For those not in the know, F9: The Fast Saga is the ninth film (not including the spin off Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw) in The Fast and the Furious series that started as a modest B-picture way back in 2001. Since then, the car chase hijinks in the series have become more and more outlandish, eventually transforming it into a live-action cartoon where the laws of physics just don't matter much.
In F9, ex-con, former street racer, and retired government agent Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) and his wife, Letty (Michelle Rodriguez), are again recruited to perform a dangerous mission...and this one is personal. Evil cyberterrorist Cipher (Charlize Theron) has recruited Dom's estranged brother, Jakob (John Cena) to retrieve a doomsday device which has the ability to hack into any computer-controlled weapons system. It's up to Dom and friends to stop Jakob by acquiring the device themselves.
How absurd does F9 get? Well, Dom's comedy relief team members Roman and Tej (Tyrese Gibson and Chris "Ludacris" Bridges, respectively) do blast off into outer space in a rocket car at one point. There is also the use of super-powered magnets in an extended car chase action scene where our heroes have a total disregard for public safety.
The car crash mayhem is a combination of both practical and digital effects, yet director Justin Lin shoots and quick-cuts these scenes from so many different angles that it is hard to appreciate the practical stunts. The same can be said for the fist fights with their fast editing and stumbling drunk, hand-held camera work. Besides, no one seems to get hurt. Sure, Dom gets a few cuts on his eyebrow, but when he gets his head smashed through the top of a door frame, it doesn't even phase him. Also, if you fall from a high place and land on the hood of a car instead of the ground, you are fine.
What bogs the movie down is dull melodrama shown in flashbacks where a younger Dom repeatedly blames his brother for their father's death in a car race. I thought Dom was all about the importance of family? Lies!
Top this off with a bloated running time of 143-minutes and you've got a film series that's getting pretty tired.
F9: The Fast Saga is now in theaters.
** stars (out of four)