If you could bottle the ridiculous, the “Fast and Furious” franchise films would spill over the brim of the largest container possible. Even with all the ludicrous plots, outrageous action scenes, and impossible scenarios stuffed into the popular popcorn flicks over the last twenty years, none come close to the absurdity that is “F9: The Fast Saga,” aka what the internet has jokingly dubbed “Fast and Furious in Space.” This wild ride features the impeccable stunt work and driving you’ve come to expect from the “F&F” films, as well as the now-iconic characters with which many fans have bonded, but here Dom (Vin Diesel), Letty (Michelle Rodriguez), Roman(Tyrese Gibson), Tej (Chris “Ludacris” Bridges), Mia (Jordana Brewster), and the rest of the crew excel at defying all laws of gravity, physics, and logic.
“F9” is more of an invincible superhero film rather than a straight-up action movie featuring high-speed cars. There’s a pointless and unbelievable plot about a skilled assassin (John Cena) who is stealing a top secret government device in order to control a satellite feed that basically gives him the power to rule the world, and somehow Dom and his pals are covertly contacted (by a secret Bat signal!) to stop the evil plot. Why, you ask? Shhh. It’s better that you don’t.
Things go from implausible to downright laughable, starting with the idea these street smart drivers would be as skilled as the highly trained paramilitary soldiers they’re going up against. The story plays like a streetwise James Bond, with our multicultural secret agents becoming the world’s unsung saviors, working together to defend us all. They’re action heroes now, not car racers. They still drive all manner of vehicles with speed and precision, but they’re also better shots than 100% of the black ops villains they encounter.
Family plays a big part in this film as much as it does in previous installments, and some of the story is told through flashbacks when Dom was a teenager in the late 1980s. This offers up a warm nostalgia and forges a deeper connection by giving a glimpse of the backstory of the franchise’s ringleader. Good characters have always been a major element of what makes these films work, and “F9” relies heavily on the audience’s history with and affection for the rag-tag Toretto clan. Fans will especially love the callback cameos from previous movies (don’t read any spoilers if you can avoid them).
Director Justin Lin is again at the helm, a virtuoso for over-the-top action. There are inventive set pieces like speeding through the crowded streets of London in a magnetic truck that attracts all metal objects along the route, and a very funny bit with a rocket-powered Pontiac Fiero that ends up in another stratosphere of silliness. The best part about “F9” is that the film and characters openly acknowledge how preposterous all of it is. Aside from the obvious winks at the audience, the project itself and all involved fully embrace the insanity, which encourages moviegoers to do the same.
Would I prefer to see future “Fast and Furious” films more grounded in reality? Sure. The franchise is bordering on parody at this point, and it could benefit from more muscle cars and fewer super spies. In the far-fetched “F9,” they almost take it too far. Almost.