Fast 9 is one of those Blockbuster movies with a budget so large that is pretty much has to appeal to everybody with working eyes and enough money for a movie ticket to stand a chance of making a profit. Therefore, the franchise has long ago abandoned its street racing roots. Sure, there are plenty of car chases and even a few races. But this is pretty much just a superhero movie in disguise where a bunch of rag tag characters without capes and costumes are fighting to save the world all the while performing impossible feats.
It therefore comes as no surprise that the plot is beyond stupid and only serves as an excuse to send Dom (Vin Diesel) and his crew across the globe in a series of exotic locations. Dom and the gang learn of a secret weapon (that of course looks like a glowing ball) consisting of two parts. If one combines the pieces a secret signal can be transmitted to a satellite that lets the user control every computer system on the face of the Earth. And not just the systems connected to the internet, no, "every device that runs on 1's and 0's" as the brilliant hacker Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel) so cleverly puts it.
Yet, despite the ridiculous premise, the story actually works mainly thanks to the antagonists. Apparently, no major government has interest in this ultra-powerful device, so the bad guys are instead led by the son of an Eastern European dictator, known only as Otto (Thue Ersted Rasmussen), who wants to steal the device and usurp his father (and the whole world for that matter). To that end he enlists the help of Dom's brother Jakob Toretto (John Cena) who has gone rogue due to some tragic events from the past. Combined with a hyper-erotic performance from Charlize Theron, the bad guys' respective daddy issues create a sort of oedipal triangle, and to be honest I was rooting for them all the way.
Unfortunately, the villains don't get enough screen time, and instead we have to follow Dom and his rag tag crew. I can't fault the performances. Vin Diesel still shows that even a brick wall can be a decent actor even though his face is starting to show some cracks. The other actors are also extremely capable, with his wife (Michelle Rodriguez) and sister (Jordana Brewster) delivering a bit of emotional sparks. But overall, the good guys are a lot less interesting as the absurd premise hinders any real character development.
It is not only the cars that are burning rubber at 200 mph in Fast 9. The plot is moving at a breakneck speed, and there is little time to enjoy the sights of the many exotic locations. During the first 45 minutes I barely had time to write a single observation in my notepad, as it would cost me three lines of exposition and a dozen explosions. It therefore feels especially jarring when the director suddenly hits the break, and we are treated to three or four minutes of pointless emotional talk while tire screeching and explosions are replaced by the corniest sentimental music possible. In a movie with so much over-the-top action, it is nice to change the pace, but the tonal differences are just too jarring. Also, at 145 minutes the movie is way to long for its own good.
But really, Fast and the Furious should be viewed, not as a movie, but as a collection of insane action set pieces. And in that regard, the movie does deliver. We see Dom and his crew riding over a minefield while getting chased by armoured vehicles and helicopters; a rocket gets tied to an old Pontiac for some explosive results; and the bad guys empty about a million magazines without hurting a single civilian. Quite a feat!
Yet for all its impressiveness, the action scenes are not all that exciting. Knowing that the good guys are pretty much invincible removes all tension, and due to how crazy it gets, that thin connection to reality, that is needed for these scenes to have any impact, gets completely severed, and the whole movie just collapses like that bridge in the trailer. Sure, it's extremely technically impressive, but unfortunately not much more.
So, the movie has some definitive flaws. The action scenes, while impressive, lack the key ingredients of suspense, the film is way too long for its own sake, and the plot - well, I'm willing to forgive that since it does work in service of the movie. Still, you do get pretty much what you can expect from the latest instalment in the franchise, so if the part of your brain that handles logic needs a two hour vacation, you can do a lot worse than Fast 9.