Remember when The Fast and the Furious was just about a bunch of street racers stealing TV/DVD combos? Hell, remember when they used somewhat sensible naming conventions? After the first film, Universal Pictures got cute and named the sequel 2 Fast 2 Furious. Then, came the straight forward The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift. At this point, we lose the articles and we’re down to Fast and Furious. Next, they couldn’t afford to be both so it’s Fast 5, Furious 6, Furious 7, and the groan-inducing The Fate of the Furious. That’s not even counting Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw. Perhaps, the lettering was eating too much of their advertising budget because now we’ve got the simplified F9 or F9: The Fast Saga.
No matter the title, F9 is exactly what you expect from a Fast movie. It’s loud, overblown and rife with soap opera storylines and physics-defying stunts. This is a world where you can survive plummeting to your death by simply landing on the hood of a car.
F9 also marks the return of Justin Lin after James Wan and F. Gary Gray took over the director’s chair for the seventh and eighth installments. Lin is largely credited for transcending the franchise from simple street racing to an insane action/heist series. However, the late-John Singleton deserves his fair share of accolades for being the first filmmaker to inject vibrance and style after the drab direction of Rob Cohen. You can also thank Lin for introducing Sung Kang as the laid back, ever-cool Han, whose death in Tokyo Drift kept getting pushed back until the end of the sixth film. Unfortunately, Han’s death seemed to go unpunished (and even worse, forgotten) while his killer Deckard Shaw (Jason Staham) joined the heroes’ side. This led to a #JusticeForHan movement that is finally addressed here.
Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) and Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) are living the quiet life on a farm with Dom’s son Little Brian. They’re called back into action when Mr. Nobody’s (Kurt Russell) plane is shot down by a rogue agent while transporting master hacker Cipher (Charlize Theron, one of the only people on the planet who can still look sexy with a bowl cut). The traitor turns out to be Dom’s estranged brother Jakob (John Cena), who disappeared after a falling out following the death of their father. Jakob has teamed up with a Eurotrash rich boy named Otto (Thue Ersted Rasmussen) to steal a device known as Project Aries, which has the ability to hijack any computer system in the world.
Dom and Letty are joined once more by younger sister Mia (Jordana Brewster), tech expert Tej (Chris “Ludacris” Bridges), motor-mouthed Roman (Tyrese Gibson), and computer expert Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel). Along the way, they’re reunited with old friends like Sean Boswell (Lucas Black) and Twinkie (Bow Wow) from Tokyo Drift and Queenie Shaw (Helen Mirren). Mirren steals the show in her brief appearance as she finally gets behind the wheel and leads the police on a thrilling chase through the streets of London. Han makes his welcome return with the screenwriters providing some convoluted retconning to explain how he could still be alive. Does it really matter? No. Han is back and the family is complete. After all, that’s what’s really important.
F9 doesn’t disappoint when it comes to wild, globetrotting set pieces. In Central America, our heroes race like bats out of hell through a minefield with a team of mercenaries hot on their tail. Letty dodges explosion and gunfire without so much as a scratch while riding a motorcycle, all without even wearing a helmet. If that wasn’t ridiculous enough, the chase culminates with Dom hooking the front end of his muscle car and swings from one cliffside to another ala Spider-Man. The Fast Family also tear through Edinburgh with the added attraction of giant electro-magnets that grab onto anything while causing massive amounts of property damage. While all that’s going on, Tej and Roman get launched into orbit. Yes, that’s right, F9 boldly goes where no street racer has gone before into outer space.
The video is presented in 1080p with an aspect ratio of 2.39:1 while the audio is presented in Dolby Atmos. Needless to say, the Blu-ray presentation is phenomenal. The transfer is filled with bright, vibrant colors and warm skin colors. The sound is thunderous thanks to the roar of car engines, tires burning rubber and one explosion after another.
F9: All In is a nine-part documentary that takes us through the making of the film as it examines how the franchise has evolved, the various characters (both returning and new), and exotic locations.
Practically Fast (7:52) examines all the work that went into filming the race sequences, crashing actual cars and other practical effects.
Shifting Priorities (3:59) looks at themes of family and how Vin Diesel’s experiences as a father informed his character.
Justice For Han (3:37) features Justin Lin discussing the fan movement and how it led to the return of Han.
A Day on the Set with Justin Lin (10:00) is a video diary that follows Lin throughout his day from breakfast to wrap time as he works with the cast, walks the sets, and coordinates various shoots across the world.
John Cena: Supercar Superfan (4:36) spotlights the former WWE Champion and noted car collector as he breaks down some of the sleek vehicles used in the movie.
Rounding out the disc are an audio commentary with Justin Lin for both the theatrical version and the extended edition (which adds about 6 minutes of additional footage) and a gag reel.
Film Value: 7
For what it’s worth, I consider Fast Five and 2 Fast 2 Furious to be the best movies of the series. It’s a fun thrill ride that shouldn’t be taken too seriously. F9 doesn’t reach the heights of those installments, but it is a cut above the last two pictures. Han’s return comes at the right time as he brings a much-needed spark to the ensemble after the death of Paul Walker and the departure of Dwayne Johnson.