F9 : THE FAST SAGA (2021)

Vin Diesel and John Cena in a still
  • Release Date: 28/07/2021
  • Cast: Vin Diesel, Michelle Rodrigues, Ludacris, John Cena, Tyrese Gibson, Nathalie Emmanuel, Charlize Theron
  • Director: Justin Lin

Mindless and Ludacris vehicular mayhem reeling under accentuated flaws of the franchise

— Ambar Chatterjee

Dom (Vin Diesel) is living a peaceful life with Letty (Michelle Rodrigues) and teaching his son Brian junior about the importance of precision. It feels odd coming from a character like him who has murdered physics, logic, and what a human body can withstand for 9 films. Within five minutes of us having a glimpse of the happy family, the party is crashed by their old associates, Roman (Tyrese Gibson), Tej (Ludacris), and Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel). They inform Dom and Letty that Mr. Nobody (Kurt Russell) has been kidnapped by an unknown adversary. Mr. Nobody has left behind a homing beacon leading them to rescue him or atleast to the site of his kidnap.

After some head-scratching and unnecessary tantrums, Dom and Letty agree to join the other three and answer Mr. Nobody’s call. Once in the mess, they realize that Mr. Nobody was incapacitated by a super spy who is or atleast was Dom’s younger brother. Jakob (John Cena) has dedicated his life to being the best or atleast better than Dom in everything and hence poses the biggest threat that Dom and his friends have ever come up against. If that was not enough, there is also cipher (Charlize Theron), the super-villain who they have to contain with. This time, she is trying to get her hands on a device that will give her control over all defense equipment in the world. The rest of the film is one action sequence after another that just keeps getting more and more Ludacris. The film culminates with Tej and Roman going to space and running over a satellite with a Pontiac Fiero strapped to a rocket engine. Need I say more?

F9: The Fast Saga is easily the most insane and poorly written film of the franchise. The franchise was at its best when the writer Chris Morgan and director Justin Lin envisioned a serious and gritty thriller in Fast Five that had Dwayne Johnson playing the best adversary that Dom and company have ever come up against. It was a film that had the characteristic jokes and exchanges that made the Fast and the Furious films popular but was also gritty enough to instill a sense of fear and concern for the characters of the film that the audiences decided to side with. Four films later, we are at a point where Dom and every member of his team has practically turned into superheroes. Roman and Tej keep taking digs at this insane phenomenon when they say that no matter what situation or danger they are thrust into, they come out of it without any scars. But cracking jokes about the inadequacies of a film doesn’t absolve the makers and the actors of the crime of committing those inadequacies in the first place.

Han (Sung Kang) and Roman (Tyrese Gibson) in a still

In a hand-to-hand fight, Jakob lifts up Dom and runs from one room to another hitting Dom’s head against the channel of a door that crumbles due to the impact. Dom remains unperturbed and doesn’t even bleed. A similar thing happens when Jakob is fighting one of the WWE guys atop a truck. After taking a hit, Jakob ducks as he sees a billboard about to hit the WWE guy who stands there like a tower gets hit and yet neither moves nor bleeds. Instead, he looks down at Jakob and says “come on”. Roman finds himself on the lower ground surrounded by almost a dozen enemy soldiers with AK47 rifles. He picks up his gun and shoots at them. He hits all of them but none of them hit him. The ones that hit him only hit his bulletproof jacket. In that too, Roman doesn’t experience any jolts due to impact. These three sequences underline the insanity and improbability of this film and also inform us why Justin Lin might just have overstayed his welcome and finally made a Fast and Furious film that, for the first time, crossed the line and insulted its rather forgiving audiences.   

Vin Diesel is fast turning into the “Salman Khan” of Hollywood. He embodies similar physical constraints and inability to move fluidly as has been made popular by Salman Khan in his recent films. He also carries the same Vin Diesel-esc persona, style, and mannerism in every film that he stars in. I cannot find a difference between him playing Dom in F9 and him playing a resurrected super soldier in Bloodshot. Unfortunately, he also embodies a feeling of arrogance that not only characterizes the characters that he is playing but also forms a common foil for all the characters that he embodies. It is something that I despise. In addition, he performs terribly in any sequences that require even a little emotional depth or rendering. He makes these strange constipated faces that make me laugh out loud. Suffice is to say that Diesel is no longer the charismatic leading man that he once was and he proves to be a liability for the film in many sequences.   

John Cena gets little to work with here and he does what he knows best. I was surprised by the lack of physical action between him and Diesel. It was this physicality that characterized the rivalry between Dom and Hobbs (played by Dwayne Johnson) and was one of the highest points of the entire franchise. However, Cena is a likable actor and tries to do more for the character than what was within his reach. Charlize Theron is there only for a handful of sequences and even in those, she exudes her luster through some terrific dialogue delivery and a few rare well-written exchanges. The rest of the cast do what they have been doing for 9 films and add nothing more to it. The film resurrects Han (Sung Kang) but his character adds little to nothing to the film in terms of character and intrigue. Even his ballistic entry was marred by the trailers that told the audiences in advance that he would be resurrected.  

Vin Diesel in a still

Having said all that, F9: The Fast Saga is still entertaining. It is like an Instagram reel or a TikTok video that you can enjoy if you don’t pay heed to reason, logic, story, etc. The film has some amazing action sequences that are truly out of this world but the story holding it all together and the logic behind the action sequences are so pathetically thin that the sequences don’t have the desired impact. Atleast that was the case for me. However, there will definitely be those who will have a great time with this film for its action, style, and bravura moments.        

Rating: 2/5 (2 out of 5 Stars)


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