F9 (Fast & Furious 9)

Verdict: A slick but braindead popcorn pleaser.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past twenty years The Fast Saga (ten films in total, including a spin-off) has been loudly spinning its wheels by throwing subtlety to the wind in favour of bold accessible thrills. I’m hardly The Fast Saga’s target audience, but this action franchise doesn’t seem to care—and that’s something to admire.

Its latest instalment, F9, picks up where the previous film (The Fate of the Furious) left off and follows Dom (Vin Diesel, who shows as narrow an acting range as, well, Groot) as he comes to terms with a sibling rivalry that erupted soon after their father’s death. Dom’s brother (a slightly less Groot-ish John Cena) has gone rogue and is now mining super-hacker Cipher (Theron) for information on a weaponised plot device that, when boiled down, is nothing more just an excuse for Dom and his posse to drive fast and blow shit up.

It’s easy for a reviewer such as myself to dismiss F9 as a formulaic studio production built solely on a ton of inflated posturing, action set-pieces, and a plot that has as much cinematic nutrition as a bowl of processed chicken nuggets… and I’d be kinda right. But this isn’t trying to be a social realist art film and there is some technically impressive production wrangling on show here. F9 has a cohort of writers, a large and mixed pedigree of actors—from Oscar winners Helen Mirren and Charlize Theron (who cash in), to the aptly named rapper, Ludacris, and fellow muso Cardi B (who are probably also cashing in big)—and a gigantic post-production team, all who have been competently corralled by director Justin Lin. The Taiwanese-American director now has five Fast films under his bonnet and the ease at which the action flows from his camera is the product of a well-oiled machine.

Undoubtedly, The Fast Saga has become slicker with each chapter under Lin’s watch, and this is no exception. The increasing ridiculousness of each action set-piece and the healthy dollops of fourth-wall-breaking meta-comedy make F9 a serviceable ride and should please fans of the franchise. However, you get the feeling it might be time to park this series before the gas runs out.

See my reviews for the NZ Herald here and for Witchdoctor here.