Thursday, June 24, 2021

'F9': A few new wrinkles, many explosions

     It's been a long time since anyone cared whether a Fast and Furious movie made sense.
     Good thing, too, because F9: The Fast Saga -- the latest in the series -- is so unashamedly preposterous that it hardly matters whether the glue holding various segments together has any sticking power.
    Director Justin Lin, a veteran of previous editions, has no compunction about bringing back characters thought dead or trying for an ending of gargantuan silliness. 
     There's so much action and different story lines that even the heavily muscled Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) feels like an afterthought.
     About that finale. It involves a rocket-launched Pontiac Fiero and makes good use of Tyrese Gibson and Ludacris, a duo that by this time deserves its own spinoff.
    They're the most enjoyable thing about F9 which makes room for Gibson's Roman to offer a bit of self-conscious but pointed humor. How exactly has the Fast and Furious crew emerged from so much violence with nary a scratch?
    We must not be normal, Roman opines. He's right. The crew -- the one that began in a small movie about street racing -- practically has ascended into superhero heaven. 
    Devotees probably won't mind. No one else need bother because only those who've been caught the Fast and Furious fever  have reason to add to what promises to be a large box-office haul.
   Summarizing the plot is useless. It has something to do with an evil cabal that wants to control the world's weaponry and requires Charlize Theron to return as Cipher. She spends most of the movie in glass enclosure.
    To get this part of the story rolling, F9 introduces Dom's  brother Jakob (John Cena). What? You didn't know Dom had a brother? 
   No matter. The film casts Jakob as the evil sibling. As kids, Dom and Jakob parted ways after their father died in a race-track crash in 1989. As an adult, Jakob has dedicated his life to emerging from Dom's shadow, motivation that seems entirely derived from Dom's exploits in the previous movies.
    F9 adopts a near-Bondian approach to globe hopping, turning up in London, Edinburgh, Tokyo, and a variety of other locations, thereby satisfying the growing global need for car crashes and wanton collateral damage. The car carnage relies on magnets that somehow ... er ... well ... who really cares?
   The movie's formula remains simple: Action set pieces are followed by exposition. If you sometimes feel lost, it hardly matters because, near as I could tell, the quieter scenes do little other than mark time until the next flurry of chases and explosions.
    Did I mention that Dom has a near-death experience after plunging into some deep water? That's the only thing that seems near death in this apparently endless series.
    If you like your explosions served with a side order of coherence, you may want to occupy yourself elsewhere. You also better have a high tolerance for ridiculousness that sometimes seems more nonsensical than amusing.
   Sure, some of the movie clicks, presuming you enjoy action that's more audacious than thrilling. And some will feel affection for the  mainstay characters, many of whom reunite as the story unfolds. 
    Me? I thought the movie's characters generally seemed happier to see one another than I was to see them. 

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