And while there have been many jokes made over the years about the franchise itself, it is one franchise that can boast that it has never produced a film that was universally hated by both fans and critics alike. Hardcore fans have even found things to love about 2Fast 2Furious and Tokyo Drift, which are in comparison to the other films the weaker ones. People keep waiting for that Fast & Furious movie that is going to be truly terrible – but it never seems to come. And I can happily say that it certainly doesn’t happen with F9 which is actually up there with some of the highlights of the franchise.
This time around the film opens with Dom (Vin Diesel) and Lettie (Michelle Rodriguez – Avatar) living a quiet country lifestyle with Dom’s son. That quiet life is quickly pushed to the side though when Roman (Tyrese Gibson – Transformers), Tej (Ludacris – Crash) and Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel – Game Of Thrones) shows up with an encrypted message from Mr Nobody (Kurt Russell – The Hateful Eight) asking for the group’s help.
After viewing the message himself, Dom soon realises that this isn’t going to be a simple search and rescue mission because he recognises the work of his arch nemesis – the dangerous hacker Cipher (Charlize Theron – Monster) and a ghost from his and Mia’s (Jordana Brewster – The Texas Chainsaw Massacre) past – their brother Jakob (John Cena – Bumblebee).
What makes F9 work so well is the same as what has endeared me to this franchise for so long – the films have heart and are not just big soulless action flicks. Audiences have come to know and love Dom, Letty, Mia and their crew and here the screenwriters and director Justin Lin (Fast Five) feed off that.
The fact that this film explores the relationship between Dom and Jakob and even shows the moment that Dom changed from being a teenager into a man in a flash second gives this film a heart and soul that the fans are just going to love. Those flashbacks instantly show the haters that there is still a lot more to explore in this Fast & Furious universe. And the way that they intertwine with the action sequences of the modern day action shows that Lin is a director that knows how to tell a story as well as direct action.
As audiences have come to expect from this franchise the action sequences here are amazing. Lin once again returns back to more car-based action (there is even a joke told about tanks and submarines) with a finale that while out of this world is shot so well that the audience can still enjoy it.
The only weakness with this film is that with Jakob and Cipher already in the picture Otto (Thue Ersted Rasmussen – Sunday) almost seems redundant as a villain and that the excuses for Paul Walker’s character of Brian not being around are getting pretty thin. Lines indicating that he is staying at home and looking after his kids while his wife is out battling villains is border-line disrespectful to the character’s memory and you almost wonder whether they would have been better off killing Brian in the franchise after the untimely death of Walker.
All up though F9 is a film that fans of the franchise are going to love, and yes there are a few unexpected surprises thrown in for everyone as well. Casual viewers may find some of the characters confusing given that the screenplay relies on you having seen their character set-ups and storylines in previous films. The action is epic and the heroes are deep and meaningful – once again this franchise has given us all its best.
F9 is currently screening in Phuket and is classified 15.
David Griffiths has been working as a film and music reviewer for over 20 years. That time has seen him work in radio, television and in print. You can follow him at www.facebook.com/subcultureentertainmentaus