Back in 2001, a little movie based on a magazine article (and Point Break) took the summer by storm. The film was The Fast and The Furious and cinema has not been the same since.
The film starred an up-and-coming star, Vin Diesel (Pitch Black), as well as the teen heartthrob from late 90s films, Paul Walker (Varsity Blues). The movie was so powerful at the box office, a sequel for it called 2 Fast 2 Furious was then written. After a moderate box office success with this second film most people wrote off the series, but starting with Fast & Furious (Part 4) the series found its legs and went in a brand new direction that focused less on car races and more on heists and action.
The series has gained a very large following spanning generations and races (and a spin-off). After being pushed back a year because of COVID-19, The latest film, F9: The Fast Saga, roared into theaters in May of 2021, claiming one of this year's largest box office draws.
The story continues where Fate of The Furious (2017) left off. The family is reunited together, however, the protagonist, Cipher (Charlize Theron; Atomic Blonde) avoided capture and is still around to torment the Toretto family. Dom and Letty (Michelle Rodriguez; Resident Evil) have slipped away from society to be in seclusion as Dom is in fear for his son, and longs for peace and quiet. However, this would make quite a boring film, so as usual, the team is out on another mission. The mission starts with the team leaving Dom behind to help Mr. Nobody (Kurt Russell; Escape From New York) save the world from total destruction. However, once Dom learns that his brother, Jakob (John Cena; Suicide Squad) is involved he immediately gets back on the team.
Staying true to their formula the team goes through some death-defying stunts, saves the day, and, in the end, the family is brought back together around the dinner table. If you put your head in check and think of the cast of the Fast Saga as superheroes then the movie is the perfect eye-candy and the kind of fun you want to see in the theater. However, if you have been with the series since the beginning a trend that started in Fast 6 has finally come to realization with F9 — the laws of gravity, physics, and human mortality are no longer on the table. In fact, the film actually acknowledges this a few times throughout the movie in a tongue-in-cheek way.
We no longer just have zombie cars, or stunts where they jump through three buildings with a car, this time we actually have a car launch into space (no I am not kidding), a car using a rope as a swinging tool to get back onto land, and, to top it off, bullets literally bouncing off our heroes as if they were the Man of Steel.
When I initially saw this in theater, I had had enough. The series had gotten too outlandish for me, and I couldn't put my mind in check that far. However, once the 4K UHD release, with the theatrical and director's cut came out on disc, I decided to try once more, knowing what I was getting into, and also knowing that I am home and can even take a break if need be from the maddening death-defying stunts. With that being said, I can appreciate what F9 is trying to do more than I did in the theater.
While the film definitely falls in the ridiculous category, it does have charm, and films like this do have a history of success pleasing audiences the world around. Just look at the 1985 Arnold Schwarzenegger vehicle, Commando, or any Roger Moore James Bond film. If you compare F9 to these films it would fit like a glove. Before superhero films became all the rage, this is what you got. Superhumans that weren't necessarily called that.
Shown in its original aspect ratio of 2.39:1 the film looks very good on the 4K UHD with Dolby Vision. The UHD and Dolby Vision add some upgrades to the textures and colors of the Blu-ray which is also included in the release but really does not add much to the overall aesthetic. One possible reason could be because the movie was upscaled from 1080p to 2160p. Why they choose not to shoot F9 natively in 4 or 8k is lost on me. The audio however is another story, the Dolby Atmos soundtrack envelopes the room, making you feel as if the story is all around you. In fact, the sound was almost as accurate as it was in the theatrical version. Gunshots, tires squealing, explosions, etc. will rock your house literally to the ground with this mix.
Aside from the usual Digital HD copy of the film, F9: The Fast Saga also boasts a director's cut of the film (adding nine minutes to its runtime), F9: All In (a nine-part making of), gag reel, audio commentary from director/writer/producer Justin Lin, Practically Fast, Shifting Priorities, Justice for Han, A Day on the Set with Justin Lin, and John Cena: Supercar Superfan.
As a critic, I can appreciate this film more now that it fits into a "type" of genre, but just as a member of the general public, I still have a hard time wrapping my head around it. I do love the aforementioned films and do see how they relate to F9, but, possibly because the series did not start out this way, my mind can't get into the mindset of what they have become.