F9 (also known as F9: The Fast Saga and internationally as Fast & Furious 9) is a 2021 American action film directed by Justin Lin. The film stars Vin Diesel, Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese Gibson, Chris “Ludacris” Bridges, John Cena, Nathalie Emmanuel, Jordana Brewster, Sung Kang, Michael Rooker, Helen Mirren, Kurt Russell, and Charlize Theron. In F9, Dominic Toretto and the team come together to stop a world-shattering plot headed by Toretto’s brother, Jakob.
The plot broadly involves the male protagonist reuniting with his team to scuttle an evil conspiracy and smash everything in their way to shards. It conjures up gravity-defying stunts and electromagnetic mayhem that, in the pursuit of thrills, inevitably falls prey to the law of diminishing returns.
We start off with a flashback, where in 1989, Jack Toretto–father of Dominic and Jakob–participates in a late model race, with his sons working in the pit crew. Dom argues with rival racer Kenny Linder about his dirty tactics. During the race Linder’s car clips Jack’s bumper, causes his car to hit a wall and explode, killing him. After the race, Dom is arrested for nearly beating Linder to death with a wrench. While serving his sentence, he recalls that Jakob had worked on their father’s car the day he died and concludes that Jakob killed their father. Upon release, Dom confronts and challenges Jakob to a race, forcing him to leave town when he loses.
In the present, two years after the confrontation against cyberterrorist Cipher, Dom is retired and raising his son Brian with his wife, Letty Ortiz. Roman Pearce, Tej Parker, and Ramsey arrive with news that, shortly after capturing Cipher, Mr. Nobody’s plane was attacked by rogue agents and crashed in Montequinto, Central America. Dom agrees to help them after realizing Jakob is involved and so begins the story. The mission is new, the tropes are old. The film takes them literally off the road and (in the case of a couple of the combatants) into outer space.
The action is unabashedly bonkers – cars drive through exploding landmines (somehow the cars of Dom’s crew never succumb to anything) and over precipitous cliffs and often come out in one piece -and the fraternal animosity around which the plot is built is overly contrived.
One scene alone is enough to explain the insanity. A vehicle is stuck between two rock faces. As it slips towards the ground, it dangles over a landmine. The occupant, a Mr. Roman Pearce, wriggles out of the car in the nick of time. The landmine blows up. The automobile soars into the air and the mangled heap comes crashing down on Roman who has just escaped the blast. Or so it seems.
Roman emerges unscathed from behind the billowing fumes. Tej asks: “How the hell are you not dead?” That is exactly the question that you, too, will be tempted to ask on a number of subsequent occasions to a number of the other characters caught in similar life-threatening situations. But this is Fast and Furious. So, no questions asked!
Roman Pearce (Tyrese Gibson) and Tej Parker (Ludacris) wonder at one point why they have emerged from so many dangerous missions without suffering so much as a scratch. Maybe we are not so normal, one of them concludes. Are you suggesting, Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel) interjects, that you two are invincible? As the two hunky siblings whose muscles are far more expressive than their faces battle it out – one does everything in his power to protect the world, the other to control it – the film throws logic – and caution – to the wind.
It turns into a veritable family affair. Dom’s little curly-haired son Brian also pops up now and then to underscore the power of a domesticated Dom. Fast And Furious isn’t only about fights and fitful muscularity. It is also about two brothers and one sister trying to mend the ties that snapped several decades ago in tragic and fiery circumstances.
Fast And Furious 9 holds nothing back. Crashes and explosions continue unabated as a multiplicity of other characters, expectedly, jump into the fray. Dom has to reckon with two other adversaries – unflappable cyberterrorist Cipher (Charlize Theron) and “spoilt rich prick” Otto (Thue Ersted Rasmussen), who believes that the world is run by men of his ilk. But Dom has plenty of active assistance available, notably from hacker Ramsey, who, despite never having learnt to drive, takes control of a massive truck carrying an electromagnet that sends vehicles in its path into wild flips and flops. If you still haven’t got it, do not ask questions.
The anything-goes spirit that Ramsey, Tej and Roman bring to the table is a perfect commentary on Fast And Furious 9. These characters are human equivalents of the Pontiac Fiero fitted with a propulsion engine. They walk into bizarre situations with doubts in their minds but quickly, and merrily, shrug them off as the action engulfs them.
Tej says to Roman, “If we follow the laws of physics, we’ll be fine… it’s all science and math.” Take that with a fistful of salt and go along. Yes, the ride is dizzyingly bumpy and boggles and numbs the mind by turns. The changed times have had some impact on Fast And Furious 9 – the women are no longer mere props. The men still do most of the heavy lifting, but the girls, too, get their moment in the sun. Be it Rodriguez, Brewster, Emmanuel or newcomer Anna Sawai, none of them is a mere appendage. So basically #metoo makes an appearance in a movie series not known for deviating from the formula.
F9 promises everything that the Fast & Furious series has always delivered – guns, cars, trucks, tanks, hot women and muscled hunks with one facial expression to share between them, but goes one further now bringing a car into outer space. If the Grand Theft Auto video game series had a film counterpart, the F&F series would be it. Cheesy dialogues and Dom’s memeable recitations of “family” and “La Familia” are ubiquitous as usual.
It is a movie meant for the big screen and that’s where you need to watch it. However, as with any F&F movie, do remember to leave logic and science outside the movie theater or else you’ll be asking questions no one has answers to.