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Derrick Dunn

Derrick Dunn

Furious 9 let us know there’s still some gas in the tank for Dominic Toretto and crew

Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) and his family race back to cinemas in Universal Pictures Fast & Furious 9. After a hiatus from the franchise, Justin Lin returns to the director’s chair for his fifth go-round. Lin also collaborates with writer Daniel Casey to return us to the world of Dominic Toretto.

When we last saw Dom, he made his way into retirement with his wife Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) and young son Brian. However, one-day, extended family members Roman (Tyrese Gibson), Tej (Ludacris), and Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel) show up at Casa La Toretto with critical news involving the crew’s old associate Mr. Nobody (Kurt Russell), and one of their former foes, Cipher (Charlize Theron).

Much to his chagrin, Dom gets involved and discovers that his brother Jakob (John Cena) is behind the fiasco. So naturally, since another Toretto sibling is involved, Dom and Jakob’s younger sister Mia (Jordana Brewster) comes along to help as well. Along the way, the family also discovers that the long thought dead Han (Sung Kang) is actually alive and well. So will Dom and his crew be able to take down Jakob?

It’s hard to believe that the Fast & Furious franchise started from a late nineties Vibe magazine article about illegal street racing in New York. It’s now evolved into a remake mash-up of No Man’s Land and Point Break. No longer focused on street racing, the franchise successfully transitioned into different genres, including heist films and, more recently, international espionage.

So how does the latest entry fare? Rob Cohen, the late great John Singleton, James Wan, and F. Gary Gray have directed films in the franchise. However, the ship truly belongs to Justin Lin, who took the franchise to another level beginning with Fast & Furious. Because let’s be honest, there’s no way the series wouldn’t have ended up going a direct to DVD route after Tokyo Drift if they didn’t change something up.

Fast & Furious 9 sees the addition of John Cena and brings back fan-favorite Sung Kang. I will not spoil the origins of Jakob.  Nor how Han survived. However, I will say the angle the script takes in the handling of both arcs is not that far-fetched. Cena, who clearly is cast in a low-key jab at former series co-star, Dwayne Johnson does a decent job as Jakob. 

The role does not really require that much of Cena, other than to be muscular and have some Toretto traits. Jakob’s villainy never reaches the heights of former big bads in the franchises, but it is clear that Cena is having a good time. While Sung Kang naturally slides back into the role of Han. Quite honestly, there is enough material for Han to get his short film similar to Los Bandoleros.

Returning cast members Vin Diesel, Michelle Rodriguez, Jordana Brewster, Tyrese Gibson, and Ludacris give the usual performances you would expect from the characters. Each of the characters gets a moment to shine, which was refreshing to see. Later franchise additions Nathalie Emmanuel, Charlize Theron, and Helen Mirren are also back and having a grand time. However, we really need to get a spin-off film that focuses solely on the women in the franchise.

I was also fond of the scenes with Vinnie Bennett, who portrays a young version of Dom. Talk about spot-on casting with that one. Die-hard fans of the series will appreciate all of the callbacks to the previous films. In contrast, new fans may get a kick out of a particular social media sensation that shows up in a brief cameo. 

Outside of the running time and one moment of a terrible line delivery from John Cena, I do not have any major gripes with Fast & Furious 9. A franchise whose latest entry has two characters portrayed by a singer and rapper wind up in space. The series knows what it has become and still has some gas left.

Final Grade: B

 

Fast & Furious 9 opens in theaters today

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