Not even a dose of self-awareness can steer Fast & Furious’ penultimate sequel back on course

click to enlarge The ninth installment of the Fast & Furious saga is running on fumes. - Universal Pictures
Universal Pictures
The ninth installment of the Fast & Furious saga is running on fumes.

The Fast & Furious saga rages on with the ninth installment of the action movie franchise that started 20 years ago. This time, director Justin Lin, who helmed parts three through six, is back and taking on co-screenwriting duties for the first time alongside Daniel Casey (Kin). Unfortunately, it’s Lin and Casey’s script that has F9: The Fast Saga sputtering and idling during its penultimate lap around the track.

Luckily for them, most Fast & Furious fans readily admit flashy cars and wild stunts trump narrative substance in the series. F9 isn’t short on either of those two flashy elements, but it would have made more sense to spread the ridiculous car-related action sequences throughout the movie instead of loading them all into the final act. At least we know why it made so much sense to keep rapper Chris “Ludacris” Bridges around for all these years. His nickname sums up the franchise perfectly.

In F9, much of the original cast is back, along with past characters who haven’t been seen in a few years. For example, the trailer already spoils the fact that actor Sung Kang is back as the deceased Han.

If story actually does matter to you, well, here it is: the street racers are back together to get their hands on a powerful object that can control any weapons system in the world. Also, flashbacks show the origins of the bad blood between Dom (Vin Diesel) and Jakob (John Cena). Oh, and a couple of the crew members travel to space — in a rocket-powered car, of course. So there’s that.

Most of the time, Lin and Casey let actor Tyrese Gibson go meta and question the validity of the story by suggesting that he and the other characters are somehow invincible. How else could they survive the numerous fire fights and lethal car crashes they’ve experienced over the past two decades? At one point, the phrase “pretty nifty magic trick” is used to explain away something totally absurd. Yeah, OK.

For this ninth round, Lin and Casey want audiences to know that the movie’s makers are in on the joke. It’s a self-aware albeit lazy approach to storytelling, but the writers don’t appear to mind admitting that much of what they’ve put on the big screen makes little sense. If this is what it’s going to take to get people back to the theaters, so be it.

If you’re hoping this franchise keeps its engines revving after this sequel, Fast & Furious 10 has already been announced. If Universal Studios is looking to do something dumber, they should think about sending the gang to Jurassic World for a crossover. F10: Tyrannosaurus Torque has a nice ring to it.

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