‘I’ ON CULTURE
Unfortunately, Fast and Furious 9 is like a classic sports car. It’s fancy, has all the bells and whistles, and creaks as it moves. The new movie (and, yes, I actually went back to a movie theater) has enough dialogue stolen from past versions, not to mention plot twists, and returning characters, many of whom had previously died, to not even seem like a new film.
Dom (Vin Diesel) and Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) are living off the grid with his young son. A son not by her, which is not surprising because unless they are behind the wheel of a vehicle, they have about as much chemistry together as Pee Wee Herman with Kamala Harris. Yet despite their essentially being in hiding, it looks like just about everyone in the world knows where their dumpy little farm is. And many of them drop in to visit.
A couple of old friends Roman (Tyrese Gibson) and Tej (Ludicris) come to visit to let them know that “Mr. Nobody” (Kurt Russell) has captured master villain Cipher (Charlize Theron). For those who have not seen the earlier films, it makes little difference. She is bad and he is, well, untrustworthy and power hungry.
The big point supposedly is that Cipher can put together a device called Ares that controls all the world’s weapons. And, according to one of the goofballs, “If Mr. Nobody gets his hands on this, he’ll be the god of… everything.” That line alone should be a warning that this will not be a film for intellectuals.
To add another complication, Dom’s estranged brother Jakob (John Cena) is now a supervillain who also loves hot cars, possibly as an excuse for not thinking, and works against the group.
Of course, no one expects much intelligent plot in these films. We’re supposed to enjoy fraternal wisecracking (Dom has spent most of the time in these films talking about family… it is possible some scenes were actually taken from previous movies) and incredible auto stunts. But most of the stunts seem tired or overdone, particularly the one where Roman and Tej shoot into space in a Pontiac attached to a rocket.
The cast essentially goes through the motions. Diesel pretends to be a world-saver more intent on his family and making fatuous statements than anything else. Rodriguez, an attractive woman, looks like she would like to be with anyone other than Diesel. Cena, who spent a lot of recent time groveling to China, almost certainly wrestles better than he acts. On the other hand, Gibson and Ludicris are charming idiots, and Nathalie Emmanuelle as a far better hacker than driver is one of the highlights of the film. Helen Mirren, who reportedly fought to get in these movies, walks away with every scene (far too few) she is in through the simple feat of really knowing how to act.
Should you see it? Well, it was interesting going back to the movie theaters (my first time in well over a year), but I wish it had been for a really good movie. It is a perfect movie if you want brainless entertainment, but the main word here is brainless.
I enjoyed some of the earlier films a bit, but I think I’m over this series.