It’s not every film that allows Diesel to live out his dream of playing Gandalf at the Bridge at Khazad-dûm.
Director Justin Lin
Screenplay Justin Lin, Daniel Casey
Starring Vin Diesel, Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese Gibson, Chris “Ludacris” Bridges, John Cena, Jordana Brewster, Nathalie Emmanuel, Sung Kang, Michael Rooker, Helen Mirren, Kurt Russell, Charlize Theron, Lucas Black
Take away The Rock. Add John Cena. That’s not enough? Bring back Sung Kang and Lucas Black. Yeah, that should do it.
What started out as Point Break in cars tracking down stereo thieves has become, thanks to stealing the plot from the Italian Job 2, a series of heist throughout the world. Everywhere they go, there are guns, cars and high tech mumbo jumbo. All of this rides on the humorless face and broad shoulders of Vin Diesel and his “family.”
This time, we find that Dom (Diesel) has a brother, Jacob (Cena), who he beat in a race with the stakes being that Jacob “keep on driving.” Presumably until they needed a new bad guy in part 9. Cena tucks his humor in his suit and keeps his face in a permanent glower. He’s perfect as a male Toretto, which requires less acting than posing.
The rest of the cast is more of the same. Tyrese is the punching bag for everyone else’s jokes, though even he is wondering how lucky he continues to be while Ludacris shakes his head. Bridges is still the best part of the crew, as they put his obvious intellect to good use as the catch all for matters technical. He has Emmanuel along to punch a few buttons and look great while doing it.
Given that Jacob’s also Brewster’s sister, they use the thinnest of reasons for leaving Brian (the deceased Walker) behind with the kids. She gets some action scenes while searching for evidence of Kang’s thought to be deceased Solo. So hey hey the gang’s all back. Except for The Rock and Gadot, who went on to better things.
The film benefits from the inclusion of Kang. He’s definitely too cool for everyone except Bridges. It’s nice having his counterpart from Tokyo Drift in a few scenes, too, even if they limit him to an engineer of a really dumb experimental space car.
Theron is in a box for most of the film, which perfectly defines her performance. Like the roles of Whigham and Russell, their abilities are hampered by the need to over dramatize each word.
The story is so chopped up with flashbacks and segues, it doesn’t feel like a story at all. It’s just pushing the plot from Point A to Point B and so on ad nauseum. Everybody is family, even the bad guys. Until they eventually become the good guys.
F9 is mostly a bunch of noise and fury. We know what that signifies. The brothers work out their issues fighting a quarter mile at a time. It’s a spiritual child of The A-Team with all of its crashes and bullets flying everywhere but their intended target. While Dom defies the laws of physics, his partners defy every other scientific law.
There are some nice things to look at, sure, but James Bond this is not. Still, it’s not every film that allows Diesel to live out his dream of playing Gandalf at the Bridge at Khazad-dûm. He’d be the perfect dwarf, with all of the places he’s fallen out of and survived. You shall not pass, indeed.
(** out of *****)