'F9 : The Fast Saga' (2021) Review: Big & Boastful.
It’s hard to think of a film series with more humble beginnings. What began as a gritty exploration of underground street racing, has evolved into a spy action adventure franchise with the kind of special effects one used to expect from movies with either superheroes or dinosaurs. ‘F9: The Fast Saga’ is the culmination of 20 years worth of history, but more than that unprecedented achievement, the series is now trapped in an unending pursuit of bigger and better visuals to justify its existence.
Whereas Marvel films operate on a superhuman basis, Fast and Furious maintains that its protagonists are in fact human. The job of the film is to put these ordinary heroes into countless situations that by all accounts should leave them either intensely injured or fatally wounded. F9 is exceedingly good at visualizing these dangerous situations, but is less interested in explaining how exactly the crew does the impossible again and again.
Truthfully, the film would be worse for it. The movie is most entertaining when it moves at a nitrous speed from one action event to the next. Any attempt to make sense out of it would surely kill the fun F9 brings to audiences. The film flexes the kind of self awareness to push the series into full blown parody, while still showing some mileage left.
That mileage will run out once the films stop being fun. Fast 9 thankfully avoids that calamity, but I will say it cuts it close. Ironically the element that saves the series in the regard is historically its most irritating. While his usual lot is that of a screaming imbecile, Tyrese Gibson’s Roman Pearce has the most stunning evolution of the franchise and has become its voice of reason. A running gag in the film is Roman’s theory as to whether or not the crew is actually invincible or just incredibly lucky to have survived their previous escapades. Of course no one takes it seriously because, come on. It’s Roman.
On the flip side of things is F9’s near deification of Domonic Toretto. Several times throughout the film, Dom will be referred to as having a reputation worthy of legend. Dom is compared to no less than Genghis Khan, Luke Skywalker, and God (Yes that one). There’s even a flashback in which a young messainic Dom responds to a simple question with a Budda like response. After the last film showed Dom could never actually turn his back on family, F9 wants you to see Domonic Toretto as infallible, just so it can throw some dirt into a backstory that’s only now being explored.
At the crux of this outing is the relationship between Vin Diesel’s Domonic Toretto, and his brother John Cena’s Jakob Toretto. Where has this brother been for the last 20 years? Not to mention the resurrection of Sung Kang’s Han, last seen engulfed in flames in 2015’s ‘Furious 7’. As with the logistics of the action, the less said about these impossible plot lines the better. The film’s premise may be flimsy, but it’s used to play into some more interesting territory. As Dom continues his foray into fatherhood, his clash with his brother causes him to do some deep self reflection into his past, and his character.
Then again, none of it really matters as the series will always revert back to its status quo in time for the next adventure, just as audiences like. The characters will reconvene for a cookout, old enemies will become new friends, and the most important thing will always be family.
Rating: Big Screen Watch