Fast and Furious 9

Vin Diesel and John Cena face off

Call it what you like, Fast & Furious 9 – or F9, or F9: The Fast Saga – is no good, a terrible disappointment in a franchise that in a 20-year run has managed to be one of the most reliable suppliers of screen fun, banter and action.

However, F&F has proved to be totally bombproof thus far, having survived the permanent loss of franchise mainstays (Paul Walker), temporary absences (Vin Diesel, Michelle Rodriguez, Jordana Brewster), a reverse takeover by Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham (who have now been shunted off to their own spinoff, the Hobbs & Shaw franchise). It even survived the loss of director Justin Lin, who picked up the series at a low ebb at F&F3: Tokyo Drift and took it on to glory, becoming one of the best action directors in Hollywood as he did so.

By the time Lin had got F&F6 in the can – probably the best of the lot – he’d transformed the oily road racers and their sudsy babelicious girlfriends into an A Team of elite operatives, the sort of people who might be on nodding terms with James Bond. The bad guys, meanwhile, had gone from being traffic cops to megalomaniac evil masterminds.

After taking a break for F&F7 and 8, Lin is back as director here, and as if to reassure us that all is once again well, delivers an action sequence in the early minutes of the film that is so audacious, ridiculous and novel that it’ll make you either gasp or laugh out loud, or both. That’s after a quick bit of “getting the gang back together” and an even quicker bit of introduction of the international megalomaniac bad guy, Charlize Theron returning in her familiar “because I’m worth it” Dr Evil role.

Letty on a motorbike
Action: Michelle Rodriguez as Letty



What does she want to do? Blow up the world, or something, of course. How’s she going to do it? Tech something something. It’s not necessary to know more and in any case F9 is far more interested in the backstory of Dominic Torreto (Diesel) and his dead race-hero dad, and the source of his beef with his estranged brother (John Cena), all explained in extended flashbacks seemingly designed to introduce Diesel’s son, Vincent Sinclar Diesel (who plays the young Dom), to casting agents.

Dom’s dad and brother, his daughter, his wife Letty (Rodriguez), the extended family of his crew, it’s all about Dom this time round, to the franchise’s detriment. Between still-breathtaking stunt sequences things really sag, with Brian Tyler’s soundtrack an aural analogue of what’s wrong – Tyler just has no idea how to fill in the gaps and so see-saws away with swathes of meaningless vamp. The cast manfully and womanfully do the same with a script full of corny wisdom about blood being thicker than water, bruh. This is the longest F&F yet and it feels every minute of its two hours 23 minutes.

There are still good things. Nice to see Tyrese Gibson and Chris Bridges aka Ludacris’s comedy double act being better integrated into the plot. This time they have agency! And also nice to see the women doing more action work – there’s something called “Untitled Women-Led Film” in the works, so Wikipedia tells us, so there’s a commercially cynical reason for that too. And Han (Sung Kang) is back from the dead. He was always one of the more enjoyable side characters and there might be a feeling that, Statham and Johnson having gone missing, a charisma injection was necessary.

In the “barely in it” category are Jordana Brewster, Kurt Russell, Helen Mirren (again with that terrible cockney accent) and Lucas Black, who was the main man in F&F3 and who, for unexplained reasons, was re-introduced in a cameo in F&F7 and seems to be being gradually folded back into the mix. Gal Gadot appears in a flashback intended to keep her place warm.

But never mind all that, there are car chases in a jungle, through a minefield, across a disintegrating bridge, and through the cities of London, Edinburgh and Tibilisi. And a car that blasts off into space! With that last one, the F&F franchise seems to have gone all a bit Roger Moore-era James Bond. There might be hope for it yet.



Fast and Furious 9 – Watch it/buy it at Amazon



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© Steve Morrissey 2021









Fast & Furious 6

Paul Walker, Dwayne Johnson and Vin Diesel in Fast and Furious 6

 

A movie for every day of the year – a good one

 

 

5 February

 

 

John Boyd Dunlop born, 1840

John Boyd Dunlop, Scottish inventor and accidental businessman, was born on this day in 1840. After studying to be a veterinarian at Edinburgh University, he moved to Ireland and set up practice with his brother, in Downpatrick. His most famous invention was the pneumatic tyre, which he developed in 1887 as a way of making his son’s tricycle roll easier over the hard ground of his back yard. Dunlop was immediately struck not just by how much smoother the ride was, but by how much more easily the wheel rolled with a pneumatic tyre on it than just on the metal rim alone. He was on to something and had soon made more tyres for bicycles, which were then experiencing a boom. He patented his idea on 7 December 1888. The pneumatic tyre really took off after Willie Hume, a Belfast cyclist, won a string of races using Dunlop’s tyres. The man himself never made much money from his patent, having assigned it to his business partner, William Du Cros, in return for shares in the company, the Pneumatic Tyre and Booth’s Cycle Agency Company Limited. This turned out to have been a stroke of blind luck, because in 1890 the company was informed that the tyre had already been patented, in 1845, by Robert William Thomson, another Scottish inventor, because though it prospered, it was thanks to business acumen rather than possession of a killer patent.

 

 

 

Fast & Furious 6 (2013, dir: Justin Lin)

Having worked all the permutations to exhaustion, F&F 6 tried also to go by the name Furious 6, but wiser heads decided that that might confuse matters and so a good old fashioned Fast & Furious 6 it has ended up being. To confound expectations, it pretty much abandons the whole street-racing notion that the F&F franchise has been built on and instead use the F&F gang – Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Dwayne Johnson, Sung Kang, Gal Gadot, Tyrese Gibson, Ludacris – as a sort of grand Mission Impossible outfit with cars. Actually, that’s a tendency that had been growing since director Justin Lin took over the enterprises in F&F 3. This time around the team are called out of hiding/retirement/fat farm (you know who you are) by Luke Hobbs (the increasingly key Dwayne Johnson) to nobble a villain (Luke Evans) whose MO is fast cars and faster assaults on military and/or bullion installations. Meanwhile Michelle Rodriguez has banged her head and is playing for the other team – no, you can have that one for free – Jordana Brewster is in “good wife at home” mode, leaving the rest of the old team and new girl, mixed martial arts woman Gina Carano, to get on with it. The dialogue scenes can be ignored – Johnson tells the gang something, then Diesel repeats it for those in the audience who sniff gas for fun, then Walker does a “what he said” number, followed by Tyrese and Ludacris offering a comic reinterpretation, while Sung Kang looks effortlessly cool and the girls stand around chewing their cheeks. This does not matter, because the key reason for watching the film is not to laugh at the dialogue but to enjoy the stunts. And on the evidence here – the race around tourist London after Evans in a Formula 1 tank, the big finish in which the gang chase a gigantic cargo plane down a runway – Lin has quietly become the best action director in Hollywood. In fact this last sequence is well worth watching just on its own. Lin shows us a feat of really extraordinary action choreography, during which, after almost an entire film’s worth of standing around and pouting like the model he used to be, Tyrese Gibson gets to do something which I bet he rewatches in slo-mo at home. And then Lin tops it with the sequence involving cars being connected to a taxi-ing cargo plane by cables, which like the best action stunts manages to be ridiculous and awesome at the same time.

 

 

Why Watch?

 

  • Director Justin Lin, king of action
  • Gina Carano and Sung Kang, both effortlessly cool
  • A car-chase stunt in Piccadilly Circus – unusual
  • The best film of the series

 

© Steve Morrissey 2014

 

 

Fast & Furious 6 – at Amazon

 

 

 

 

Pitch Black

Vin Diesel in Pitch Black

 

 

A sci-fi shocker high on SFX, low on survivors and set on a planet where the self-serving and rather motley crew of an interplanetary cruiser are forced to pitch down after some unforeseen space ructions. It turns out that they are not alone on the planet. In fact this alien world is populated by some very unpleasant flying creatures who only come out in the dark. And – guess what – there’s a ginormous eclipse of the planet’s three suns on the way. Luckily, one of the spaceship’s number is gifted with uncanny nightsight. Unluckily, he is a vicious murderer locked in the ship’s brig. So there’s an awful lot of sucking of teeth and manoeuvring to be done before the killer’s heroics and redemption can begin. Co-writer/director David Twohy is something of a Hollywood workhorse, having written the butch GI Jane, the tense The Fugitive and a little thing called Waterworld, which at least had ambition, I think we can all agree. A director of low-key sci-fi on his days off – Timescape and the overlooked The Arrival are on the imdb and I’ve not seen either so no comment – but his big advantage in Pitch Black is that he has the industrially monikered Vin Diesel as reluctant (anti)hero, a man who can do muscle and soul at one and the same time. Let’s not pretend that this film is an original piece of work. It’s not, it’s a genre piece to its DNA. But Twohy’s excellent direction of mood, his command of the ensemble – Radha Mitchell, Cole Hauser and Keith David being exactly the sort of actor you’d expect (talented but not too pricey) – and his ability to herd special effects technicians and point them all in the same direction has produced just the sort of midweek horror to whoop and slurp along to.

© Steve Morrissey 2001

 

Pitch Black – at Amazon