by Bill Stamets

F9 – The Ninth Extension of the Extended Family of “The Fast and the Furious”

Posted in Uncategorized by Bill Stamets on June 28, 2021

“F9” extends the high-octane fun of an East L.A. street racing crew introduced in the 2001 crowd-pleaser “The Fast and the Furious.” Cars race, cars crash, kin clash, kin bond. The collateral damage in escalating chase sequences is incalculable, yet no blood is visibly shed in this PG-13 fare.

Long-standing father issues and sibling rivalry fuel a screenplay by Daniel Casey and Justin Lin. Lin directs. It’s his fifth in the series. He is also listed as director of the upcoming tenth. A “chapter” is how Universal Pictures identifies each feature in what it publicizes as its “most-profitable and longest-running franchise.”

The studio booked free screenings of all eight prior chapters in the weeks leading up to the release of “F9.” A press release quotes Jim Orr, President of Domestic Theatrical Distribution: “The Fast films are all about family, and Universal wanted to find a way to thank our huge family of Fast fans around the country for their passion and loyalty over the past 20 years.”

Actor-producer Vin Diesel plays Dom Toretto, a father-figure leading a loyal band of outliers, if not outlaws. His character is among those originally created by Gary Scott Thompson. In supporting roles appear Michelle Rodriguez, Nathalie Emmanuel, Tyrese Gibson and Chris “Ludacris” Bridges.

In initial chapters the ever-expanding family-like crew makes deals with law enforcement to take down local bad guys. On missions further and further from Los Angeles County, Dom and his crew take on bigger and badder bad guys offering muscle car muscle for an off-the-books CIA guy. 

Now they’re tasked “to stop a world-shattering plot,” as Universal promotes “F9. ”Unclear who to invoice for their services this time, since the deniably CIA-affiliated Mr. Nobody (Kurt Russell) and his jet were mysteriously intercepted over the Montequinto jungle near Mexico’s southern border during a prisoner transport of cyberterrorist Cipher (Charlize Theron), a carry-over character from the eighth chapter.

Techno terrorist treachery is the accelerator for more thriller vehicular action. Diesel– his last name fits Dom’s calling in the petro sector– ratchets up the gamut of vehicles from film to film. Airborne crashes abound in “F9.” The first occurs on a professional race track in 1989. They get bigger and bigger. The ultimate iteration is literally orbital. Amateur rocket scientists soup up a 1984 Pontiac Fiero to ram a satellite. 

“As long as we obey the laws of physics we’ll be fine,” advises a wheelman not known for obeying traffic laws. Trash talk is the usual sidekick dialogue in downtime between action sequences. Add earnest cliches for lead characters like: “Is this who we are?” and “This isn’t who we are.” A clever touch— “No sign of Mr. Nobody”— is occasioned as Dom’s team searches the wreckage of his jet downed in “a deeply militarized zone.” 

No body is found. Just half of a green military grade polyhedron that cues the first in a winning string of meta lines: “What the hell is this?” As much asked of the screenwriters who scripted that question, as asked of other characters in that scene. 

It’s half of the thing they will devote the rest of the 145-minute running time to finding the other half of. Before the bad guys get their hands on both halves and upload the thing that then “reboots the world order.” 

The good guys and bad guys must also find the secret key to trigger the thing, “a weapon so dangerous it should not exist for another half century.” Tech for hacking all the weapon systems of the world via satellite came from Project Aries. It’s a significant upgrade of God’s Eye, the global surveillance gizmo from the seventh and eighth chapters.

Quests to locate things with great powers is a trope found in any number of action thriller plots, as well as supernatural, horror and space fantasy films where evildoers and those who would undo them seek ancient curse-empowered things across the centuries or the cosmos. I imagine the screenwriters on “F9” tossed in this mindless device as self-satire.

Another example of playing the meta card is a line dissing the good guys: “You’re all the heroes in your own stories.” That’s why there are stories, right? Elsewhere there’s an extended exchange about which of three different “Star Wars” characters inspires bad guy Otto (Thue Ersted Rasmussen).

One of Dom’s crew does some deep thinking out loud about how it’s even possible he and his companions have survived so very many near-death experiences in their missions. We must be– can we possibly unbelievably truly be– “invincible”? Only a virtual survivor of screen action sequences could ask that. At least only in a franchise screenplay full of over-the-top action.

“F9” characters pose another existential question of mortality when Han (Sung Kang), supposedly killed in the third chapter, is now resurrected. “I’m still trying to figure out how you’re still alive,” asks one fictional character of the other. Flashback to a tragic

fiery crash on a Tokyo street. Handy explanation: “Mr. Nobody had a way of making things look real.” Implying you-know-who is coming back in the tenth film.

Political messaging is negligible in “F9” although no doubt Q-Anon cultists are already busy researching its covert signals. After all, three days before the release of “F9” Donald J. Trump released a statement promising more vote “information”: “It’s coming out FAST and FURIOUS. The 2020 Presidential Election was rigged!”

“The world is run by spoiled rich pricks,” opines Otto, speaking only of and for himself.

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