F9: The Fast Saga is directed by Justin Lin, starring the same recurring crew seen throughout the Fast franchise, and introducing John Cena as Dominic Toretto’s estranged brother, Jakob. F9 doesn’t bring much new to the franchise — which, in all fairness, could be said about the last few films — but instead of delivering on the affably ridiculous action we’ve come to expect, it feels like a slog all the way through. The franchise has never been known to be particularly well-written, but here, especially, the film feels like its functioning on autopilot from its excessively complex, often nonsensical plot to the barrage of homogenous, somehow boring action sequences. Poorly written, mainly expository dialogue that shouts what to feel at the audience in between explanations of the crew’s next contrived plan has plagued the series to varying degrees in the past, but here, feels persistent.
For once, the personal stakes have reached such a low point that the action comes up short, save for perhaps a few standout stunts. The franchise has numbed the audience to the point of any sense of danger or unpredictability in the action sequences being totally lost. Nothing here feels inspired, let alone interesting, and the film’s attempt to incorporate backstory into Vin Diesel’s character with the use of flashbacks is dull, largely due to the writing for Cena’s character. When bringing him into the franchise, the writers were presented with the opportunity to introduce a fun, hammy villain in Cena, but instead chose to have his character mirror Dom’s consistently dour attitude. The blandness of his character failed to make the subplot between him and Diesel interesting at any point, and I was far more engaged in what the rest of the crew was up to. Speaking of which, the side missions the other members of the crew are sent off to are definitely material we’ve seen before, and they all converge in predictable action sequences that scarcely felt exciting.
F9 felt largely like a disappointment because the main draw of these films, the huge, bonkers action sequences, felt underwhelming and scattered among an unsurprisingly dull narrative.