Review: 'F9: The Fast Saga' is an Acquired Taste

by Greg Vellante

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Tuesday September 7, 2021

Vin Diesel and Michelle Rodriguez in F9 / Universal
Vin Diesel and Michelle Rodriguez in F9 / Universal  

What a fascinating franchise "Fast & Furious" has become. You could legitimately scribe entire books based upon its existence. Depending on your taste and where you land on your thoughts regarding specific entries, these movies are simultaneously guilty pleasures, commercialized amusement park rides, genuine examples of quality action filmmaking, heartwarming meditations on family and legacy, wisecracking character comedies, and so much more. It's understandable, yet unfair, to preconceive these movies as brainless blockbusters if you've never seen them before, but for those who have dived into these films like a child digging their spoon into a heaping ice cream sundae, they're an undeniable treat.

As such, it breaks my heart as a massive fan of these films to admit that the latest entry, "F9" (or "F9: The Fast Saga," as the poster reads), left me depressingly unsatisfied. The downward trajectory of the franchise has been felt since Justin Lin elevated it to new heights with his four-film run that peaked with the fifth and sixth entries, then left the director's chair (James Wan and F. Gary Gray took over for the seventh and eighth films, respectively). Lin's eye for action was a perfect fit for this franchise's ludicrous, gravity-defying stunt work and set pieces, so having him return for "F9" is a welcome revival.

Visually, it's great to see Lin crafting these high-flying, chaotic sequences again, but at the core of "F9" lies a deeper issue: The absence of screenwriter Chris Morgan, who took on script duties starting with the third entry (spinoff "Tokyo Drift"), and along with Lin helped build the universe that "Fast & Furious" has become known for. The character arcs, storylines, relationships, and overall cohesive nature of the franchise began with Morgan and Lin's collaboration, and even while the latter left directorial duties for the last two films, Morgan remained a constant fixture.

This time the screenplay is co-written by Daniel Casey and Lin. The plot isn't worth diving too much into; you are either approaching this film with the encyclopedic knowledge of all its predecessors, or you're going to be completely clueless and left to fend for yourself. "F9" goes to far too many places, takes far too many shortcuts, creates far too many plot holes, and tries simply to do far, far too much even in its bloated 145-minute runtime. Here is a film that resurrects the dead and defies death, but can't seem to avoid the pitfalls of its own self-defeating devices.

At the end of the film, a white-font title card over a black screen reads "FF," before transforming into the movie's title. I guess here, "FF" stands for fan fiction, because that's honestly how it comes across when you take into account the mind-boggling script and its spirited, yet disappointing, execution. I envy those who can lose themselves in, and fully enjoy, "F9." I, sadly, could not muster much enthusiasm for something that ultimately felt like a parody of a franchise I've grown to love, a well-intentioned but soulless facsimile that jumps the shark in the form of a rocket-strapped Pontiac Fiero.

"F9" is available today digitally