Cert – 12, Run-time – 2 hours 23 minutes, Director – Justin Lin
Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) leaves his quiet family life, reteaming with old friends, to stop his younger brother (John Cena) from causing a worldwide technological downfall.
Amongst recognising family, safety and being largely unscathed in grand-scale, explosive action the feeling arises that most of the characters in the Fast And Furious franchise should be fairly thankful that they often don’t have to worry about changing gears. It’s not like it would be a major worry if they did have to do so, for both the characters and the viewer. Such details are far from what people have begun to turn to the action franchise for. While pushing the more sentimental elements of ‘family’ the marketing for this latest entry has truly understood that outlandish spectacles such as magnet planes and rocket cars(!) have become the biggest drawing point for many audience members. And there’s plenty of this on display in, after 20 years, the ninth instalment – which appears to be going for a care destruction world record.
Director Justin Lin’s return to the franchise – having taken a two film break in the main saga after directing each instalment from Tokyo Drift up until Fast And Furious 6 – does add some effective self-aware fun-poking to itself. Tyrese Gibson’ Tej begins to claim that perhaps the team is invincible, having been lucky enough to escape injury, let alone scratches, from their escalating missions so far. Although this is met with mocking laughter from fellow team members Roman (Nathalie Emmanuel) and Tej (Ludacris). Due to this largely being a Toretto centric story the supporting cast don’t always get moments to shine, there are points where there are a lot of characters to remember and keep track of; and so often they feel put more to the side for comic-relief. Michelle Rodriguez and Jordana Brewster certainly often feel somewhat sidelined from the core action that unfolds.
The stakes are perhaps the highest they’ve ever been as Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) finds himself pulled out of a quiet, secluded, family-life retirement to stop a worldwide technological downfall, an attack on all security systems across the globe. The personal detail that pushes him further in this move? The fact that it appears this mission is led by his younger brother, Jakob (John Cena). The siblings battle, race and crash across the globe in fast-paced, often logic-defying, sequences that makes the most of the big screen as the sound of the engines roar through the cinema speakers. Perhaps a number of moments in the first 20 minutes don’t quite have as much of an impact due to how often they’ve been seen in trailers, however past that there’s plenty to enjoy and be thrilled by in the nearly 2 and a half hour course of the film.
What pushes the run-time are some of the more personal flashbacks for Diesel’s main character. Throwbacks to the late-80’s and early-90’s show his fallout with Cena’s character (the younger versions played by Vinnie Bennett and Finn Cole respectively). Such emotional moments don’t quite have an impact and leave you waiting for the next barrage of nonsensical stunts. While there are some throwbacks to the original stylings of the franchise, going back to the drag race roots in one particular slight-breather sequence, for the most part the flashbacks don’t perhaps add as much as perhaps wanted to the piece. Yet, its the fight and action sequences that work well, have the biggest effect and make the film what it is. So what if they sometimes seem a bit extreme? By now we’ve become accustomed to the workings of these films, and there’s something entertaining and enjoyable about them, the boundaries that they continue to push, looking forward to what absurd, yet undeniably thrilling, spectacle we’ll see swooping; flying, crashing, exploding, dropping, racing, leaping, roaring or shooting into frame next. Whatever it is, it’s likely we’ll be very much there for it, wide-eyed in amazement at the glorious ridiculousness of the exciting street-wrecking action.
Character flashbacks may push the run-time, especially with so many other figures to focus on, but luckily most of Fast And Furious 9 is filled with thrilling, expectation pushing action that fits right in with the constantly escalating nature of the franchise.