Summer escapism at its Bondian best.
F9:The Fast Saga
Remember when summer movies used to be fun. They’re back after a fun-sucking year, headed by Justin Lin’s ridiculously enjoyable F9: The Fast Saga. With nine installments, the Fast and Furious franchise is arguably the leading purveyor of endless car wrecks, physics defying, and melodramatic fixation on family to reduce even jaded critics like myself to tears and laughter. Vin Diesel and crew deserve credit for making sure this summer is light and airy.
he foundation for anything thematic and even aesthetic is the struggle between brothers Dom (Diesel) and Jakob (John Cena), the latter threatening to wield malevolent power over the world with the heavy-handed guidance of snarky hacker Cipher (Charlize Theron). The F9 crew, headed by the occasionally smiling, gravel-voiced, saturnine Diesel and his sharp-as-hell girlfriend Letty (Michelle Roderiguez), are determined to stop Jakob and his superiors, who include the kingpin looking suspiciously like an aging Kurt Russell. While the competition is furious, the laughs are equally charged, mostly done in a low delivery so as not to draw attention to themselves.
Although the several world locations like London and Tokyo add visual beauty to the backgrounds, the car races are the real heart of the action, edited with first-rate precision by Stephen F. Windon and his cinematography crew. The number of vehicles destroyed is countless, but the ballet that brings on their destruction is so furiously fast as to make the aud breathless or at least dazzled by the verisimilitude. The car to beat even the best of the Dodge Chargers is a Pontiac Fiero, capable of taking an orbit at a single bound. F9 is a car buff’s heaven.
Besides breathless chases, F9 includes an out-there dream sequence, enough flashbacks to make their own origin-story movie. And characters re-appearing from the dead, so charismatic as to make you wish they’d stay around longer. Dom’s son Little Brian (the Holdane brothers), named for the late Paul Walker’s character, is the sweet topping for the family motif. Fellow F9 wisecracking mates Roman (Tyrese Gibson) and Tej (Chris “Ludacris” Bridges) are at home teasing each other and quipping in a most delightful way. Han (Sung Kang), long thought to be dead, is greeted wildly. Add an immature Eurotrash dictator-to-be, Otto (Thue Ersted Rasmussen), and you’re in Bond megalomania territory.
They’re all looking for pieces of high-tech hardware that endanger the world if put together in orbit (again reminiscent of Bond films discovering the hair-raising thought that satellites could be used for evil, as if today’s smart phones were not enough). Along the way are brief but thematically relevant conversations about the seeming-immortality of the F9 operatives and the importance of family.
Regardless of whether or not you care about the philosophical musings, F9 rests firmly on its summer laurels of blindingly creative action sequences and appealing actors, even the baddies. So, get off your lounger and go to your local cinema with even more comfortable chairs and sight and sound beyond the capability of your tricked-out home entertainment center.
F9 is pure entertainment, done by a Hollywood that knows about action, sentiment, and summer.
F9: The Fast Saga
Director: Justin Lin (Star Trek Beyond)
Screenplay: Lin, Daniel Casey (Kin)
Cast: Vin Diesel (Fast and the Furious), Michelle Rodriguez (Furious 7)
Run Time: 2h 25m
John DeSando, a Los Angeles Press Club first-place winner for National Entertainment Journalism, hosts WCBE’s It’s Movie Time and co-hosts Cinema Classics. Contact him at JohnDeSando62@gmail.com