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Reviews For The Easily Distracted:
F9: The Fast Saga

Title: F9: The Fast Saga

Describe This Movie Like Stefon from SNL:

STEFON: New York's hottest new club is "F9." Director Justin Lin has gone *all out.* This place has everything: hot rods, motorcycles, child endangerment, throw-up music, beefy fisticuffs, and wish nonfulfillment.
SETH: I'm sorry, "wish nonfulfillment?"
STEFON: That's when the filmmakers think they're giving fans what they want to see, but fail spectacularly.
SETH: ...
STEFON: You'll know it when you see it.

Brief Plot Synopsis: Dom and company must find the Jade Monkey before the next full moon. Or something.

Rating Using Random Objects Relevant To The Film: 2.5 Landmasters out of 5.

Tagline: "Fast Family Forever."

Better Tagline: "If you're gonna jump the shark, it might as well be in a rocket car."

Not So Brief  Plot Synopsis: Dom (Vin Diesel) and Letty Toretto (Michelle Rodriguez) have retired to the countryside to raise Dom's son Brian. Naturally, this idyll barely lasts past the opening credits before Roman (Tyrese Gibson), Tej (Ludacris),and Ramsey (Nathalie Emanuel) show up with news both good: DSS big shot Mr. Nobody (Kurt Russell) has captured the villainous Cipher (Charlize Theron); and bad: unidentified antagonists crashed the plane. Also ... surprise? Dom's estranged brother Jakob (John Cena) is somehow involved.

"Critical" Analysis:
 If there's one immutable scientific fact, it's that the Fast & Furious movies defy all reviewing logic. What started as an almost quaint Point Break ripoff about drag racing electronics thieves has morphed into a globe-spanning franchise involving doomsday weapons and action set pieces one could charitably describe as "baffling." And the last four have all grossed at least $200 million.

This was likely a deliberate strategy after the poor critical and box office reception that greeted the 3rd movie, The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift (maybe the mouthful of a title had something to do with it as well). For the 4th installment (Fast & Furious), director Justin Lin and longtime screenwriter Chris Morgan reunited Dom and Brian O'Conner (Paul Walker), centralized the core cast, and — to use a pertinent metaphor — hit the gas on sexy international shenanigans.

From that point, the series abandoned pretty much any sense of danger, realism, or mortality. Whether it's cars vs. submarine (Fate of the Furious), abandoned mine races (Fast & Furious), or the entirety of Furious 7, we've grown accustomed to watching Dom, his sister Mia (Jordana Brewster), Roman, and The Rest walking away unscathed from mayhem that would've felled Wile E. Coyote.

And it's been successful. Notably, the most significant death for the franchise occurred in real life, when Walker was killed in a 2013 car crash. Yet the series, which has already notably resurrected the characters of Letty and Han (oh shut up, he's in the trailer), continues to insist the character of Brian O'Conner is retired (in F9, he's watching his and Dom's kids, offscreen and away from all the shenanigans).

But it turns out it isn't Walker we miss the most in F9, it's Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson as DSS Agent Hobbs. Certainly, Johnson contributed much to the outrageous musculature of the last few movies, but he also balanced it with a winning sense of humor. Tyrese tries his best, and plays well off Ludacris, but it isn't enough.

So whether you chalk it up to the lack of Hobbs, or the departure of Morgan as writer, F9 is surprisingly inert. Yes, the action sequences are over-the-top (and distinctly uninterested in pretending bystanders aren't getting massacred by the dozens), but there's also a lot of Cena and Diesel clenching their jaws at each other, flashbacks (haven't you always wanted to meet Dom's dad?), and flat exposition dumps.

Lin introduces a few other characters aside from Jakob (Cena's facial expression throughout the movie is like if he was still doing the butt chug from Blockers). You'll be glad Cardi B (playing a thief associate of Dom's) has little dialogue, and you'll wish Helen Mirren (as Queenie Shaw) had more to do. Theron is unforgivably restrained, while a showdown between Deckard Shaw and Han is teased but never realized.

Yes, it's welcome to get Sung Kang back (Han's return is one of the few genuinely affecting parts of the movie), but the explanation of how he survived is as nonsensical as the ultimate caper that sends Roman and Tej where no Fast & Furious cast member has gone before, if you catch my (Tokyo) drift. Lin has said he wanted to make this sequence as realistic as possible, going so far as to consult NASA. Ironically, it's the most boring scene in the film.

So much for science.

Diesel has said there are two more Fast movies in the works, and while one can appreciate these flicks for their diversity and stubborn refusal to adhere to the laws of physics, thermodynamics, or gravity, they may finally be running out of ... what's the word, steam?

"Easily Distracted?" Are Uneasily Quarantined Reviews Over? More or less. F9 was this reviewer's first foray into a theater since February, 2020. It was ... weird, but also a relief. Studios are still sending screeners out for some films, so the quarantined reviews aren't gone for good, but there's light at the end of the tunnel.

F9: The Fast Saga is in theaters today.
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Peter Vonder Haar writes movie reviews for the Houston Press and the occasional book. The first three novels in the "Clarke & Clarke Mysteries" - Lucky Town, Point Blank, and Empty Sky - are out now.
Contact: Pete Vonder Haar