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Review: F9 (2021)

F9 (2021)

Directed by: Justin Lin

Premise: The ninth film in the Fast and the Furious series. The team attempts to stop a terrorist from acquiring a device that will weaponize satellites. 

What Works: F9 is something of a course correction for this series after the many mistakes of The Fate of the Furious. The previous film was conceptually and tonally out of step with the rest of the series and it failed to give the core characters enough to do. F9 reconnects with what made the Fast and the Furious series so popular. It is consistent with the tone the series has adopted since Fast & Furious 6 and the new film gives each of the central characters things to do that are relevant to their personalities. F9 also returns its focus to automotive action and the family themes that are central to the series. The movie delves into Dom’s (Vin Diesel) backstory, making F9 one of the few entries in this series to do any meaningful character work. F9 is silly but it’s also fun. This series has taken on a feel similar to the Roger Moore and Pierce Brosnan-era James Bond films. The set pieces of F9 are outrageous but they are also inventive and kinetic and possess the popcorn showmanship we look for in summer action movies.

What Doesn’t: Four films ago, the Fast and the Furious series pivoted from a story about racing and heists to an international action-adventure franchise. The films have been able to make that transition work because they gave Dom and his crew a credible reason to be involved in the missions. This is where F9 struggles. The movie doesn’t come up with a compelling or credible reason for the team to go on this mission and that strain is evident throughout the movie. The story jerks the audience around, revisiting characters from earlier installments in ways that feel forced. F9 also continues the recent trend of undoing the deaths and sacrifices of earlier characters. In this case, Han (Sung Kang), who was killed in Tokyo Drift, is revealed to be alive. In addition to being a storytelling cheat, bringing Han back retroactively creates all sorts of continuity problems with the other movies in the series. F9 is also dampened by familiarity. We’ve seen this all before. The series has been in a rut since Furious 7 with the filmmakers essentially retelling the same story over and over again.

Bottom Line: F9 is a Fast and Furious movie with all that implies, both good and bad. This is a middle tier entry in the franchise with the filmmakers doing everything well enough to satisfy the core audience. But if this is to continue, the series needs a Fast Five-style shakeup to inject new life into the series.

Episode: #859 (July 11, 2021)