F9: The Fast Saga (2021) Review

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To Slow To Stupid

F9: The Fast Saga (2021): 2 out of 10: directed by Justin Lin and starring Vin Diesel, Michelle Rodriguez, and John Cena, is the ninth installment in the Fast & Furious franchise. The film continues the high-octane adventures of Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) and his crew as they face yet another ridiculous mission.

In this clueless chapter, Dom is forced to confront his estranged younger brother, Jakob (John Cena), a skilled assassin and high-performance driver with a personal vendetta. Working for the notorious cyber-terrorist Cipher (Charlize Theron), Jakob seeks to acquire a powerful device known as Project Aries, which has the potential to control every computerized weapon system in the world, and was probably supposed to be named Project Ares after the Greek god of war rather Project Aries after the Zodiac sign which was a farmhand and is now a ram.

The threat posed by Jakob and Cipher forces Dom to reunite his team, which includes Roman (Tyrese Gibson), Tej (Chris “Ludacris” Bridges), and Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel), among others. These old friends join Dom on a mission across the globe to stop a plot that threatens to unleash chaos on the world..

As Dom and his crew reunite to stop Jakob and Cipher, they are also faced with the surprising return of their long-presumed-dead friend, Han (Sung Kang) and his wife/ daughter/ concubine. The team embarks on a thrilling, globe-trotting journey, taking them from the streets of London to the lush jungles of Central America and the deserts of Tbilisi. Along the way, they’ll need to rely on their unique skills, unbreakable bonds, magical magnets, a space craft/Pontiac Fiero, hundreds of dead civilians, and fast cars to save the world from the brink of destruction.

The Good

The Good: Helen Mirren is delightful. Jordana Brewster manages to have an actual character this time. With a never mentioned before brother and a very dead husband who is off “Babysitting the kids” I really want to see a movie about her story. I mean, everyone else in Dom’s crew is playing along, pretending Paul Walker’s character is still alive. They leave an empty chair for him at dinner. (He is on his way. Just stopped off for some smokes.)

Why exactly is Jordana Brewster here, anyway? I mean her character, of course; the actress is a delight. Mia Toretto is not exactly bringing anything to the table. Outside of maybe as a kidnap victim and someone else to testify to the otherwise unbelievable fact that Vin Diesel and John Cena are brothers.

One last kudos the stinger with Jason Statham is superb. Well, good at making me wish I watching a Jason Statham film. I wonder where Hobbs & Shaw is streaming?

John Cena is a mess (Part one)

John Cena is a mess. First, let’s acknowledge the giant International box office in the room. The Fast and Furious franchise lives or dies by its international box office. And nowhere overseas is more important than China. Now Fast and Furious is hardly unique to this. Most large franchises have gone out of thier way to hire Chinese stars for roles in thier movies (Rogue One), set thier movies adjacent to China (The Meg), or film entire scenes with Chinese characters and Chinese product placement just for the Chinese market (Iron Man 3’s Dr. Wu)

It may be hard to remember, but not that long ago Hollywood would rail against the Chinese government’s treatment of Tibet. In 1997 Disney released Kundun by Martin Scorsese about the Dali Llama. You are more likely to find Song of The South on Disney streaming nowadays than Kundun.

Tibet is not the only hot button one should avoid for China. Of course we also have Taiwan. Now films have taken various approaches here as well from the sublime, such as when Top Gun: Maverick gave Tom Cruise’s iconic flight jacket to a Taiwanese flag free makeover. To the ridiculous where Red Dawn (2012) changed the invading force from China to North Korea after the film had already been completed. (North Korea has been a stand in for China in video games as well, with most notably Homefront.)

So John Cena accidentally called Taiwan a country while on a press tour and this is the reason for that horrifying video he made apologizing to the Chinese in Chinese, which had all the looks of a hostage video from a POW. You would think that Joseph Goebbels was offscreen with a gun and a kitten the way he carried on.

John Cena is a mess (Part Two)

John Cena is horrible in F9. He is a charisma black hole. He is being out acted by both Vin Diesel and various parts of the set. Perhaps he is better in other movies (Looks like Scooby-Doo! WrestleMania Mystery needs to go on the queue) because the over melodramatic script and storyline do him no favors here.

Cena looks so clueless. I kind of feel sorry for him. Here is a long established series with a lot of tension on set. To the point there are at least two actors who, at some point, would not work with Dwayne Johnson. (Series mainstays, Vin Diesel and Tyrese Gibson) and the phrase Candyass entered the American vernacular.

I don’t believe either Vin Diesel or Dwayne Johnson are “Candyasses”. Vin Diesel had that one thing that really worked for him (see Pitch Black) and unfortunately, both his acting choices and his age have robbed him of that. (He should have stayed the strong silent type keyword there being silent.) Dwayne Johnson’s luck ran out and his ability to turn what should be horrible movies great (Jumani, Rampage) has soured with the very public disappointment surrounding Black Adam.

No, to me a “Candyass” is someone posting a video apologetically crying in his tormentors native language. I mean c’mon man, at least Denton blinked for the camera.

I Owe 2 Fast 2 Furious an Apology

No, I am not changing my score or even my review for 2 Fast 2 Furious. I had fun watching that movie. It isn’t great, but at least it is fun. F9 is a slog in comparison. 2 Fast 2 Furious has better music, better looking cars, and much better pacing. You what it doesn’t have? Endless talks about family, including a certain family member we somehow forgot to mention for the last eight movies.

As an aside, since this review is not nearly 2 Long 2 Off Topic I was listening to a podcast (Please don’t leave yet) World’s Greatest Con with the dynamic Brian Brushwood. (I promise this is on point). It is about a con operation to fool Hitler which made me think of 2 Fast 2 Furious. (Okay, I am off the rails here)

Okay, let me back up a smidge. In my review of 2 Fast 2 Furious, one of my major criticisms was the following. “If you needed someone to drive two million dollars from Miami to Key West (all of 2 hours on Interstate 95 and Route 1), would you A: hire an old couple in an RV B: Drive it yourself or C: Hire two ex-cons in the flashiest cars you have ever seen and who had to this point been incapable of rounding the block without causing an accident and attracting various state and local agencies.”

Well, it turns out when our conmen in the Hitler story had to deliver a body from London to a Scottish sub base; they hired St John Horsfall. A racing car driver so flashy he could be played by Rik Mayall’s Lord Flashhart. He, of course, drives the panel truck containing the corpse at night, with no lights on, at top speed, and at one point becoming airborne when he goes through a roundabout instead of the usually prescribed around.

So if a flashy reckless race car driver is good enough for taking down Hitler, it is good enough for taking down Cole Hauser.

The Bad

The Bad: Oh my God, F9 has become self aware of how stupid it is. This does not make it any less stupid, mind you. In fact, this somehow makes it worse than if they played it off straight. This is a hard trick to pull off. It can be done. The first Scream, for example, worked mainly because the opening scene was so effective that even though the remaining characters were aware of the slasher tropes, the consequences were still there.

There are no consequences in F9, and it kills the movie. Cars fly in space. Bullets seem to have zero effect on muscle cars. Cars seem to have no gravity. Emotional stakes are nil. People come back to life with the filmiest of excuses and nothing is real and nothing matters. And on top of all that, F9 just isn’t entertaining. It is a silly cartoon with cartoon people that we simply don’t care for.

The Ugly

The Ugly: What is the deal with’s Han’s adopted daughter/ girlfriend/ concubine? Is there a deleted scene that explains all this because I don’t think the movie knows what her role is from one scene to another? Was there a writer’s strike during production we didn’t hear about?

And then we have the Magnets. The devices referred to as electromagnets perform feats that are not possible for such a device, including violently repelling cars. Real electromagnets can’t repel objects or attract objects only from one direction, and the power requirements and heat generated by an electromagnet capable of pulling a car from just a few inches away have been completely ignored. The devices are not realistic in any way and can only be explained by magic. Perhaps they got them from the nearby Hogwarts.

In Conclusion

In Conclusion: Going into space is fine. Neither James Bond nor Jason Voorhees have any legitimate reason to go to space and yet both Moonraker and Jason X are a lot of fun. In fact, Moonraker is an excellent example of the tone that F9 should have emulated.

F9 fails at all the basic levels. The script does not know what it is supposed to be about (It starts out as a mission to save Kurt Russell, which is never mentioned again. Apparently he is still out there waiting for rescue?). The actors all seem to be in a different movie. Hell, a couple of them comment on how dumb F9 is during the actual movie. They are like a rap version of Statler and Waldorf.

It is disappointing that F9 is such a terrible movie because I do so enjoy writing about it. On the bright side, at least Star Wars fans can rejoice. They no longer have the worst film with a dead Han in it.

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