Originally released 20 years ago as a supercharged B-movie about street racing, starring Paul Walker and Vin Diesel, the gritty Fast and Furious franchise has continued to flourish – “a quarter mile at a time,” as Dominic Toretto would say.
Now, humorless, world-weary Dominic (Vin Diesel) must face his embittered, long-estranged – but never-before-mentioned – younger brother Jakob (John Cena), who is determined to get his hands on a small geodesic dome known as “the device” which would allow whomever owns it to control the world’s most advanced weapons systems.
In his first appearance in the franchise, sullen, resentful Jakob apparently took off on his own after watching their sports-car-driving father blown to bits on a California speedway. Now he’s an international techno-villain, working for megalomaniacal Otto (Thue Ersted Rasmussen), whose father is the dictator of an unnamed Eastern European country.
Amid the adrenaline-pumping, globe-trotting chases, the ‘usual suspects’ show up. There’s Dom’s wife Letty Ortiz (Michelle Rodriguez), who was previously sidelined by amnesia; Dom’s sister Mia (Jordana Brewster); computer-hacker Tej Parker (Chris “Ludacris” Bridges); and Roman Pearce (Tyree Gibson), serving as comic relief.
Plus, resurrected Korean street racer Han Lue (Sung Kang), the top-secret government agent known as Mr. Nobody (Kurt Russell), jewel-thief Queenie (Helen Mirren, who only agreed to appear if they’d let her drive a car) and villainous, sardonic Cipher (Charlize Theron).
Thinly scripted by Daniel Casey, Alfredo Botello and director Justin Lin, this ninth installment revolves around generic Toretto sibling angst, punctuated by preposterous, over-the-top, physics-defying stunts and the sound of purring engines, squealing tires and skidding stops.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, F9: The Fast Saga barely revs up to a flimsy 5, yet audiences still seem to enjoy the silly spectacle.