There are a handful of reasons why the film F9 should not work as a film. The story is one the epitomizes the term “plot hole”. In some places, things get downright silly. Plausibility is also a problem with many of the stunts applied just to start a car chase. Many of the stunts seem to be gratuitously planned in this way. But, F9 is relentless in its special effects, stunts, and fights. These, along with the stunning tricks pulled by some beautiful cars and a star-studded cast, make the film an entertaining one, somehow.
I walked out of the theater asking myself, “What the hell did I just watch?” The latest in the Fast and Furious saga brings Dom (Vin Diesel) and a few others back for an international adventure. The film opens with Dom and Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) living the country life with Dom’s kid (played by twins Immanuel and Isaac Holtane). This country home hides an arsenal and hidey-holes, just as you would suspect from Dom.
He is visited by part of the crew and the adventure begins. Cipher (Charlize Theron) has struck but is held captive by Dom’s brother Jake (John Cena) and a rich partner who is trying to steal something. Dom and the gang are sent after that something as well. He leaves his kid behind to go racing Mustangs in the rain forest while hunting an unknown item and skirting a cartel/army.
The whole time, Roman, played by Tyrese Gibson, is trying to stay alive. He is “nearly” killed several times (gunfire, bombs, falling off a cliff, landmines, etc). It makes no sense that he lives, and later even Roman can’t believe he is alive! This is an example of a plot hole that should break the narrative, but it works. Why? Because the stunts, fights, and driving that is done while Roman faces death a dozen ways is just entertaining.
That’s how the entire film works. It makes little sense why we meet this character or another enters the narrative in a totally predictable manner. Helen Mirren reprises her role as Queenie and she really only serves to take Dom to the bad guys—where he was going to end up anyway. However, the way that woman whips her purple speeder through the streets spectacular. It’s even more fun to watch Dom try not to act scared or startled at her near misses with objects like buildings, poles, other cars, and people. It’s enough to distract from the plot holes and problems.
At one point, Nathalie Emmanuel, playing Ramsey, is driving a delivery truck while chasing an armored tank/semi-truck through the London streets. She is flanked by super-fast sports cars driven by the rest of the team. There are fistfights happening on top of those cars and in the delivery truck and the tank thingie. But, in addition to men fighting with their flesh, cars are taking turns TKO’ing dudes. It’s insane. At one point it’s the tank thing vs. a stealth fighter-sized drone.
It’s tough to picture, I know, but this implausibility is what fuels F9. At one point, Tej (played by Ludacris) argues with Roman about the physics involved in making the cars do the stunts that they do. In the audience, we laugh with Roman. This film uses movie magic and even Roman knows it. By the time we are in space—yes, in space—with Tej and Roman in a duct-taped and foiled Fiero, we realize that F9 left reality and reason so long ago that it might as well be scifi now. If you need more, Bow Wow (Shad Moss) as Twinkie leads the team that built the Fiero-rocket ship.
There is also the fact that the only Black woman in the ensemble is mixed. Nathalie Emmanuel just so happens to be an activist for inclusion in the film, so while colorism should be considered, Emmanuel’s activism definitely needs to be in that conversation.
For so many reasons, F9 should not work, but it does and very well. Justin Lin’s spectacular pacing never allows time to ruminate on the issues. The ingenuity and creativity in the stunts carry the entire film, tied nicely into a bow by an ensemble cast that is funny, cohesive, and very talented. Fans of the franchise will find so much to greet them in this return to the saga they hold dear.
Newcomers will find the film entertaining and worth the trip to the theater. Essentially, F9 is a masterclass in creating a bad film that is actually good!
F9 is in theaters everywhere.
Check out the Black Cape’s sitdown with Tyrese Gibson at the AAFCA Roundtable.
Rating 3.5 of 5
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