After over a year of delays due to the pandemic, F9 is finally hitting theaters on June 25th, and to be honest, the pandemic may be the best thing that could have happened to the Fast Saga's latest entry. The movie sees Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) and his crew going up against his long-lost brother, Jakob Toretto, played by franchise newcomer John Cena. The movie has the ridiculous, over-the-top action we all know and love, but it's the weakest entry in the franchise since the fourth film, Fast & Furious, which was released back in 2009.
If F9 had come out when it was supposed to, it would be easy to dismiss it as the franchise's first real miss in a long time, but the thrill of seeing my favorite vroom-vroom soap opera on a huge screen again made this the most enjoyable movie-watching experience I've had in a very long time. F9 may be melodramatic and nonsensical, but who cares? It was joyous to be in a theater, laughing with a huge audience again, especially at all of the parts that weren't actually meant to be funny. In fact, I'm already ready to go back and see it on the big screen again.
When Mr. Nobody (Kurt Russell) sends a distress signal to Dom's team, much of the old gang reunites to take down their former foe, Cipher (Charlize Theron), who appears to have teamed up with Jakob. The movie sees the return of Letty (Michelle Rodriguez), Roman (Tyrese Gibson), Tej (Ludacris), Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel), Mia (Jordana Brewster), and some exciting surprises from the saga's history. While I admittedly missed The Rock's presence, it was so nice to see Brewster back. Paul Walker's death will always remain a tragic stain on the franchise, which we all know would be better if his character, Brian, could still be a main part of the story. However, it would be unfair to Brewster to cut Mia from the plot as if she's worthless beyond being Brian's love interest. If you recall, she's been doing some badass driving of her own ever since the first film. Making Cena a Toretto was the perfect excuse to bring her back, and it was pretty empowering to see the kids left behind with the man while the woman got in on the action.
The most exciting return, however, is that of Han (Sung Kang). Fans have been screaming for justice for the character for years, and when it was revealed at the beginning of last year that he'd be back, the Internet went into a frenzy. Unfortunately, the movie's explanation for how he survived the car crash from Tokyo Drift, which was later retconned to be organized by Jason Statham's Shaw, wasn't exactly creative or interesting. However, I must say again... who cares? The retcon has been retconned, Han is back on our screens and snacking, and that's all we could ever hope for.
F9 makes some interesting choices, including a series of Godfather II-style flashbacks that sees Dom and Jakob in their younger years. While we didn't really need this new bit of backstory, it was neat to explore parts of Dom's history that were first discussed in the original film 20 years ago. However, I'm sad to report that Cena wasn't the highlight I hoped he'd be. The wrestler-turned-actor has proven himself to have range by nailing his appearances in comedies such a Sisters and Blockers, but they gave him exactly zero personality to work with during F9. Maybe that's just the curse of being a Toretto?
The movie may be seriously lacking when it comes to writing, but no one is going to see F9 for Aaron Sorkin-style dialogue. We're here to watch cars go fast and do the most implausible stunts possible. There was plenty of thrilling action, behind the wheel and otherwise, and that's all that matters. F9 had me fully engaged and entertained for two and a half hours, so I'd call it a win for director Justin Lin.
If you go into F9 ready to have some laughs, armed with the knowledge that it's not as strong as five through eight, you're going to have fun. Just make sure you stick around for the mid-credits scene, which made me squeal with delight.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5
F9 hits theaters everywhere on June 25th.