‘F9’ movie review: Fast cars, fighting and family make for fun action film

WATCH: 'Fast & Furious 9' trailer

The Fast & Furious movies get a lot of flak for being mindless, and many folks believe they’re nothing more than glorified car commercials.

While it’s true that most of the 12 existing movies in the franchise, including this latest film, F9, tend to have the same storylines and plot structure, there’s a certain je ne sais quoi to them. Say what you will, the endless, totally unbelievable action is highly entertaining and the nonsensical twists aren’t as bothersome as they are in other franchises.

Yes, enjoying a Fast & Furious movie involves suspending disbelief and embracing what they’re all about: fast cars, fighting and most of all, family.

Is that what F9 is about?

Yep! In its probably-too-long two-and-a-half-hour runtime, we get a veritable buffet of engaging fight sequences and car chases. As is the case in most of the Fast & Furious movies, we also get to stamp our cinematic passport and visit multiple locales — in F9, we go to Montequinto, London, Tokyo, Cologne and other places — that beautifully complement cars going at breakneck speeds and performing physics-defying stunts. Science has no place in this movie, as is made clear in the first 30 minutes.

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Vin Diesel and John Cena star in ‘Fast & Furious 9.’. Giles Keyte/Universal Pictures

The movie’s plot, which is pretty much secondary to the action goings-on, involves Dom Toretto (Vin Diesel) and his younger brother Jakob (John Cena) trying to overcome decades of bad blood while trying to seize a world-destroying weapon. Covering a swath of Europe as they interchangeably chase each other, the story twists and turns, and we even have a couple of big bads to choose from, including fan-favourite Cipher (Charlize Theron). Tyrese and Ludacris, longtime cast members of the franchise, provide endless laughs and a scene you have to see to believe.

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In several instances, the characters poke fun at themselves and even the franchise itself, and this acknowledgement goes a long way.

The plotline isn’t imaginative at all?

As I said above, the plotline is secondary. It’s convoluted too, but it somehow works, as the central message of the movie — nothing is more important than family — comes through loud and clear. The family theme is especially poignant considering the COVID-19 lockdowns and isolation; watching the characters embrace and gather together is surprisingly touching despite the cheesiness.

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One other element that the Fast & Furious franchise never seems to get much credit for is its effortless diversity. In a time when studios are struggling to meet even the lowest standard, Fast & Furious movies have ample representation, and women are not relegated to the background. (There is still a little bit of work that needs to be done in this vein, as F&F movies are quite literally exploding with machismo.)

I’ve heard there are a few surprise guest stars. Is this true?

Yes, there are cameos by multiple people/characters who you most likely aren’t expecting to see. (No spoilers!) Definitely a nice treat for fans of the franchise. This time around, there is barely a reference to the late Paul Walker’s character, but his presence is felt throughout so it doesn’t need to be said. A brutal car racing accident at the start of the film does have echoes of Walker’s tragic death, however.

So what’s the bottom line?

Underneath all the explosions, pulse-racing action and sarcastic jokes, the franchise’s message of the importance of family is ever-present. It doesn’t matter if you’re “blood” family, either; those who you love and keep close to you, even if they’re friends you made along the way, are just as important as relatives.

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As one of the first blockbusters of the summer season, F9 exceeds expectations with its non-stop action. Man, it feels great to finally shut off your brain for a solid couple of hours.

‘F9’ is playing in select theatres and is available for streaming as of June 25 across Canada. Please check your local listings for specific dates/times.

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