It held my attention until Roman and Tej went Beyond Jupiter and met Dave Bowman.
These guys are all getting a little “long in the tooth.”
With this installment we get a big dose of Dom Toretto’s (Vin Diesel) backstory. Diesel gets emotional.
Dom’s pop, Jack, is a race car driver who, at the first pit stop of a race, has his young son Jakob (Finn Cole), give the final check of the engine and give the signal to go. Something goes wrong and pop dies in a fiery accident. Pop’s eldest, Dom (Vinnie Bennett), blames Jakob, since he was the last one to check the engine. Did Jakob intentionally damage the car causing his father’s death? What was his motive?
No reason is offered, and Dom has never told anyone he has a brother.
Its years later and after a hell of a fast and furious life, now Dom and Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) are living the quiet life. Rodriguez looks terrific. They are raising toddler Brian, growing vegetables and fixing farm equipment. Somehow, Tej (Chris ‘Ludacris’ Bridges) and Roman (Tyrese Gibson) turn up with one of those “last score” offers. They have brought along the newest member of their team, a brilliant hacker, Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel). All problems with plot, locks and even electronic control of everyone’s mind, movie hackers can do anything.
Cybersecurity experts who have tracked DarkSide said the group appeared to be composed of veteran cybercriminals focused on squeezing out as much money as they could from their targets.
Unlike DarkSide, Ramsey works alone. Ramsey can manipulate everything that stands in the way of Reality. This one genius hacker solves all the problems the F9 team face. Every movie hacker uses unintelligible techno slang. They type super-fast and can get into any system without passwords.
It took a full 220 years after Queen Marie Antoinette was killed via the guillotine for historians to finally unlock the code she used in her letters to her alleged lover, Axel von Fersen. The cipher was impossible to break until 2016 when innovative image processing techniques were used.
Movie hackers laughed.
You are a mastermind criminal with a vast financial empire, but you leave the office to the vault open. No one locks their front doors. No one in any FAST AND FURIOUS movies has ever needed to stop for gas. Whenever a souped-up car is demolished, other cars miraculously appear. They do not need credit checks, paperwork or car insurance. Machine guns and rocket launchers? They have resources all over the world.
F9 brings back a few not-missed characters. No one was petitioning for Jordana Brewster to return or the guy who “died”, even though fans wept. Suddenly he reappears from Mr. Nobody’s Witness Protection Program. Sometimes in Reality, people move on, and you never hear from them again.
Because Cipher is on Glass Cube House Arrest, her foot soldier Otto (Thue Ersted Rasmussen), a childish, harried son of a diplomat is left to run amuck. Otto is like a junior accountant instead of a man who wants to make a name for himself by controlling the world. Otto couldn’t scare anyone even if he pulled the twist pin on a hand grenade. Was anyone directed in this movie?
And why is there always a half piece of something shiny that can either destroy the world or make humans robots but cannot fit in a jacket pocket? Haven’t all the movie tropes been exhausted?
Dom’s sister knows there is a forgotten brother, but she also kept the secret even from beloved Brian O’Conner (Paul Walker).
The tall, handsome blue-eyed, fair-haired Walker was nearly replaced by Scott Eastwood as Little Nobody in THE FATE OF THE FURIOUS. Little Nobody died or was sent to a military installation and rebuilt awaiting F10. Eastwood is too rock hard handsome to come back.
The franchise demands diversity. F9 brought back Han (Sung Kang) and his fresh young martial arts protégé Elle (Anna Sawai) for the Asian market. Helen Mirren puts in a day’s work for a check.
Its easier than introducing new characters.
Charlize Theron is back as master criminal Cipher in a glass box with a Moe of The Three Stooges hairdo that some resentful hairdresser gave her. She might be obscenely rich, but Cipher still only wears one pair of red leather pants that she cannot sit in. When she is not in her glass cube, is she hooking up with General Zod in the F9 Phantom Zone?
The slimmed-down three-person team wants Dom and Letty to help decode a frantic message from Mr. Nobody. The next morning all five are jetted out – by someone’s private plane - to Montequinto where Mr. Nobody’s plane crashed. No problem since Ramsey just needs a screwdriver and retrieves the half piece of a thing. Within minutes a heavily-armed squad arrives with two hundred men hellbent on the bonus for getting that shiny thing. All they had to do was wait for Ramsey to turn up.
What the shiny thing does is murky, but it’s bad. Very bad. Who is behind the pursuit of the Fast Five for half the shiny object? Lo and behold, the master criminal is Jakob (John Cena). Thankfully Cipher did 23andMe and found out that Jakob inherited the family’s Irish/Scottish/Norwegian genes. And a head of groomed hair.
The stunts are amazing, and the death count high. Even novice Elle gets into the rush of killing. There are traces of sets from other movies. At least there were some suspicious rendezvous points conveniently available for the Fast Five Plus Two to use.
John Cena really needed a good coach to walk him through villainy. The important thing is that a villain believes in himself and is not spending his life trying to best a long-lost brother. Cena’s incessant scowl doesn’t show motivation. Master criminals who are good at what they do, take glee and pride in their accomplishments. Jakob tells Dom he is now playing in his world, but he is still holding a grudge. Jakob lost a drag race to Dom way back when they were ghetto kids. Move on!
If Cena was left to figure out his character’s “arc” and just relied on making angry faces, Theron should also be ashamed of her slutty kitten faces.
There is an abundance of male-on-male hugging since everybody is reunited throughout the movie. Its lousy storytelling and is just something for the actors to do during the lag part of the movie. It beats standing around.
The Code of Family is certainly challenged by the appearance of Jakob. What is next?
Does Ma Toretto need help escaping from a Russian gulag? The team could introduce
gunfire and explosives using snowmobiles and dog sleds.
Diesel is now the sole star and a new co-star like Paul Walker is not in the Fast and
Furious future. While criticism is a mote point as its foreign box office has already
eclipsed its budget, all I can say is the story is ridiculous, the crashes extraordinary and
the acting was clearly an afterthought to the stunt action.
For a complete list of Victoria Alexander's movie reviews
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Member of Las Vegas Film Critics Society: www.lvfcs.org