We love to be fast and furious, don’t we folks?
It’s wild to think that a franchise that began as a maybe-homage to Point Break set in the world of street racing has spawned nine films and grown to encompass arguably at least three distinct genres.
In the beginning it was so much simpler. For that we partly have Paul Walker to thank. Director Rob Cohen and producer Neil Moritz, who had worked with Walker on The Skulls (about a corrupt fraternity) asked the butterscotch himbo what his dream project would be. Walker told the pair that he’d love to do something like “Days of Thunder meets Donnie Brasco.” The filmmakers optioned a Vibe article about street racing to that end, and the rest is history.
Well, sort of. The idea that the filmmakers behind a movie no one saw and a then-unknown leading man who seemed like an even more beautiful, more wooden-acting version of early Keanu Reeves would team up to create a multi-billion dollar franchise about souped-up Japanese cars had to seem utterly unfathomable at the time. Even now, that this franchise would carry on, and in fact get even bigger, years after its main star died doing the exact thing the movies glorify seems hard to believe. The Fast/Furious franchise has defied the odds over and over to become a cornerstone of Universal’s business 20, years on.
Furious 8 saw the gang (which almost saw Timothy Olyphant playing Dom instead of Vin Diesel) — which now curiously combines established action stars lured by huge paydays like The Rock and Jason Statham with stars-they-could-afford-at-the-time veterans like Tyrese Gibson and Ludacris — trying to outrun nuclear submarines bursting through arctic ice in a chase for the “nuclear football.” It’s funny to juxtapose that with the original story about a truckload of stolen DVDs.
Yes, you could say we’ve come a long way since “bullshit, asshole, no one likes the tuna here.”
Has the journey been a good one? Well, yes and no. On the way to nine movies there are bound to be some good ones, some bad ones, some terrible ones, and some terribly good ones. We’ve gained and lost some good cast members along the way, to obscurity, to feuds, to greater fame, or to the great beyond. But at the end of the day, as Vin Diesel would growl, they’re family.
Note: Since I wrote it last, and you’re all probably wondering how it stacks up, I’m going to put the new one, F9, at the end along with its ranking to show where it fits in with the rest of them.
8. Fast & Furious (aka The Fourth One, aka 4 Fast 4 Furious, aka Fast and 4urious, aka The One Where Letty Dies)
Year Released: 2009
Number in Franchise: 4
Director: Justin Lin
Plot: Fugitive Dominic Toretto and FBI agent Brian O’Connor team up to take down the drug lord who killed Letty.
Notable Lines: “Dom. Dom… DOMMMM!!!”
A lot of people have 2 Fast 2 Furious at the bottom of their rankings, and to be fair, that one probably is more forgettable. Yet 4 Fast 4 Furious feels distinctly like the least fun of the series. 4 Fast is the dour, war-on-terror era Fast/Furious movie, where Brian O’Connor (who was initially an LAPD cop trying to make detective, and later a fugitive ex-cop) has somehow become a full-fledged, suit-wearing fed.
Half the movie consisted of Brian and Dom running around beating up witnesses. The influence of 24, one of the defining shows of the mid-aughts, certainly shows in Fast And Furious, which was conceived in 2007 and released in 2009.
This was the first “real” sequel with Vin Diesel back after he declined to be in the second and third installments over script concerns (and yes, you can imagine how bad the scripts had to be for the guy who left to do xXx to turn them down). In terms of the greater arc of the franchise, 4 Fast 4 Furious was the awkward transitional moment, between Fast/Furious as a car-racing exploitation movie and Fast/Furious as a fabulously expensive celebration of ridiculousness and excess.
The identity crisis is easy to understand: what even was the franchise at this point? One successful buddy movie and two wildly divergent sequels with completely different casts? You can feel Fast And Furious trying to square this circle and not quite getting it right, almost from the very first scene — which sees Dom, Letty, Han, and the gang trying to hijack a gas truck in the Dominican Republic.
They do this not by, you know, just pulling in front of the truck and forcing him to pull over, or shooting out the tires, but through an incredibly complex plan that involves a harpoon gun, guiding souped-up trucks onto the trailers in reverse, and multiple people climbing around on top of a gas trailer with backpacks full of liquid nitrogen. And why do they do this, you might ask? Because, as Letty screams by way of exposition, “Gas is money, papa!”
That’s right, they’ve employed three or four incredibly souped-up custom performance automobiles and multiple death-defying stunts in service of what amounts to a complex gas-siphoning operation.
Of course, gangs with convoluted, pointless plans carried out in unnecessarily complex car operations aren’t prohibitive in Fast/Furious movies. Some of the best Fast movies are the most idiotic. 4 Fast 4 Furious‘s crime wasn’t being silly, it was being sad.
If this convoluted, idiotic plan had been the lead-up to a pool party or a family barbecue (which are as canon in this franchise as excessive gear shifts), it might’ve worked. Instead, it was a build-up to Letty’s death, itself a means for Dom to be sullen and sad for the rest of the movie.
One thing 4 Fast 4 Furious did do notably well was casting, getting John Ortiz for the chief villain (is anyone else so simultaneously charming and full of menace?) and future Wonder Woman Gal Godot as FBI agent “Gisele Yashar.” There’s even a seduction scene in which Gisele coquettishly asks Dom to describe his ideal woman. In response, Dom gets a faraway look on his face and describes her as “20% angel, 80% devil.”
It’s one of the dumber lines ever written, but you have to respect the symmetry of a franchise that began as a pandering attempt to cash in on car culture describing its ideal woman using a bumper sticker slogan. “Uh, yeah, she’s 20% angel, 80% devil, she always gives ass, gas, or grass because she never rides for free, and her favorite pastime is peeing on Ford logos.”
7. 2 Fast 2 Furious
Year Released: 2003
Number In Franchise: 2 (obviously)
Director: John Singleton
New Faces: Tyrese Gibson, Ludacris, Eva Mendes
Plot: Brian O’Connor is now a fugitive ex-cop doing illegal street racing in Miami. The cops offer him immunity in exchange for taking down a drug lord, which he only agrees to do if he can bring in his childhood friend, Roman.
Released two years after the original and without the participation of Vin Diesel or original director Rob Cohen, 2 Fast 2 Furious is sort of a poor man’s Miami Vice whose dubious legacy includes adding Tyrese Gibson and Ludacris to the franchise. Losing Cohen was probably a gift, not just because his movies are almost universally bad but because he was later accused of sexual abuse by both his daughter and an actress in his movies.
2 Fast 2 Furious is a mediocre movie in almost every way, adding to the mythology Brian O’Connor’s childhood best friend from Barstow, Roman, played by Tyrese Gibson. Does the Barstow upbringing explain the penchant for sleeveless cowboy shirts?
We meet Roman at a demolition derby. Later he dispatches a bad guy using a nitrous-powered ejector seat. Cole Hauser from Dazed and Confused plays the bad guy, arguably the least convincing heavy in the series.
But for all the lame elements of 2 Fast 2 Furious that didn’t survive this installment, it feels like the definitive iteration of Brian O’Connor as dopey SoCal car bro. Which feels like the most honest Brian O’Connor. Paul Walker in 2 Fast 2 Furious is a Kyle Mooney sketch in earnest. Likewise, we meet Ludacris’s character, Tej, currently the franchise’s super hacker and computer expert, while he’s judging a jet ski competition. This feels like the ideal way to introduce a Ludacris character.
My favorite piece of trivia about 2 Fast 2 Furious is that it costars Devon Aoki (as racer “Suki”), the heir to the Benihana’s restaurant fortune (and half-sister of the DJ Steve Aoki). Her father is a former Olympic wrestler, powerboat racer, and Benihana’s founder Hiroaki “Rocky” Aoki. (Oddly, Queen’s Gambit star Anya Taylor-Joy’s father was also a powerboat racer, which just goes to show, if you want your daughter to become a successful actress the best thing you can do for her is to start winning some powerboat races). He also, and this is neither here nor there, is a famous hot air ballooner, part of the crew who made the first successful trans-Pacific balloon ride.
Anyway, knowing that Tyrese Gibson likes Benihana’s so much that he had a version of it built in his backyard (the now-infamous Gibsihana’s), you have to wonder whether his fascination started when he met the heir to the Benihana’s fortune on a movie set.
6. Fast & Furious 6 (aka 6 Fast 6 Furious, aka The One With The Long Runway, aka The One That Killed Han, aka The One With Gina Carano)
Year Released: 2013
Number In Franchise: 6
Director: Justin Lin
New Faces: Luke Evans, Gina Carano, Jason Statham (at the very end)
Plot: Hobbs (The Rock) offers Dom and the gang amnesty for taking down Shaw (Owen Shaw, that is, played by Luke Evans, not to be confused with Jason Statham’s Deckard Shaw). Letty shows up as a member of Shaw’s gang, which is explained through amnesia.
Generally speaking, I tend to think the best Fast/Furious movies are the ones in which they’re discovering a formula, and the worst ones are the ones in which they’re applying a formula. In 6 Fast 6 Furious, which blends almost indistinguishably in my mind with Furious 8, the filmmakers were applying the formula that they’d discovered in Fast Five. Which was that heist movie/spycraft blockbusters worked better than strictly street racing ones. Universal executives were quite explicit about this shift:
The studio honchos agreed that the next installments had to be less about street racing and about more inclusive subject matter. “We’ve heard so many people say, ‘I’ve never seen one, and I’ve never wanted to see one,’ about the Fast franchise,” Fogelson said. “So if these movies were still about street racing, there was probably a ceiling on how many people would buy tickets. We wanted to see if we could raise it out of about racing and make car driving ability just a part of the movie, like those great chases in The French Connection, The Bourne Identity, The Italian Job,” Fogelson explained. With Dodge as a partner, “Our strategy behind one of the biggest bets we’ve ever made is that the business has gone so far towards CG action every weekend, that we really believe creating a movie with real action and real cars will be amazing stuff to people excited by seeing something real.” [Deadline, 2011]
The Rock basically played The Rock: The Wrestler in this iteration, smirking cheesy one-liners (“you keep runnin’ your pie hole and you’re gonna smell an asskicking”) and throwing bad guys across rooms. He also had a sidekick played by Gina Carano. Now, I’ve loved Gina Carano going back to her MMA days, and I refuse to have an opinion on her dumb politics (if we got rid of all the dumb actors in the world we wouldn’t have many left), but one thing you rarely hear people say is “That Gina Carano sure can act!”
There’s a lot of fun, ridiculous stuff happening in 6 Fast 6 Furious, but much like Furious 8, the biggest problem with 6’s stunts isn’t that they aren’t inventive or ridiculous, it’s that they just go on way too long. The action set pieces drag on and on endlessly with no space to take a breath or appreciate them. They just become a dull drone. Which is a shame, because this is also a film that gave us shirtless Ludacris attempting to speak Spanish:
6 Fast 6 Furious is famous mainly for the exceptionally long runway at the end, upon which Dom’s gang uses their cars, along with some ropes, to keep Shaw’s cargo plane from taking off. And also for killing off Han during a post-credits scene that introduced Shaw’s brother, played by Jason Statham — a decision “fans” hated so much that they successfully campaigned to bring him back (#justiceforhan). I too think Han was an undervalued character, but that doesn’t mean studios should ever listen to the “fans.”
The best thing about Furious 6? It brought Letty back to the franchise using amnesia. Not enough movies utilizing amnesia as a plot point, I always say.
5. The Fate Of The Furious (aka F8, aka 8 Fast 8 Furious, aka The One With The Nuclear Submarines)
Year Released: 2017
Number In Franchise: 8
Director: F. Gary Gray
New Faces: Charlize Theron, Kurt Russell
Plot: Dom gets plucked off the street in Cuba by a cyberterrorist named Cipher (Charlize Theron) and coerced into a plot to retrieve an EMP device in Berlin. He goes rogue, and gets Hobbs and Shaw (The Rock and Jason Statham) sent to prison, until they’re broken out by “Mr. Nobody” (Kurt Russell) so that they can retrieve the “God’s Eye” super surveillance program. Also there’s a “nuclear football,” a Russian base in the Arctic, and some hotwired nuclear submarines.
Read that attempt at a plot synopsis again. Too much, right? Too much.
8 Fast 8 Furious was essentially an attempt to out-ridiculous the already-incredibly-ridiculous Furious 7. Yet whereas the ridiculousness of Furious 7 was mostly stunt and visual-based, 8 Fast 8 Furious just used every ridiculous plot contrivance on the action screenwriter vision board, from sexy cyberterrorists with platinum blonde hair to nuclear footballs and nameless government functionaries. It all added up mostly to a headache. Call it “ridiculousness fatigue.”
You can almost sense the director asking “why are all these characters even here?” They try to retcon Roman, who you’ll remember we met when he was competing in a demolition derby in Barstow, as some kind of A-Team munitions expert, with Ludacris as the expert computer hacker. 8 Furious basically tried to take all the goofy SoCal car bro-ness of the franchise and turn it into boilerplate action movie stuff. Zzzzz.
Much like Furious 6, Furious 8 had some great action bits — the “zombie car” scene stands out — but they just go on and on and on for an excruciatingly long time until the only thing you remember about them is being tired.
As I wrote in my initial review, 8 Fast 8 Furious was the action movie equivalent of your dad catching you smoking a cigarette and making you finish the entire carton as punishment.
4. The Fast And The Furious
Year Released: 2001
Number In Franchise: 1
Director: Rob Cohen
Notable Lines: “Yo, Einstein: take it upstairs. You can’t detail a car with the cover on it.”
“He’s got nitrous oxide in his blood and a gas tank for a brain!”
Non-Recurring Characters: Johnny Strong, Ja Rule, Chad Lindberg
I appreciate the “original” The Fast and The Furious much in the same way I appreciate Entourage: as bad art, that I hated at the time, but that is nonetheless the perfect time capsule of a terrible time.
The Fast And The Furious, adapted from the Vibe article “Racer X,” by Kenneth Li, is a mix of actually-cool things that Rob Cohen was trying to capitalize on, and Rob Cohen’s own, mostly terrible ideas about what was cool. See: Vince shredding his Zakk Wylde signature Les Paul during a raver house party:
There’s also shaky cameras and non-stop DJ scratching. 90% of the movie seems to have DJ scratching coming from somewhere, as if Crazy Town was hiding in the cupboard.
Early in the movie, there’s a heist in which Dom and Vince’s gang of souped-up Honda Civics (this was before the Mitsubishi sponsorship and the later Dodge sponsorship) — “the most off-the-hook idealized dope-ass rice rockets,” as Cohen calls them in the commentary — surround a semi-truck and shoot it with grappling hooks so they can jump in and beat up the driver. And all so they can steal some DVDs! In the director’s commentary, Rob Cohen called the scene an homage to Stagecoach, which is a perfect illustration of his peculiar thinking. “Well yes, this whole heist makes no logical sense, but you have to imagine that the cars are actually horses.”
The Fast And The Furious isn’t the best movie of the franchise, nor does it represent some halcyon age when street racing movies could just be about street racing. But it does seem to stumble ass backwards into a few good ideas simply by virtue of how hard it was pandering. The basic idea is that it’s Point Break in the world of cars. But at the end of Point Break, Johnny Utah just lets Bodhi surf off into the sunset. Utah is a “nice” Fed who still has a man-crush on Bodhi, but he’s still a Fed at the end of the day and he’s not just going to let this bank-robbing murderer get away. He ends their tragic love affair by defying his superiors and letting Bodhi kill himself surfing instead of locking him in a cage. …It’s all very romantic.
The Fast And The Furious asks, Entourage-like, what if Bodhi (in this case, Dom Toretto) actually was just a good guy deep down? And Bodhi and Johnny Utah really could just surf off into the sunset forever? As I wrote in my longwinded 15-year-retrospective in 2016:
It accidentally stumbles, Magoo-like, into a relevant idea: What if the cops weren’t the default good guys simply by virtue of being cops? What if cop morality wasn’t the default correct one? Maybe once you scrape away the decals and rap-rock and nonsensical heists and ham-fisted construction, The Fast And The Furious was the perfect, proudly multicultural, revisionist Point Break for a post-Rodney King world.
Also, the cars were horses.
3. Fast 5 (aka The One With The Bank Vaults, aka The One In Brazil)
Number In the Franchise: 5
Year Released: 2011
Director: Justin Lin
New Faces: The Rock, Elsa Pataky
Notable Lines: “This just went from Mission Impossible to Mission In-Freakin’-Sanity!”
Fast Five was the transitional movie of the franchise in so many ways — the first to feature The Rock, the first one with a budget north of $100 million, the first one longer than two hours. At $125 million it actually cost $40 million more than the previous installment. It once again brought back Mia, Dom, Brian O’Connor, Tyrese, and Ludacris. This time they even attempted to bring back Vince — he of “bullshit, asshole, no one likes the tuna here,” played by Matt Schultze — even if it didn’t stick.
Whereas the Fast movies were once a ripoff of Point Break with cars, Fast 5 transitioned to a ripoff of Ocean’s 11 with cars. Some things about the Fast franchise, however, remained canon:
1. Whenever someone needs to go faster, they simply shift gears. All the cars in the Fast franchise have at least 12 gears.
2. If you need a big truck to pull over, you can’t simply lay down spike strips or threaten the driver with a gun, you must use souped-up cars performing a complex driving maneuver utilizing grappling hooks.
3. Playing chicken is an advanced car driving move, and it always works even if the hero is driving a comically smaller vehicle.
4. The most important part of any heist is finding someone who can DRIVE SUPER GOOD.
Did you know you can play chicken with a bus in an Acura and make it flip over using the back of a muscle car? I really wish this scene would’ve cut to Dom, his brains splattered all over the inside of a bus that just flipped over 17 times going 70 miles per hour. “Aw crap, maybe this wasn’t such a good plan.”
To this basic set of rules, Fast 5 added Dwayne The Rock Johnson as Luke Hobbs, who in the Fast canon is a very large cop who is always sweating and usually wearing something made of neoprene. Something about The Rock’s very essence seemed to fit the Fast franchise perfectly.
Fast 5 was mostly a very stupid movie with far too many unclever Tyrese Gibson lines, but in this installment, the franchise was taking its first, important baby steps from being merely stupid to being gloriously stupid. As an aggressively perspiring man, I also appreciated excessive sweat being part of The Rock’s character.
The bank vault scene was easily the best stunt in any of the movies up until this point, and it basically set the tone for all the movies that would come later.
Unlike a lot of the set pieces in the sixth and eighth installments, it isn’t just one long drone of CGI bullshit. It breathes, it has peaks and valleys, and it gives you a sense of the scale involved. Silly as it is, there’s a cleverness to it and an internal logic that works in a way that a lot of the bigger set pieces from lesser Fast/Furious don’t. I still don’t love Fast 5, but I understand choosing to remember only the vault scene.
2. The Fast And The Furious: Tokyo Drift
Number In The Franchise: 3
Year Released: 2006
Director: Justin Lin
Tagline: On the other side of the world… on the wrong side of the law… a new style of racing rules the Tokyo underground.
New Faces: Sean Boswell (Lucas Black), Han Seoul-Oh (Sung Kang), Bow Wow — basically everyone.
Plot: Military brat/new kid in school Sean gets busted racing cars and gets sent to Japan, where he learns a whole new kind of racing.
I’m not trying to be a contrarian ranking Tokyo Drift so highly, I swear. It’s obviously the outlier of the series. Smack in the middle of this franchise about street racing and elaborate heists there’s Tokyo Drift, a high school drama set in Japan with none of the original stars.
I can understand thinking Tokyo Drift isn’t a “real” Fast/Furious movie, but that doesn’t make it a bad movie. In a lot of ways, it’s more interesting than a lot of them. Even the racing is more fun to watch. Objectively, drift racing is way more interesting to look at than people drag racing a quarter mile on a straight road. One can only tolerate so many shots of people shifting gears and stomping pedals.
Admittedly, Lucas Black’s Alabama accent (inexplicably much thicker than either of his onscreen parents) and Bow Wow playing a guy named “Twink” are a bit much. To say nothing of a 24-year-old actor with a thick pelt of chest hair playing a high schooler.
But I’m a sucker for a fish-out-of-water drama, and simply taking the franchise somewhere new helped a lot. Tokyo Drift is kind of like the Mr. Baseball of car movies. Taking it to Japan forced Tokyo Drift to invent characters who were a little more complex and interesting than the SoCal archetypes of the original or the heist movie stock characters of the later series. Han, while still ultimately a babyface (though less so than when they brought him back later in the series) is allowed to be more morally complex than Dom Toretto ever was. Sung Kang is also arguably a better actor (and so handsome!).
I get thinking Tokyo Drift is more like a Karate Kid movie than a Fast/Furious movie, but… well, some people might say that’s a good thing. It also has both a “you just don’t get it, do you” scene and a “we’re not so different, you and I” scene.
1. Furious 7 (aka 7 Fast 7 Furious, aka The One With The Rock Flexing Out Of His Cast, aka The One With The CGI Paul Walker)
Number In The Franchise: 7
Year Released: 2015
Director: James Wan
New Faces: Jason Statham, Nathalie Emmanuel, Djimon Hounsou
And now we come to number one, easily my favorite of the series and the only Fast/Furious movie that I wholeheartedly love: Furious 7. James Wan took all of the goofy elements of previous installments and turned them into something resembling art. I could almost explain my love for Furious 7 solely through gifs:
Yes, Furious 7 had The Rock flexing his way out of a cast. It also had Vin Diesel smashing Letty’s tombstone with a sledgehammer (you’ll remember from previous installments that Letty was presumed dead and struggled with amnesia), The Rock choke-slamming Jason Statham through a glass coffee table, Vin Diesel killing a helicopter with a car, and Letty saving Paul Walker from falling off a cliff by having him grab onto her spoiler.
But I don’t love Furious 7 because of novelty value alone. All those memorable moments are illustrative of the way Wan, previously of Saw, Insidious, and The Conjuring, shoots his action scenes with a beginning, middle, and end, usually with a big punchline (like the cast, or the spoiler, or the choke slam).
It’s not that anything in Furious 7 is any more believable from a physics standpoint than the action in previous fast movies (he even had Dom and Brian O’Connor jump their cars from one high-rise skyscraper into another), it’s that it has timing, rhythm, and a sense of humor. His action scenes don’t turn into one long, deafening muddle like so many of the setpieces in the other movies, they have peaks and valleys and bridges, like the choruses and verses in a song. Between Furious 7 and Aquaman, I’m convinced that no one does stupid, fun, ridiculously expensive blockbusters as well as James Wan.
This was a movie so idiotic and brilliant that it had a posthumous tribute to Paul Walker with Corona product placement in the middle of it that was still so touching that it had people sobbing in the aisles.
God, what a movie. I wish every dumb blockbuster could be as good as Furious 7.
9. F9 (aka The One With John Cena, aka Magnets, How Do They Work?)
Year Released: 2021
Position in the Franchise: 9
Director: Justin Lin
New Faces: John Cena, Cardi B
Plot: …How long do you have? Dom discovers, partly via a Princess Leia-style hologram of Mr. Nobody, that his long-lost brother, Jakob, played by John Cena, is working for some kind of European dictator. They’re trying to get his hands on “the Aries device,” which is a thing that can hack any computer and is somehow different from the “God’s Eye” from the last movie.
Before we get into the movie, I just want to point out that Vin Diesel told Kelly Clarkson that he had a “strange feeling” that the dearly-departed Paul Walker had “sent” John Cena to play Vin’s brother in the ninth Fast/Furious movie, which is one of the more amazing statements any actor has made during any press tour. The beauty of Vin Diesel is that he can sort of stare off into the distance and growl something completely nonsensical and make it sound like ancient wisdom. “Man… sometimes I just… sometimes when I’m out there on the road… I just think about sea otters and I have to smile, you know?”
Anyway, I saved this for the end partly because I didn’t want take the shine off these rankings by telling you that the latest one sucks, but… hoo boy. As I’ve noted, some of my favorite movies of this franchise came after the shift from it being about street racing to it being about international espionage. That opinion didn’t take into account F9, which is like a Scooby Doo James Bond movie starring models and rappers and wrestlers.
Yes, a team of grown-up Mouseketeers murdering terrorists by the dozen while exchanging sanitized sitcom dialogue feels like a peculiarly American phenomenon, and it’s fairly unsettling — is it for babies or grown ups? It’s for grown ups who are babies! — but the larger implications aren’t what make F9 so boring. The stunts now seem more like a thing the filmmakers have to get done than something they’re having fun with, or something that inspires them. F9‘s big innovation is a giant magnet, which they use (and use and use) for great effect. Unlike Furious 7, however, F9‘s stunts never seem to have a beginning, middle, and end, or a memorable punchline, they’re usually just one long, confusing drone. And that’s when the characters aren’t trekking all over the world in search of some MacGuffin no one cares about.
One fun game you can play while watching F9 is trying to answer the question “where are they going and why?” For 95% of the screen time I had no Earthly idea. The gang seemingly drives their cars in endless circles while dodging drones and missile strikes. Where anyone ends up and why is fairly arbitrary. A character who was in a control room or a secret lair 25 seconds ago will suddenly show up piloting a fighter jet, as if magically transported by a little kid who cheats at GI Joes.
At this stage in the game, with Paul Walker gone and us still stuck with Tyrese Gibson, Ludacris, Jordana Brewster and the gang, what this franchise really could’ve used is some actors. Instead, F9 gives us John Cena, who is not only not an actor, but, and I’m sorry to put it this way: exceptionally unpleasant to look at. Are there people who actually enjoy looking at this man’s giant angular head? His overstuffed sausage arms look like a He-Man action figure left out in the sun. It doesn’t help that they give him an awful haircut and make him frown for the whole movie. Charlize Theron gets the awful haircut treatment too, with some kind of bleachy, Lloyd Christmas bowl cut that covers her eyebrows in front. Didn’t this franchise use to be all about eye candy? Even when it was bad it was beautiful to look at.
Now it feels like a group of people barely maintaining the pretense that this franchise is still relevant in between mentions of Dodge Chargers, Corona, and other Universal properties like the Minions. Where the characters once existed as an attempt to reflect the street racing culture they were trying to depict, they now feel more like sock puppets for zombie IP.
‘F9’ opens in theaters this weekend. Vince Mancini is on Twitter. You can access his archive of reviews here.