In “The Spy Who Loved Me,” James Bond drove a Lotus Esprit into the ocean where it transformed into a submarine, and nobody blinked an eye. Now imagine Vin Diesel behind the wheel. Same reaction? Of course not. He’s a grease monkey, not a suave secret agent. When you look back at the stunts in the James Bond franchise, there have been quite a few WTF moments including windsurfing on a tsunami, a gondola that turns into a hovercraft, and a laser battle in outer space. So, is it really that insane when Tyrese and Ludacris take a Pontiac Fiero and…? Yes, it is. But it’s also very amusing and let’s face it, you’re here to have a good time.
When you’re nine chapters deep into a franchise, each film trying to outdo the previous one, there are going to be some “jump the shark” moments. If the “F9” opening scene which takes place in a Central American jungle as Letty (Michelle Rodriguez), Dom (Vin Diesel), Roman (Tyrese Gibson), Tej (Ludacris), and Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel) dodge a gazillion bullets while driving through a minefield defying the laws of physics, isn’t absurd enough for you, just wait until you see what happens during the finale in what feels like a cross between “Tenent” and “Moonraker.” Forget about logic; just go with Harry’s advice to Sergeant Stedenko in “Up in Smoke” — “So, go with it.”
Justin Lin returns as director after helming chapters 3-6 adding a screenwriting credit alongside Daniel Casey (“KIN”) who reinforce the saga’s family theme while resurrecting beloved character Han Lue (Sung Kang) who was first introduced in Lin’s 2002 film “Better Luck Tomorrow” and later in “The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift” where he suffered the unfortunate fate of dying in a fiery crash (“So, go with it”). Lucas Black, Shad “Bow Wow” Moss, and Jason Tobin also reprise their “Tokyo” characters and you can expect cameos from Helen Mirren and Cardi B.
“F9” is the story of two brothers, Dom and Jakob (John Cena), who we first see together during a flashback to 1989. The boys are on their father’s pit crew, race car driver Jack Toretto (JD Pardo) who dies in a fiery crash after a rival driver (Jim Parrack) forces him into a wall. Vinnie Bennett plays the young Dom while Finn Cole tackles young Jakob. The brothers become estranged after their father’s death and now three decades later the two are reunited as rivals.
Charlize Theron (sporting a cool short bob) reprises her role as criminal mastermind Cipher — now held captive like a modern-day Hannibal Lecter — who is on the baddies team alongside Jakob and rich, spoiled, wannabe-villain Otto (Thue Ersted Rasmussen) who you love to hate. Theron spouts off the film’s best line as she compares Otto to Jedi Master Yoda in a funny “Star Wars” reference (and there are quite a few) that’s far from a compliment.
Jordana Brewster returns as Dom and Jakob’s sister Mia (mother to Brian O’ Conner’s children) who joins Dom’s crew for the latest mission as the franchise continues to distance itself from illegal street racing becoming a full-fledged spy franchise. Move over Tom Cruise.
So, what’s all the fuss this time around? As if it matters, everyone is trying to get their hands on a device called Aries that resembles a high-tech soccer ball (probably made by Hasbro) that can hack into weapons systems and destroy the world (insert maniacal laugh).
If this were a logical film based on science everyone would be dead (judging by the number of close calls) but it’s not. These characters are invincible — it becomes a running gag for the film’s comic relief Roman — and no matter how many farfetched, over-the-top stunts take place, just remember if Daniel Craig or Tom Cruise was behind the wheel, they would somehow feel legit. Lin took the franchise to new heights during his previous reign and one thing is for sure, he sure knows how to entertain an audience. The summer blockbuster has arrived. Make sure you stick around during the credits for at least one more cameo.
(2 ½ stars)