Fast & Furious 9: Never mind the physics, just go along for the ride

Immerse yourself in ever-sillier stunts and the stars’ genuinely sparky interplay

Fast & Furious 9
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Director: Justin Lin
Cert: 12A
Genre: Action
Starring: Vin Diesel, Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese Gibson, Chris "Ludacris" Bridges, John Cena, Jordana Brewster
Running Time: 2 hrs 23 mins

In any other film franchise, the penultimate stunt here would cause critics to make mention of vehicles vaulting cartilaginous marine carnivores. In truth, for about two-thirds of its duration, the Fast & Furious sequence has prided itself on jumping every shark within the current hemisphere. There is at least one sequence in F9 – a car racing a fighter jet – that was mounted as a jokey segment in the Clarksonian incarnation of Top Gear. Forget about it. Beginning with a reasonably rational crime movie, the automotive soap opera now moves through the same universe as the Road Runner. "Obey the laws of science," somebody dares to suggest in Fast & Furious 9. Chance would be a fine thing. Don't worry about running off that cliff, Vin Diesel. If you don't look down, you won't fall.

The formula reached its peak with the excellent Fast Five. Since then gigantism has taken over, and the likeable characters – always ready for a barbecue while bottles of a popular Mexican beer are positioned label-outwards – have become swallowed by the need to pile celebrity guest star upon digitally enhanced mayhem. Just ponder the bizarre roles allotted to Charlize Theron and Helen Mirren here. The former, still wearing Gareth from the Office's haircut, spends virtually the whole film in a plastic box. The latter does little more than exit a Bond Street store and zoom round the block. Boxes must be ticked and boxes are ticked.

Yet the blasted things do still pass the time better than most of the more disciplined movie franchises. We can't thank the plot. The new film offers us some tasty flashbacks to explain the ill-feeling between Dom (Diesel) and his evil brother, Jakob (John Cena, an inevitable recruit to the team). That tension is wound up with the search for a magical spheroid that will allow the bearer to launch missiles from any superpower towards any other superpower. You know? The sort of thing one-eyed men treasured in Roger Moore's later Bond flicks.

It really isn't worth trying to keep up. Immerse yourself rather in the sillier stunts and the genuinely sparky interplay between committed action stars: Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese Gibson, Jordana Brewster, Cardi B (!). Ponder also how, more than any indie release, Fast & Furious has forwarded diversity. People of colour figure. Women take strong roles. Heck, even apparently dead characters – two now, by my count – return to break the speed limit.


We will miss these things when they are gone.

Opens on June 24th

Donald Clarke

Donald Clarke

Donald Clarke, a contributor to The Irish Times, is Chief Film Correspondent and a regular columnist