The Fast and the Furious series has been running for 20 years. That’s longer than Marvel Studios and most other film franchises, and after a slight COVID delay, the next film in the franchise is finally upon us. A few people are missing from the ensemble cast in F9: The Fast Saga, but overall, this is another high-stakes, high-octane action film that will very likely please fans of the last few entries in the series. Let’s take a closer look at our review of F9: The Fast Saga.
What’s kept the Fast and Furious franchise around for so long is the fact that it may as well be three franchises in one. It has evolved multiple times to appeal to wider and wider audiences. What started as a race in the desert and an attempt to stop a Los Angeles-based fencing ring, has turned into global espionage that rivals the likes of the Mission: Impossible and Jason Bourne franchises.
The last few Fast Saga entries have been completely over-the-top action films. By now most moviegoers understand that you turn your brain off, sit back, and enjoy the mayhem unfolding in front of you. That hasn’t changed with F9, but it is missing a few key components that helped make everything work in previous films. The most notable absence is Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson), missing his first Fast Saga film since the character was introduced in Fast 5.
While the feud between Johnson and Vin Diesel has been widely reported, the lack of Johnson’s charisma is sorely missed in F9. The latest film adds John Cena as Jakob Toretto (Dom’s long-lost brother), but swapping one former wrestler out for another is not an equal trade. Cena’s character is hard-nosed and underdeveloped, resulting in an uneven affair.
A good portion of F9 is spent fleshing out the backstory between Jakob and Dom (Vin Diesel). Unfortunately, this slows down the pacing of the film considerably. Instead of the non-stop barrage of action showcased in the last few films, F9 takes its time. There are wild action set pieces, but the downtime between them feels elongated, especially when a large amount of that time is spent with young Dom and Jakob in an effort to explain their history and why we haven’t even heard of the character until the ninth film in the saga.
Justin Lin returns to direct F9, having been absent from the series since Fast & Furious 6. While Fast 6 was a decent entry in the franchise, it was also the last entry that felt more grounded. It was still more about racing and Dom’s crew of thieves, and less about global espionage. It doesn’t help that Lin hasn’t had an amazing directorial track record since Fast 6 (sorry Star Trek fans).
The powers that be at Universal Pictures probably thought it was a good idea to bring in the person who directed Fast 3-6, but those were completely different films compared to where the franchise is now. It doesn’t matter how many familiar faces are brought back into the series with F9, the franchise has grown considerably since Lin last handled directing duties. The slowed-down pacing of F9 shows that Lin may not have been the best choice for the evolved franchise.
Combine a missing Hobbs and Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham), with a lackluster new villain in Otto (Thue Ersted Rasmussen), and a director that doesn’t have his hand on the pulse of this evolved franchise. What you end up with is a film that, while still keeping in line with the last few entries in the series, comes up short in comparison to Furious 7 and The Fate of the Furious.
F9 is only slightly better than the Hobbs & Shaw spin-off film, which was less than stellar due to the lack of the ensemble cast from the main films. The Fast Saga is at its best when all of the key components are there: big action, the biggest cast members of the ensemble, and a director who can handle the scope and pacing needed to make it all work. This movie only delivers on the action, with everything else coming up short. Lin is rumored to direct the next film in the franchise, so let’s hope he sets the bar a little higher.
About F9: THE FAST SAGA
Synopsis: Dom Toretto is living the quiet life off the grid with Letty and his son, but they know that danger always lurks just over the peaceful horizon. This time, that threat forces Dom to confront the sins of his past to save those he loves most. His crew soon comes together to stop a world-shattering plot by the most skilled assassin and high-performance driver they’ve ever encountered — Dom’s forsaken brother.
Director: Justin Lin
Stars: Vin Diesel, Michelle Rodriguez, Jordana Brewster, Ludacris, Nathalie Emmanuel, Tyrese Gibson, Charlize Theron, John Cena, Sung Kang, Helen Mirren, Kurt Russell, Michael Rooker, Finn Cole
Runtime: 2 Hours, 25 Minutes
Releases: June 25th, 2021 (USA)
Bryan Dawson has been writing professionally since the age of 13. He started his career as a video game writer and has since worked for Random House, Prima Games, DirecTV, IGN, AOL, the British Government, and various other organizations. For GNN, Bryan taps into his passion for movies.