F9 is one the dumbest movies I have ever seen. It was so dumb, rather than waste brain cells and precious time thinking about this travesty, I considered just writing the word “dumb” one thousand times and calling it a review. That is what this movie deserves. But, the entire franchise is that stupid and I have somehow never managed to screen one of these movies in the past. Considering people still plunk down billions of dollars of their hard-earned money for every subsequent movie in the franchise, it felt like a cop out to write dumb, dumb, dumb, etc. So, here goes.
(SPOILER ALERT – This movie will kill some of your brain cells and it will hurt.)
Full disclosure: Of this entire insipid franchise, I have seen the first and eighth films, as well as the spinoff Hobbs and Shaw. I tried to watch the fifth one on a flight once and I lasted about five minutes before I prayed for the oxygen masks to deploy. I have missed them for a variety of reasons, one of which was probably because I was washing my hair. And don’t think it’s for film snob reasons. The entire franchise is the equivalent of Days of Our Lives slipping a roofie to Grand Theft Auto. No amount of car stunts can make up for the terrible acting, beyond-cartoonish plots, atrocious music, and cringeworthy dialogue.
I knew going in that F9 was going to be hot garbage; I was just hoping it would be entertaining from an action movie standpoint. And it was very much not entertaining. There were parts where I laughed out loud, not because something intentionally funny happened, but because something so mind-numbingly stupid was said or done that my brain had to make my body do something. As an example, in the climax, they turn a Pontiac Fiero into a space ship by doing nothing more than attaching a rocket engine to it. My friend, who has seen every movie in the franchise, kept turning to me and saying, “Okay, this one really is pretty bad.” There were even kids talking during the film and I did not care at all, whereas usually I’m plotting their murders.
Again, I went into the film just wanting to shut off my brain for two hours to watch action-packed nonsense, but F9 just wasn’t having it. I’ve seen lazy movies, but this movie took laziness to whole new levels. For much of the run time, it kept reminding the audience how dumb this movie was. Early on, Tyrese Gibson’s character (Roman) is surrounded by fourteen bad guys with machine guns, including some in an elevated position. All of them empty their magazines at him and he not only kills them all, but exits completely unscathed. He then proceeds to spend the rest of the movie trying to convince two of his friends that they might be invincible by pointing out how they should all be dead. I half expected the cast of Lost to wander on screen to point out that the Torettos and friends actually are all dead, which is why they continue to have elaborate spy missions despite starting out as DVD/VCR thieves (incidentally, the first film in the franchise has aged exceptionally badly).
Since the movie decided to indulge in discount Deadpool theater, nothing prohibited it from reining in completely ridiculous and wholly unbelievable action sequences, papered over by a plot not even Dom’s mother could love. Not only were Dom (Vin Diesel) and friends surviving things that should have turned them to jelly or human popsicles or swiss cheese, but they weren’t even getting scratched in the process. Not only were they doing things with vehicles that would make Bugs Bunny blush, the vehicles were usually still functioning despite surviving stunts so absurd they could only be accomplished with CGI. Not only were Dom and team not dying on multiple occasions, but they were even bringing dead characters back to life by talking it away by saying Mr. Nobody (Kurt Russell) is “really good at making people look dead.”
By now, I would normally have spent some time on the plot, but it really was just dumb on top of stupid on top of much more dumb. Something about magnets and a MacGuffin and a human MacGuffin and a green ball thing with a computer virus that is going to destroy the world unless two dipshits in a space-Fiero drive into an orbiting satellite. It’s the kind of dumb that puts Harry and Lloyd to shame. Suffice it to say, I was not entertained. F9 is the kind of movie that makes you think that maybe Covid lockdowns aren’t so bad. Just so dumb.
Rating: Seriously – just so, so dumb. Yeah, I’m talking to you if you paid to see this film.
Vin Diesel’s Dom Toretto is leading a quiet life off the grid with Letty and his son, little Brian, but they know that danger always lurks just over their peaceful horizon. This time, that threat will force Dom to confront the sins of his past if he’s going to save those he loves most. His crew joins together to stop a world-shattering plot led by the most skilled assassin and high-performance driver they’ve ever encountered: a man who also happens to be Dom’s forsaken brother, Jakob (John Cena, the upcoming The Suicide Squad).
F9 sees the return of Justin Lin as director, who helmed the third, fourth, fifth and sixth chapters of the series when it transformed into a global blockbuster. The action hurtles around the globe—from London to Tokyo, from Central America to Edinburgh, and from a secret bunker in Azerbaijan to the teeming streets of Tbilisi. Along the way, old friends will be resurrected, old foes will return, history will be rewritten, and the true meaning of family will be tested like never before.
The film stars returning cast members Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese Gibson, Chris “Ludacris” Bridges, Nathalie Emmanuel, Jordana Brewster and Sung Kang, with Oscar® winner Helen Mirren, with Kurt Russell and Oscar® winner Charlize Theron. F9 also features Grammy-winning superstar Cardi B as new franchise character Leysa, a woman with a connection to Dom’s past, and a cameo by Reggaeton sensation Ozuna.
F9 is produced by Neal H. Moritz p.g.a., Vin Diesel p.g.a., Justin Lin p.g.a., Jeff Kirschenbaum p.g.a., Joe Roth, Clayton Townsend p.g.a., and Samantha Vincent. Universal Pictures presents an Original Film/One Race Films/Perfect Storm production in association with Roth/Kirschenbaum Films, a Justin Lin film. www.thefastsaga.com
Genre: Action Thriller
Cast: Vin Diesel, Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese Gibson, Chris “Ludacris” Bridges, John Cena, Nathalie Emmanuel, Jordana Brewster, Sung Kang, with Helen Mirren, with Kurt Russell, and Charlize
Back when I wrote about Edge of Tomorrow, I casually commented that one of the most anticipated movies of the summer was Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy and that I had no idea why it was so anticipated. I’ve read approximately one comic book in my entire life, but I’m aware that they exist and have at least heard of most the titles of most of them. But, Guardians of the Galaxy? Up until a couple of years ago, virtually nobody had heard of that one, including me. I also joked that the only thing revealed in the trailers were the five guardians, a spaceship, a bunch of jokes, and a whole lot of action and I can honestly tell you that all of those things exist in this movie. My big fear was that the plot was either going to not exist or be a complete mess since the previews didn’t show a peep of it. Well, to answer your question, yes – I’ve only ever read one comic book.
Last week, after seeing Lucy, my friend opined that Lucy is fine as long as you don’t think about it. That very well might be the most backhanded compliment one can give to a movie. Essentially, what that statement means is that the film is a flaming turd disguised by an element or two that makes the film tolerable. In the case of Lucy, those elements are good action scenes and Scarlett Johansson walking around in a tight, black dress causing half the audience to drool and the other half to edge ever-so-slightly towards bulimia. But, when you start to think about the plot, the character development, or the various character motivations, you realize you can smell the turd and it’s not pleasant.
The interesting thing about said compliment is it is used almost exclusively by people to sugarcoat their real opinion for a certain audience or because they secretly liked the movie and don’t want to admit they have no idea what a well-written story/screenplay looks like (note: my friend is one of the former). Personally, I use that statement as a veiled insult directed at people who openly like movies that fit the compliment or the people who actually wrote/made the movie. In other words, when I say that Lucy is a tolerable action movie if you turn your brain off, I’m saying Luc Besson – and anyone who claims Lucy is more than a big, dumb action flick – is a moron. I’m not saying you can’t like the film or enjoy it (hell, I enjoyed the shit out of Battleship); I’m just saying don’t make it more than it is. For me, there aren’t many things funnier than people trying to explain the depth and gravitas of poorly written movies like Maleficent.
The converse to said compliment is that it is possible to make big, action flicks that are both fun and non-dumb, which brings me to Guardians of the Galaxy. Based on the previews, I fully expected that I would have to turn off my brain to enjoy the film. If you are in the majority of folks, the only thing you know about the film is that a tree, a raccoon, a green-chick, and two dudes come together on a spaceship to crack jokes and shoot people. That is not exactly the formula for a well-written movie; in fact, it’s essentially Star Wars: The Phantom Menace, but with intentional comedy.
(Side note: how hard are you trying to match up those characters right now? There is no way you are sleeping tonight without figuring that out.)
Where Guardians succeeds and so many others fail is that it delivers a very simple, straight-forward plot, focuses a lot on character development while using it to advance the story, and doesn’t use action just for the sake of action. The entire plot of the film, as you may have guessed, is that the five characters shown in the previews will save the galaxy from something. In this case, they have to save the galaxy from a villain named Ronan (Lee Pace) who is trying to get his hands on an Infinity Stone, which will give him the power to destroy entire planets. Simple, right? The plot advances through various events, bringing the characters together while also telling us more about the characters themselves, including their back stories and motivations for the actions they have taken and the actions they are going to take. There are a couple of minor, unanswered questions like – who is the collector (Benicio del Toro) and why have we now seen him in two different movies? – but those questions don’t make the plot harder to understand or outright nonsensical. In the context of the film, the collector is the guy who promised to pay Gamora (Zoe Saldana) a ton of money for the sphere containing the stone and that’s it. Simple, right?
On top of all that, there are smaller things that make the movie more entertaining than just about any movie this summer. For one thing, the movie is aware of itself. Another thing you hear people sometimes say is that a movie took itself too seriously or isn’t aware of itself. What that usually means is that the mood of the movie does not match the content of the movie. Not to harp too much on Lucy, but it definitely takes itself too seriously (after the first half, that is) in that it treats its own premise with far too much weight. The idea that a human gains multiple superpowers through expanded brain capacity by ingesting a large quantity of a drugs sewn into her stomach is absurd and should be treated as such (obviously, this is not how Lucy handled its own premise). Guardians is a comic book movie in which one of its characters is a genetically engineered, sarcastic raccoon named Rocket (Bradley Cooper) and another is a tree named Groot (Vin Diesel). The mood you would expect is fun action and comedy dressed in special effects and that’s exactly what you get. That’s how you know Guardians is aware of itself.
Of course, the movie isn’t without its flaws. Chris Pratt gives an uneven performance – sometimes he’s really good and sometimes he’s soap opera bad. There are a bunch of thieves led by Yondu (Michael Rooker) that are superfluous and could easily be lifted from the movie without impacting the story. There are some really bad performances put forth by Karen Gillan as Nebula – who spends the entire movie screeching – and Pace, who over-delivers nearly every line he utters. Perhaps the most glaring flaw is best put like this – what the hell is Glenn Close doing in this movie?
The point I’m trying to make is that the movie doesn’t ask you turn off your brain, but also doesn’t ask you to think about anything either. It’s simply asking you to come along for a fun ride for a couple of hours and enjoy yourself. I’m not saying Guardians of the Galaxy is the best movie of the summer, but it might just be the most entertaining.
Rating: Don’t ask for any money back. This movie turned out far better than even Marvel could have predicted.