As me and my friends were coming out I said, in a tongue-in-cheek way, “And the award for most realistic film goes too…”. The funniest part being how across the Fast & Furious series cartoon realism’s built to a point where Roman (Tyrese Gibson) smartly questions whether they’ve got invincibility, having even survived a submarine incident without any scars. OTT spectacle can only take you so far after all if it’s not rooted in something I suppose. And boy does F9 root the action in what now feels like borderline classical melodrama, only ramped up to being a very expensive B movie (as they say).
After multiple lines of dialogue about this ensemble being “family” that’s served many a drinking game, now the protagonist Dominic Toretto (played with conviction if a slight gravellyness by Vin Diesel that makes you wonder if he could voice Batman?) has a long-lost enemy brother (Jakob – played by John Cena) to fight. Additionally, I read that Michelle Rodriguez who plays Letty threatened to walk away unless the female characters were better written by now. So although the series’ OTT melodrama still sadly results in them feeling a little underserved, at least this time they’re more heavily involved in the action (Rodriguez never fails to indulge in an inner badass after all). This extends to a point of Jordana Brewster sweetly returning as the sister – Mia Toretto – partnering with Rodriguez at multiple points. Everyone mostly serves the “family” in their own right then.
Apart from noting the female characters still being somewhat sidelined, despite having an extended participation in the movie, my chief complaint’s that at 2+hours F9 can stretch patience. Indeed, with a bit of retconning going on, you may wonder how much the melodrama could just be an excuse to be a little silly?
In any case, there’s some brilliant set-pieces, the 3rd act being proof. I mean, Roman alongside Tej (Ludacris as the latter) drive a car into space for goodness sake, and yet you smile. Tom Cruise has nothing on this.
Overall I probably can’t complain too much then. F9 can feel a little too indulgent for its own good, but so has many a historical epic to be fair. Make sure you watch this at a cinema, especially on an IMAX screen if you can!