Fast and Furious 9 Review
Let’s talk about Fast and Furious 9.
You may not like the Fast and Furious franchise but at this point, you have to respect it. It has been able to reinvent itself several times to keep itself going and it remains as popular as ever. Seriously, to do that with a series that has broadly the same core cast, albeit with some chopping and changing, and a focus on car stunts is actually impressive. Think about other franchises which got to put 9 in the title. Jason was going to hell at this point! But while you can respect the franchise going on for so long, the quality has dropped. Fast and Furious 8 was terrible, and was embarrassed by its own spin-off Hobbs and Shaw by how surprisingly good that film was. Does 9 get back on track?
Dominic Turetto is out of the game and off the grid. That is until he’s dragged back in for a job which soon becomes personal when he discovers his estranged brother is working on the other side against him.
Right, let’s get onto the fundamental problem with this film and the last few movies in the franchise. The reason the franchise became a money making machine was because it became a mad heist movie. Tongue was planted firmly in cheek and it was all about having a rollocking good time. If the franchise hadn’t have done that, it would have ended with Tokyo Drift. Instead, it became a massive franchise which justified a terrible ride in Universal Studios. Seriously they killed off Beetlejuice for that ride, not happy.
However something happened with number 7. Paul Walker, a mainstay of the series, died during production. With the series meant to be ending with this one, it felt to repackage the final film as a tribute to him. Tied alongside the hit song ‘See You Again’, it did end up working and got the emotional reaction they wanted from the audience. This iteration would become the most successful in the franchise and the decision was made that it wasn’t going to be the last one because no one is going to leave money on the table. The problem is that the series thought it got the emotional reaction in 7 through whatever it did rather than the outside circumstances.
Now the film thinks it is a big emotional series and it fails completely on this front. One reason for that is all the emotion is put on Vin Diesel’s shoulders and he has the emotional range of the fuel substance he shares a name with. He is a poor actor and in any film he is in, he should just be used to punch things and then move on. The second reason is that the story constructed is just bland and dull. Look, I do not care enough about Turetto’s origins to know he had a brother that’s never been mentioned before and that there are unresolved issues between the two. And you won’t make me care by telling a story that has been used time after time. If you want the emotional response you want, get better actors and write a better story.
You can argue that Fast and Furious 9 is more about the action than the emotion and I’d agree. That’s why it’s irritating it spends so much time trying to build up the emotion and drama. Seriously, the more scenes where Vin Diesel is being serious, the more I try to rip my own nails off as a pleasant distraction. It also ruins the argument that these films are good if you don’t take them seriously. If you want to be in the mood to not take the movie seriously, the film needs to put you in that mood. Hobbs and Shaw does that hence why it was very enjoyable. But other than some scenes between Ludacris and Tyrese, the film doesn’t do that. It wants you to take it very seriously and react emotionally to certain scenes. So that’s what you do. You take it seriously.
That then conflicts with the action. Because while this is very grounded emotionally, it is not grounded in the action scenes. This just ends up feeling weird. It is cool to see an electromagnet pull a car through a building and into the back of a lorry, I can’t lie. But it’s really hard to have a laugh and enjoy the daftness of it when the film just a few moments before is really trying to sell me on the importance of this feud between brothers. The car chases are well done, this is the franchise’s bread and better by now, and on their own they can be quite cool. But there is a dread that after some awesome explosions that you’ll be back to Vin Diesel’s serious face, which is also the same as Vin Diesel’s diarrhoea face.
And then there’s the hand-to-hand combat scenes which are the worst I’ve seen in a long time. Do you remember that trend after the Jason Bourne movies when people tried to copy the shaky cam footage and all that happened was a million fight scenes we never shaw because the camera acted like a permanent earthquake was happening? Well here’s a not so nostalgic throwback! Every scene where the characters have to throw fists rather than throw cars is a mess. The camera goes haywire and you cannot keep track of anything happening. Not so long ago, I saw Nobody which showed you how good action can be if well shot and well choreographed. This is the opposite end of the tent pole which shows you how bad action can be if it is not well shot and presumably, not well choreographed. I’m not sure if it’s well choreographed, I couldn’t tell with how bad the camera work was.
Finally, I want to talk about the lack of peril with the characters. There’s a decently funny scene between Tyrese and Ludacris where Tyrese is convinced that because they have survived some incredible stunts and circumstances that they are actually invincible. It is laughed off but I am convinced that his theory is true. Because these ordinary humans don’t just get through these massive action set pieces scot free. That’d be miraculous but somewhat believable in the world established. But no, it’s not that. It’s the fact the characters survive things that should kill them, like explosions in mid air which result in helicopter crashes. Not only do they not survive that but they get off with it scratch free. How can any scene be tense if Tyrese is right about them being invincible? And then how can we care about the two hours worth of serious emotional family scenes?
Fast and Furious 9 should be the end for the franchise. Mostly because I don’t want to have to sit through another one of these. It doesn’t have any idea of what it wants to do anymore. It wants to be a big action series which has ridiculous stunts you can’t forget about after the film. But it also wants to be touching and to abuse any emotional connection you have to it. Seriously that ending shot feels very emotionally manipulative considering what has happened. It is possible to bridge those two worlds but there is no effort to do so here. It’s lots of ultra serious scenes, then a mediocre action scene. End this series now, and leave it to Hobbs and Shaw please.