The characters of the Fast family have come a long way since their humble beginnings as street racers and common criminals. The arc of Dom and his crew seems to be coming close to its end. Characters have gone their separate ways and, in some cases, started families of their own. However, when world peace is somehow threatened once again by a vague superweapon, it's up to the crew to stop them. Theron returns as a backseat villain, which makes for compelling scenes initially, but this quickly devolves back into a familiar plot as it is revealed that she masterminded the entire operation. Dom’s brother, Jakob, makes for an interesting addition to the series. The plot about the brothers and their father is compelling and thematically more appropriate to the series than many of the other plots in recent installments, but again, this loses a lot of strength once it is revealed that the true antagonist is the same as the previous movie. Played by WWE superstar John Cena, Jakob’s physicality matches Dom’s, which has been an important role filled by The Rock up until F9, making for some great fights and some even greater staredowns. I would expect both Theron and Cena to return to the series, as both characters exited the movie on somewhat of an ambiguous note.
Obviously, the main strengths of this movie are the action set pieces, which absolutely do not disappoint. Since Fast Five, the Fast movies have entered a new realm of heightened reality, with each movie attempting to perform even crazier car stunts and unbelievable scenarios than the last. F9 is certainly no exception, and, back in the talented hands of Lin, the action is better than ever. From driving across a collapsing bridge, to swinging Indiana-Jones-style across a ravine in a car, F9 pulls no punches when it comes to its action (especially considering that the stunts I just mentioned are just part of one scene at the beginning of the movie). The characters sometimes even poke fun at the seemingly improbable situations they get themselves into, to varying effect. This movie is certainly crazier than the last, and, without a doubt, fans of the franchise will rejoice at Lin’s return.
While it follows the formula laid out by the previous movies in the series, and the film is not without its fair share of retreading and unoriginality, F9 continues to follow these lovable characters through their zany adventures, with enough awesome set pieces to satisfy both long term fans and newcomers to the world of The Fast & the Furious. Lin grabs the wheel of this explosive franchise to produce yet another spectacle installment that will get many out of their homes and back into an air-conditioned theater this summer.
Score: ★★★½ / ★★★★★