Review: ‘F9,’ starring Vin Diesel, John Cena, Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese Gibson, Chris ‘Ludacris’ Bridges, Nathalie Emmanuel and Jordana Brewster

June 25, 2021

by Carla Hay

Michelle Rodriguez and Vin Diesel in “F9” (Photo courtesy of Universal Pictures)

“F9”

Directed by Justin Lin

Culture Representation: Taking place in the United States, Spain, the United Kingdom, Japan, Germany, Azerbaijan and the nation of Georgia, the action flick “F9” features a racially diverse cast of characters (black, white, Latino and Asian) representing the middle-class and wealthy in law enforcement and the criminal underground.

Culture Clash: A daredevil team tries to save the world from a group of criminals that includes an assassin who is the estranged brother of the daredevil leader. 

Culture Audience: Besides appealing to fans of the “Fast and the Furious” movie franchise, “F9” (the ninth movie in the series) will appeal primarily to people who want to a predictable action flick with high-budget stunts and low-quality screenwriting.

Pictured in front, from left to right: Vin Diesel, Thue Ersted Rasmussen and John Cena in “F9” (Photo courtesy of Unviersal Pictures)

At this point, movies in the “Fast” movie franchise (which began with 2001’s “The Fast and the Furious”) are no longer rooted in reality and have become over-the-top spectacles for people who want to shut their brains off for a couple of hours while they watch. And that’s okay, if there’s a coherent plot and the stunts are truly creative. But “F9” (the ninth film in the series) is an example of a sequel that’s too bloated, too self-satisfied and too lazy. This movie needed less stunt casting and more impressive stunts that don’t insult people’s intelligence.

Directed by Justin Lin (who co-wrote the abysmal “F9” screenplay with Daniel Casey), “F9” is best described as a live-action movie written and directed like a sloppy cartoon for people with no attention span and no expectations to see an intriguing thriller beyond predictable chase scenes, shootouts and explosions. It’s another “we have to save the world from a power-hungry villain” story, but there’s no real creativity or suspense in this overstuffed, 145-minute movie that tries to distract viewers from the weak plot by zipping around the world to different locations. Too bad with all that globetrotting in search of the villain, the “F9” team couldn’t find anything resembling a suspenseful story, because almost every twist and turn can be easily predicted.

The main characters in the “Fast” saga have become so egotistical and conceited that there are multiple times in the movie where they wonder out loud to each other if their death-defying luck might be because they aren’t mere mortals but might in fact have superpowers. “F9” is not a superhero movie, although it would be a better explanation for some of the ridiculous outcomes of battles where real human beings would die, but these “heroes” just get injuries that are never fatal and they recover in ways that are too quick to believe.

And this wouldn’t be a “Fast” movie without constant use of the word “family.” It can become a drinking game to take a drink every time the word “family” is said in a “Fast” movie. This time around, “F9” is especially enamored with adding more people to the “family,” with some unnecessary stunt casting that looks very out of place. If “F9” is the first movie that people see in the “Fast” series, they might be a little confused, because the movie assumes that viewers will already know a lot of the characters’ backstories. It’s best to watch 2017’s “The Fate of the Furious,” because most of the main characters in that movie are in “F9.”

Here’s a handy summary of who’s in the movie and how their screen time is used in “F9.”

The Heroes

  • Dominic “Dom” Toretto (played by Vin Diesel) is the leader of the daredevil crew that started out as outlaw drag racers and now have vague duties a security/spy team hired to help out government officials and elite business people who are targets of villains who want to take over the world. Vinnie Bennett portrays a young Dom in the movie’s several flashbacks to when Dom was in his late teens.
  • Letty Ortiz (played by Michelle Rodriguez) is Dom’s on-again, off-again girlfriend. In “F9,” Dom and Letty are happily living together with Dom’s son Brian, who’s about 4 or 5 years old in this movie. Brian’s mother Elena Neves (played by Elsa Pataky) was a Diplomatic Security Service agent who died in “The Fate of the Furious.”
  • Mia Toretto (played by Jordana Brewster) is Dom’s loyal younger sister who goes along with whatever Dom wants. Mia is the love partner of Dom’s best friend Brian O’Conner (played by Paul Walker), who is the father of their son Jack. Walker died in real life in 2013, but Brian is supposed to be happily retired.
  • Roman Pearce (Tyrese Gibson) is a nervous and talkative member of Dom’s team. The running joke with Roman is that he’s always anxious about getting into dangerous situtations. Expect Roman to scream at least twice in every “Fast” movie.
  • Tej Parker (played by Chris “Ludacris” Bridges) is Roman’s level-headed best friend who has skills as a mechanic and a computer technician.
  • Ramsey (played by Nathalie Emmanuel) is a British computer hacker who has essentially taken over from Tej as being the “computer whiz” on Dom’s team.
  • Han Lue (played by Sung Kang) supposedly died in 2013’s “Fast & Furious 6,” but he makes a notable but brief return in “F9.” Han’s return is not spoiler information, since it’s part of this movie’s publicity, and his re-appearance has this explanation: He faked his own death.

The Villains

  • Otto (played by Thue Ersted Rasmussen), a wealthy German mogul with vast political connections who wants to take over the world.
  • Jakob Toretto (played by John Cena), Dom’s estranged younger brother, who works with Otto as Otto’s top assassin. Finn Cole portrays a young Jakob in his late teens in the movie’s flashback scenes.
  • Cypher (played by Charlize Theron), a cyberterrorist who was the chief villain in “The Fate of the Furious.” In “F9,” she spends most of her screen time literally locked up in a glass cage.

The Rest

  • Sean (played by Lucas Black), Twinkie (played by Shad Moss, also known as Bow Wow) and Santos (played by Don Omar) are three mechanics who are in the movie mostly for comic relief. They’re like the Three Stooges of the “Fast” movie franchise.
  • Mr. Nobody (played by Kurt Russell) is a powerful undercover operative who works with Dom’s team. A plane hijacking involving Mr. Nobody sets off the rescue mission in the movie.
  • Elle (played by Anna Sawai) is an associate of Han’s who plays a key role in this mission.
  • Stasiak (played by Shea Whigham) is an FBI agent who works with Mr. Nobody.
  • Buddy (played by Michael Rooker) is a mechanic who raised Jakob after Jakob’s father died.
  • Queenie Shaw (played by Helen Mirren) is the mother of Deckard Shaw (played by Jason Statham), a longtime nemesis of Dom’s team.

Through a distress video found in Mr. Nobody’s hijacked plane, Dom and his team find out that Jakob was one of the chief people behind the hijacking. Otto and Jakob are after a device called Aries, which has the ability to hack into defense and banking systems around the world. It’s the type of device that any self-respecting villain with world domination goals would want to have.

Aries has been split into two. Jakob and Otto have one half of Ares, and they’re in a race against time with Dom and his team to get the other half of Aries. Cypher is being held captive by Otto and Jakob, who try to get her advice on how to find Aries and thwart Dom and his team. The stakes are more personal for Dom and Jakob because of their family feud.

The origin of this brotherly vendetta is shown through flashbacks. It has to do with the death of Dom and Jakob’s father Jack Toretto (played by JD Pardo), who died during a car race witnessed by Dom and Jakob. Siena Agudong plays a young Mia in these flashbacks.

Various parts of Dom’s team travel to different parts of the world to find the missing half of Aries. Cardi B has a very quick cameo as Leysa, someone from Dom’s past. People might laugh when they see what type of role she has in this movie. (No, she isn’t a stripper.) Along the way, Roman and Tej go into space using a rocket car that was built by Sean, Twinkie and Santos. Now, try say all of that out loud with a straight face.

The Pontiac Fiero that goes into space (by having a cheap-looking rocket launcher attached) is the most ridiculous part of this movie’s dumb plot. But to the movie’s credit, “F9” even knows how stupid this space rocket car gimmick is, because Roman and Tej keep saying while they’re in outer space that they have no idea what they’re doing there. In real life, Roman and Tej would also be dead in space, based on the flimsy-looking spacesuits they wear in this movie. But when a movie is self-aware of how idiotic it is, it doesn’t make the idiocy any better.

There are many examples of how “F9” is wasteful, including how it squanders the great talent of Oscar-winning actresses Mirren and Theron. Mirren’s Queenie character (who is a jewel thief) literally does nothing in the movie but drive Dom somewhere after she’s committed a jewelry heist. The movie makes a point of showing how Queenie is wearing animal print boots underneath her elegant gown and high-priced jewelry. Mirren might as well have been wearing a T-shirt that says, “I’m Just Here for the Paycheck.”

Theron spends most of her “F9” screen time as a prisoner in a glass cage, which is the type of cage that people have for large animals. And speaking of sexist depictions of women, the movie has a mansion party scene where only modelesque, scantily clad women wearing white are gathered on the front lawn, as if they’re only there to be sex objects on display. “F9” villain Otto is the host of the party, so “F9” filmmakers can shift the blame to the evil character being responsible for objectifying women. But it just comes across as director Lin deciding to objectify women in this scene just because he could.

Of course, Letty, Mia and Ramsey all embody what it means to be good and strong women. But make no mistake: The men are in charge in these movies. No matter how much Letty, Mia and Ramsey are given to do, all three women are ultimately under Dom’s leadership. So much for female empowerment.

“F9” is one of the worst of the “Fast” franchise because even the chief villain Otto is forgettable and badly written. He comes across as a spoiled wimp, with the wardrobe of a dorky playboy, including wearing tacky leisure suits with loafers and no socks. There’s absolutely nothing scary about Otto. However, look for Statham’s Shaw character to make a mid-credits cameo in “F9.” Statham’s appearance is a reminder of how much better this movie series is when it has a truly menacing villain.

As for Jakob, he’s all brawn and very little brain, just like many characters Cena tends to play in action movies. The flashback scenes take up a lot of time and some could easily have been cut out of the film and still made their point. Diesel continues to display wooden acting. The rest of the cast members are serviceable in their roles. The movie’s flashbacks serve as the emotional core of the over-used theme in “Fast” movies: family.

And the return of Han doesn’t happen until the last third of the movie. The not-very-believable explanation for Han’s “return from the dead” is so cringeworthy, even actor Kang seems a little embarrassed to utter the lines. You’d have to believe that Han (who supposedly died in a car explosion) had a similar-looking replacement corpse nearby before the car exploded, and that he was not only able to jump out of the car in time but also put another corpse in the car instead. You’d also have to believe that a medical examiner wouldn’t be able to detect through DNA or dental records that Han’s body wasn’t the body that was found in the car.

With all that being said, die-hard fans won’t care how bad “F9” is because they just want to see fight scenes, car chases and explosions. And in that respect, “F9” does deliver, but not as well as previous “Fast” films that Lim directed. He also directed 2006’s “The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift,” 2009’s “Fast & Furious,” 2011’s “Fast Five” and “Fast & Furious 6.” Those other four movies have something that “F9” severely lacks: a story with some genuine and unique surprises, not coasting entirely on past glories.

Universal Pictures released “F9” in U.S. cinemas on June 25, 2021. The movie was released in various other countries, beginning on June 19, 2021.

Saving Our Selves: A BET COVID-19 Relief Effort to include participation from Kelly Rowland, Terrence J, Regina Hall, DJ Khaled, Chance the Rapper, Kirk Franklin and more

April 8, 2020

Updated April 17, 2020

The following is a press release from BET:

BET announces an array of high impact initiatives to support communities of color impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Black Americans are being disproportionately harmed by the health and financial devastation wrought by the COVID-19 pandemic. BET, in partnership with the NAACP, United Way Worldwide, leaders in the African American creative, civil rights and business communities will provide critical financial, educational and community support directly to the African Americans hardest hit by this crisis.

These initiatives include the “Saving Our Selves: A BET COVID-19 Relief Effort” broadcast special; the creation of a relief fund in partnership with United Way Worldwide to assist people of color most impacted by this health and financial crisis, and our support of the NAACP’s Town Hall Series.

For 40 years, BET has been rooted in a legacy of helping afflicted communities of color, raising $12 million for Katrina victims and millions more for Haiti earthquake victims.  In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, BET will use their global platform to provide critical educational and financial resources directly related to the African American community.

“The COVID-19 pandemic is savagely compounding the profound health and financial vulnerabilities many Black Americans face. Every day, there are new reports of how this pandemic is killing African Americans at much higher rates than other communities.” said Scott Mills, President of BET.  “BET is using all of our resources – our capital, our media platforms, our relationships with the creative community, sponsors, businesses and charitable organizations to support our community in this time of crisis.”

The “Saving Our Selves: A BET COVID-19 Relief Effort” broadcast special, will air on Wednesday, April 22nd at 8 pm EST. The special, co-hosted by Grammy Award-Winning singer and actress Kelly Rowland, TV personality Terrence J, and actress Regina Hall; will feature virtual appearances and musical performances from some of the biggest names in music and entertainment as they share tips on how to manage, cope and help during the COVID-19 pandemic crisis. Celebrity guest appearances and performances will include DJ Khaled, Charlie Wilson, Chance the Rapper, Kirk Franklin, Fantasia, Melvin Crispell III, and many more. The special will give up-to-date information and drive viewers to needed resources during this unprecedented time.  In partnership with United Way, proceeds are being donated to African American communities severely impacted by COVID-19.

“Our goal for this special is to come together in a collective spirit of strength, community and hope. As we unite in harmony and compassion, through the collective healing power of music, comedy and entertainment, we can bring restoration and inspire the world that our brighter days are ahead,” said Connie Orlando, EVP Specials, Music Programming & Music Strategy at BET.

Connie Orlando, EVP Specials, Music Programming & Music Strategy at BET  will serve as Executive Producer for the “Saving Our Selves: A BET COVID-19 Relief Effort” broadcast special along with Jesse Collins, CEO of Jesse Collins Entertainment.

To support these initiatives, BET has established a COVID-19 relief fund in partnership with United Way Worldwide to support African Americans that have been severely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.  United Way, the largest private funder of human services in the U.S., has a presence in 95% of communities across the country, and has, for more than 130 years, mobilized the caring power of the community to advance the common good. United Way is unparalleled in its power to convene local partners, providers and resources to address the needs of vulnerable communities on the ground.

Financial donations from the joint fund will allow United Way to disburse resources to local organizations under United Ways in New York City, Atlanta, New Orleans, Los Angeles, Detroit and Chicago, regions that have been most impacted by this crisis.  There are long-term plans to expand these resources to other markets going forward.  In particular, United Way will be supporting families in crisis who are experiencing food insecurity and are in need of emergency assistance.

“United Way is deeply embedded in communities across our country, and our ‘local-ness’ means we know the needs on the ground and how to get the right kind of help to those who need it most,” said Stan Little, Chief Experience Officer of United Way. “We look forward to partnering with BET to bring much-needed relief and long-term recovery to already vulnerable communities that are being hit especially hard because of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

BET is also providing resources and content on COVID-19 across multiple digital platforms including a four-part virtual town hall series in partnership with the NAACP.  On Wednesday, April 8, at 8 PM ET/ 5 PM PT, “Unmasked: A COVID-19 Virtual Town Hall Series Powered by NAACP & BET” will stream on NAACP.org and focus on how the pandemic is affecting African Americans and what steps the community can take to build an action plan for positive change. The first town hall will focus on the health, emotional, economic toll, congressional response and how activists can apply pressure to ensure legislation is equitable. Additionally, BET.com is reporting daily on what the African American community needs to know about COVID-19, and how it is impacting our lives.

You can donate to the fund beginning Friday, April 10th.  More information on BET’s partnership with UWW and additional extensions of our relief efforts are forthcoming. For further details, please visit BET.com.

April 17, 2020 UPDATE

Anthony Anderson (Photo by Rich Fury/Getty Images for VH1)

Today BET announces comedian and actor Anthony Anderson as the fourth host of the upcoming “Saving Our Selves: A BET COVID-19 Relief Effort” special.  Anderson joins stars Kelly Rowland, Terrence J, and Regina Hall as host for the two-hour special broadcast. “Saving Our Selves: A BET COVID-19 Relief Effort” is set to air on Wednesday, April 22, 2020 at 8 PM EST.

Performances include Alicia Keys with a special tribute to New York City, and a Gospel moment with Kirk Franklin featuring Fantasia, Jonathan McReynolds, Kelly Price, Tasha Cobbs, Le’Andria Johnson, and Melvin Crispell III.  Exclusive performances by John Legend, Usher, Jhene Aiko, Chloe X Halle, CeeLo Green, H.E.R., Ella Mai, Jermaine Dupri, Ludacris, Swae Lee, Tyrese Gibson, Buju Banton, DJ D-Nice, SiR, D Smoke, and Charlie Wilson.

Additional celebrity guest appearances will include Tiffany Haddish, Idris Elba, Ciara, Don Cheadle, Mike Epps, Deon Cole, Angela Rye, Dr. Rheeda Walker, Charlamagne Tha God, Symone D. Sanders, DJ Khaled and Chance The Rapper.

Expanding the reach of the telecast, BET will simulcast the special across BET and BET Her domestically, as well as their channels internationally bringing awareness to over 90 million homes.  Additionally, BET will join forces with Bounce to help expand the audience to include free, over-the-air broadcast viewers with Bounce simulcasting “Saving Our Selves: A BET COVID-19 Relief Effort.”

About BET

BET, a subsidiary of ViacomCBS Inc. (NASDAQ: VIACA, VIAC), is the nation’s leading provider of quality entertainment, music, news, and public affairs television programming for the African-American audience. The primary BET channel is in 90 million households and can be seen in the United States, Canada, the Caribbean, the United Kingdom, sub-Saharan Africa, and France. BET is the dominant African-American consumer brand with a diverse group of business extensions including BET.com, a leading Internet destination for Black entertainment, music, culture, and news; BET HER, a 24-hour entertainment network targeting the African-American Woman; BET Music Networks – BET Jams, BET Soul and BET Gospel; BET Home Entertainment; BET Live, BET’s growing festival business; BET Mobile, which provides ringtones, games and video content for wireless devices; and BET International, which operates BET around the globe.

About United Way

United Way fights for the health, education and financial stability of every person in every community. Supported by 2.9 million volunteers, 9.8 million donors worldwide and $4.7 billion raised every year, United Way is the world’s largest privately funded nonprofit. We’re engaged in 1,800 communities across more than 40 countries and territories worldwide to create sustainable solutions to the challenges facing our communities. United Way partners include global, national and local businesses, nonprofits, government, civic and faith-based organizations, along with educators, labor leaders, health providers, senior citizens, students and more. For more information about United Way, please visit UnitedWay.org. Follow us on Twitter: @UnitedWay and #LiveUnited.

About NAACP
Founded in 1909, the NAACP is the nation’s oldest and largest nonpartisan civil rights organization. Its members throughout the United States and the world are the premier advocates for civil rights in their communities. You can read more about the NAACP’s work and our six “Game Changer” issue areas at naacp.org.

Vin Diesel, Ludacris, Tyrese Gibson, Jordana Brewster attend grand opening of ‘Fast & Furious – Supercharged’ at Universal Orlando Resort

May 3, 2018

Chris "Ludacris" Bridges, Vin Diesel, Jordana Brewster and Tyrese Gibson
Chris “Ludacris” Bridges, Vin Diesel, Jordana Brewster and Tyrese Gibson at the grand opening of Fast & Furious Supercharged at Universal Orlando Resort in Orlando, Florida on May 2, 2018. (Photo courtesy of Universal Orlando Resort)

The following is a press release from Universal Orlando Resort:

Last night, superstars from the Fast & Furious franchise – star and producer Vin Diesel (Dom), and stars Chris “Ludacris” Bridges (Tej), Tyrese Gibson (Roman) and Jordana Brewster (Mia) – celebrated the opening of Universal Orlando Resort’s new attraction, Fast & Furious – Supercharged.

Diesel joined some of his Fast & Furious series co-stars for a celebratory moment reminiscent of the Fast & Furious films – featuring high-speed car action and an amazing stunt in front of the attraction. The moment culminated with a countdown led by the franchise’s superstars and an explosive pyrotechnics display.

With a worldwide box-office of more than $5 billion, the Fast & Furious film franchise is one of the highest-grossing of all time and has become a global phenomenon that has captivated audiences from around the world with action-packed storylines, unique characters and high-speed cars. Now, in the immersive family attraction – Universal Orlando guests can step into the blockbuster franchise and straight into the heart of the Fast & Furious series right alongside some of their favorite members of the Fast & Furious crew – Dom, Letty, Hobbs, Tej, Roman and Mia – all played by the films’ stars.

During the experience, guests will:

  • join up with the Fast & Furious crew as they feel what it’s like to step into their favorite Fast & Furious film;
  • immerse themselves in an authentic re-creation of the Fast & Furiouscrew’s warehouse headquarters – filled with actual props, iconic scenes, authentic details and supercharged vehicles from the films;
  • ride with the family and crew as the film’s soundtracks pumps, vehicles flip, rockets fire – and the action builds; and –
  • check out more than a dozen of the supercharged cars from the films – including some driven by their favorite characters, like Dom’s classic muscle car, Roman’s super lux coupe and more.

Fast & Furious – Supercharged is now open at Universal Orlando. Guests can save up to $100 on a Universal Orlando Vacation Package and Florida Residents can take advantage of the limited-time Buy a Day, Get a 2nd Day Free offer to experience everything at Universal Orlando Resort, including Fast & Furious – Supercharged. To purchase these special ticket offers and for more information on Fast & Furious – Supercharged, visit www.UniversalOrlando.com/Fast.