F9: The Fast Saga – What’s Left To Say?

Dept. of Fast, Furious and Family


F9: The Fast Saga, the latest in the Fast and Furious series finally drifts into Malaysian cinemas this week, but honestly, what more can you say about the franchise at this point? The critic proof series, whose baffling naming scheme is matched only by the convolutedness of its timeline, has become an unstoppable juggernaut since being retooled after Fast 5. Even with the pandemic’s effect on cinemas, this latest installment has already racked up a worldwide box office of over USD$700 million, currently second only to Chinese smash hit Hi, Mom, for 2021.

So what is left to be said at this point?

The plot, such as it is, concerns Dom’s team going up against his previously unmentioned brother Jakob (John Cena) and his paramilitary organization, with both teams chasing a MacGuffin that could change the face of the world. Why would Jakob want a MacGuffin that will enable him to take over the world? Dunno.

Why, apart from funding, is he working with spoiled international playboy Otto? Doesn’t matter.

Why do they bother keeping Charlize Theron’s Cipher around after she’s served her purpose? ‘Cause she’s cool.

It’s an approach that not only succeeds, but does so exceedingly well.

The plot provides just enough of a framework to justify an enjoyable globetrotting adventure that delivers plenty of vehicular mayhem, humour, and a plethora of references to previous films.

Chronicles of Ridic-ulous

Despite the series’ oft stated importance of family, probably the real reason F9 succeeds is the love it holds for that family, including all the characters from all the other films, as well as its almost total commitment to the ridiculous.

The reveal that Dom has a previously unmentioned brother, nine movies into the series, is the perfectly preposterous soap opera style development that The Fast Saga has been leaning into for the last few years. Where secret brothers can appear from nowhere and former enemies can become trusted teammates. The key is that Justin Lin, director of Fasts 3, 4, 5, 6, and the next two films, treats the plot with utter seriousness while still throwing in the odd knowing wink to show us that he’s in on the joke.

Despite the odd exhibition of Dom’s “Car Jedi” powers, where he uses one or more cars to achieve physics, gravity, and credibility defying feats, Lin keeps most of the action relatively grounded. Relatively.

This is is still a Fast and Furious movie after all, but Dom no longer seems on a one man mission to disprove that “cars don’t fly.” 

Even the moments where the film does give in to the lure of CGI to achieve the impossible, Lin keeps enough of the real world to keep the ludicrousness of the whole endeavor anchored. As long as you don’t think about the climactic truck flip(s) too much. You’ll believe a Pontiac Fiero can fly, but more importantly, you’ll feel like it can fly.

Movie Series Plotting, Quarter Mile at a Time

F9 proves, once again, that if you treat something seriously enough, no matter how silly, you can get away with it. In the case of Jakob, as long as you include enough flashbacks, you can explain away anything satisfactorily. I look forward to more unannounced antagonistic relatives in entries to come.

And what about the fact that a team of former combo-VCR thieves have turned into supercar spies? Don’t worry. As long as someone comments on it every so often then it’s all good.

Diesel isn’t quite phoning in his performance, but at this stage playing Dom is surely just second nature to him. He does enough growling and the odd action sequence to get the point across, but leaves plenty of room for his team to shine. Even Mia (Jordana Brewster) gets in on the action.

As a villain, Cena is decent enough, although compared to his role in James Gunn’s The Suicide Squad he’s positively restrained.

When I See You Again

F9 truly earns its “Fast Saga” title by embracing its “cinematic universe.” Lin refuses to let an opportunity to insert a character, or relative of a character from the previous films pass, when he could just insert a new one. Why create a new government agent to provide the team with transport to South America for the plot to kick off, when you can use the awesome Shea Whigam for one scene as Michael Stasiak, with his twice broken nose.

Admittedly, after he disappears for the rest of the movie, it raises the question of how the team and their cars get from Azerbaijan to London, Edinburgh, Germany, and beyond so quickly for the rest of the movie. But again, it doesn’t really matter.

Even if you have no recollection of who Michael Stasiak was, or what Cipher’s whole deal is, just seeing them on screen tickles the same itch as when a Marvel superhero turns up in one of their stablemate’s movies. I barely remember the plot of Tokyo Drift, but even I can’t help smiling when Lucas Black turns up again. (Is it just me or is he rapidly turning into a Southern Statham?)

I See What You’re Doing

And it’s not totally dumb fun. Yes, it is exceedingly dumb at points, but it all balances out with those knowing winks.

For every inexplicable moment like the team using “biometrics” from a gun (how!?) to locate  Dom’s brother, there is something like Roman’s (Tyrese Gibson) theorizing that he and Tej (Ludacris) may be functionally immortal after surviving so many insane adventures with nary a scratch, or the reveal that one of the team (guess who) doesn’t now how to drive!

It’s a nice nod to the plot armour which protects so many of the characters in a series that features more people returning from the dead than actually dying. If you’re wondering how the return of a fan favourite is handled this time, it is, once again, ridiculous, but like the reveal of Dom’s brother, proves that flashbacks can solve anything.

With two more films left in the main franchise before it allegedly comes to a complete stop, F9: The Fast Saga proves that there is plenty more gas in the tank.

F9: The Fast Saga opens in Malaysian cinemas on Thursday, October 21.

Irish Film lover lost in Malaysia. Co-host of Malaysia's longest running podcast (movie related or otherwise ) McYapandFries and frequent cryer in movies. Ask me about "The Ice Pirates"

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