell a story and direct action. As we have come to expect from this franchise the action sequences here are amazing. Lin once again returns back to more car based action (there is even a joke told about tanks and submarines) with a finale that, although out of this world, is shot so well that audiences are still able to see it as believable.
My only gripe is that with Jakob and Cipher already in the picture Otto (Thue Ersted Rasmussen) almost seems redundant as a villain and that the excuses for Paul Walker’s character Brian, not being around are getting pretty thin. Lines indicating that he is staying at home and looking after his kids while his wife is out battling villains is border-line disrespectful to the character’s memory and you almost wonder whether it would have been better off killing Brian in the franchise after the untimely death of Walker.
Despite this criticism, F9 is a film that fans are going to love, and yes, there are a few unexpected surprises thrown in for everyone as well. Casual viewers may find some of the characters confusing, given that this screenplay relies on you having seen their character set-ups and storylines in previous films. The action is epic and the heroes are deep and meaningful. Once again, this franchise has given us all its best.