From its origins 20 years ago as a humble Point Break ripoff featuring fast cars, tough guys, and stolen DVD players, The Fast & The Furious has grown into a global mega-franchise. On this week’s episode of Film Club, critics A.A. Dowd and Katie Rife trace the evolution of this outrageously over-the-top action series, compare it to superhero movies, and share their favorite stunts. Plus, the return of #Candyassgate! And thoughts on the latest entry in the series, the brand new, outrageously oversized F9.
The movie’s deference to [Vin] Diesel’s whims, sincerity, and ego all at once is part of its charm—though perhaps a smaller share of it here than in the past. F9 opens with Dom in classic action-hero-recluse mode, holed up in a remote cabin with his sometimes-dead life partner Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) and raising the young son he discovered in the last movie. Soon enough, team mainstays Tej (Chris “Ludacris” Bridges), Roman (Tyrese Gibson), and Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel) come calling with an urgent mission to track down Mr. Nobody (Kurt Russell), their mysterious handler. Letty is ready to roll, while Dom is reluctant—and in a brief but galling moment, gets shamed for his entirely reasonable desire to stay with his kid, rather than drop everything to help a guy who occasionally hires him for freelance gigs.
Dom gets drawn back into the fray anyway, because this newest world-domination plot leads back to his secret younger brother, Jakob (Cena). Of course, eagle-eyed fans of the original film will recall… nothing. There’s nothing in The Fast And The Furious about Dom having a kid brother, though F9 does offer a stirring re-enactment of the time Dom used a wrench to beat the living shit out of someone. Lin, who co-wrote the screenplay this time around, is convinced enough in the epic power of the Fast series to indulge in a half-hour’s worth of retcon flashbacks featuring Young Dom (played, in an old-fashioned blessing, by actual actor Vinnie Bennett, doing a credible Diesel impression without any visible CG trickery). Even as this fleshes out Dom and Jakob’s relationship, it manages to diminish Brewster’s poor Mia, who somehow doesn’t figure into any of half a dozen scenes set during Dom’s youth. Moreover, Lin’s writing just isn’t as fleet as his directing—and his directing in F9 isn’t as fleet as his work on Fast Five or Fast & Furious 6.
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