A kind of 007 for Chavs, innit? But it’s impossible to stop liking the ride..
CITIZEN KANE! THE GODFATHER PART 2. DEBBIE DOES DALLAS. Some movies are all time greats and immediate classics. FAST 9 is in that pantheon, right? Right? Ok..maybe not..But..
..One cannot deny the charm of this increasingly silly series and I dare say most people can see why they keep making these sequels. So yes, I enjoyed FAST 9. Is it high art? Of course not. Is it even the best in its own series (no: by a long shot). This is shameless FUN, nonetheless, rather than the roadside skid mark on cinema the some would propose.
I came to this Vin Diesel led franchise relatively late in the game. I think the first I saw at the Cinema was FAST 8. I laughed, throughout and immediately watched the whole series. After many years of grading English composition papers with kids calling their character ‘Dominic Toretto’, FINALLY I ‘got’ his appeal. And that starts with his being played by Mr. Diesel.
He’s what every wannabe hard man adolescent fantasises about being. And if that’s a way into the joy of creative writing, car maintenance, body building and a ‘code’ of familllleeee..then all the better. Young people need strong role models and like him or not, Diesel is just that. Vin worked his way into film from the ground up and has crafted a career on his own terms, like Toretto, ‘a quarter a mile at a time’.
That said? The best entry in the whole series was probably FAST FIVE. It is larger in scale than its preceding chapters but stops short of the science fiction level super heroics witnessed in subsequent entries. Its secret weapon magic ingredient was Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson. And his rivalry with Vin!
Diesel v Johnson MADE this series into a true blockbusting behemoth. Throw in Statham for good measure and you have a triple act of comedy, muscles, testosterone fuelled rivalry and genuinely charismatic action hero credentials. Remove even one of those elements and alas, the formula falls slightly flatter, like a car battery that needs a boost.
That is why the Statham /Johnson spin off was so awful imho: no Diesel! And it’s why Vin on his own in effect here in FAST 9 kinda lacks something. It’s over-earnest maybe?
Toretto/ Hobbs/Shaw need each other to justify their inflated run times. John Cena is brought into FAST 9 to add some new blood (literally). And he is solid here. Has a look of an Arnold Schwarzenegger Terminator. He will go far. But even Cena cannot fill out the hollow mess.
Charlize Theron cameos (I LOVE HER!) but inexplicably they give her a distractingly unflattering haircut imho. Helen Mirren sports possibly the worst English accent in the history of cinema. Which is a BIT odd, given that she is in fact, um..English (via dash of Russian..I dunno..ask Michael Parkinson, he’s the Mirren expert, or so it seemed in that ghastly interview from 1975 which does the man no favours imho). I digress. All over the shop. Bit like FAST 9.
Speaking of which? Said movie’s plot is entirely irrelevant and disposable. The locations truly do trot the globe but now at such random a selection that they seem to give up even telling us where the climactic battles take place? Correct me if wrong.
The London and Scottish geography are also so hilariously unrealistic that yet again, I wonder if I am watching an all out parody/ spoof? I do like the White Ball scene, though. I went to one of those a few years ago: enormous fun.
The main villain has zero menace. He’s like Robert Webb doing a bad impression of Hugh Laurie circa Blackadder 2. There is some gratuitous Star Wars referencing and a nod to Days of Thunder via a Michael Rooker appearance in mentor mode.
Brian Tyler’s score is sadly drowned out by the action in most scenes: did they ever use the series’ theme tune in this latest entry? Conspicuous by seeming absence. Reduces the pace and energy a tad: frightful shame as Brian is a great talent. I met him at a VIP concert a few years ago with his lovely family and spoke to one of the vocalists from his scores. Lovely memory. Thank you, Mr Tyler!
Back to the film: for all of FAST 9’s flaws and limitations? I did enjoy it enormously. Its great strength is the lack of expectation on its depth and substance. So when profundity comes up (and it does, in genuinely touching subtext about brotherhood and reconciliation), one can even find intellectual and soulful layers. Seriously. I am not joking this time.
Incidentally: did you know that Christopher Nolan ( a director and that) enjoys a good Fast/Furious movie? Makes sense. Coz TENET is basically FAST 10 without laughs and with less consequential plot via pseudo erudite pretension. At least FAST 9 knows and enjoys its limitations.
Maybe Nolan can helm Diesel’s next mission? So long as they bring back Dwayne and Statham too, it would be excellent, no doubt. And feature time travel, perhaps? That’s the next logical move in a series that has just gone to OUTER SPACE yet loses neither credibility nor charm for all that.
In short? Go in expecting nothing and you will come away suitably entertained and refreshed by FAST 9. It’s ultimately an ACTION film and delivers on that score in every set-piece from start to end.
Welcome back to the Movies, at last!