Genre: Action Running Time: 2 hrs. 25 min.
Release Date: June 25th, 2021 MPAA Rating: PG-13
Director: Justin Lin Actors: Vin Diesel, Michelle Rodriguez, Jordana Brewster, Tyrese Gibson, Chris “Ludacris” Bridges, Nathalie Emmanuel, Charlize Theron, John Cena, Kurt Russell, Helen Mirren, Sung Kang, Anna Sawai, Thue Ersted Rasmussen
xpectedly, it begins with a race … but one set in 1989 with a youthful Dominic Toretto, his younger brother, and their father. And it’s on an actual racetrack, rather than in the streets, even if it’s soaked in a heavily manufactured attempt at emotional impact. Sure enough, the tearful interactions fall flat, since the characters are so incredibly unrealistic and unconvincing. No less improbable is Dom’s (Vin Diesel) current living situation, off the grid in a remote cabin, away from all forms of communication with the outside world, cohabiting with his girlfriend Letty (Michelle Rodriguez), who helps him raise his toddler son.
However, it takes virtually nothing for Dom and Letty to leave the boy in someone else’s care, as well as to abandon their peaceful, nature-loving, technology-free solitude to recklessly risk life and limb, as the arrival of pals Roman (Tyrese Gibson) and Tej (Chris “Ludacris” Bridges) and the mere mention of Mr. Nobody (Kurt Russell) has them off on another international operation. Nobody’s plane was attacked by a rogue agent, whose platoons of black-garbed, armed men are after a typical doomsday device, which means that rather than calling upon any of the government’s many elite soldiers, it’s up to Dom and his ragtag team of superagent-equivalent associates to save the day. And somewhere along the line, Cipher (Charlize Theron), an enemy from the past, manages to be involved.
Once again, despite having shady histories and dubious loyalties, Dom and company are given access to state-of-the-art technology and limitless resources. No vehicles (the more conspicuous the better), guns, or intel are beyond their reach. Also, they’re all invincible (a quality not dismissed by the personas themselves, who verbally comment on their preternatural ability to elude death, intending to poke fun but sounding far too accurate), which comes in handy when an army from Montequinto appears out of nowhere (just seconds after Roman mentions that there’s not a soul in sight), initiating a high-speed pursuit through a minefield. Shootouts, car chases, and panicky expressions abound, often mixing disappointing computer animation with a handful of real stunts and explosions. If the film is going to depend so significantly on chaotic CG mania, it’s nice to see a genuine detonation or two thrown in.
“How in the hell are you not dead?” Several of the action sequences are pathetically asinine, swerving into the realm of laugh-out-loud stupidity. Clearly, this series doesn’t care about looking cool anymore; there seems to be a considerable effort to orchestrate more and more ludicrous feats, ignoring as much realism as possible, as if pushing the boundaries of sensibility is a purposeful goal. But large-scale set pieces aren’t even the bulk of this picture; so many shots of racing, driving, mechanical repairs, hacking, globetrotting, and sitting in a crude circle for story swapping (as if around a campfire, to narrate the relevancy of reappearing roles and new faces) weigh down the already monstrous running time. These are some of the worst movie characters spouting some of the worst dialogue ever witnessed in such a big-budget, long-lasting franchise. “If this were a movie …” begins Cipher, unavoidably taking viewers out of the moviegoing experience to question the level of self-awareness of these fictional people and their fictional missions.
What was once a visualization of the philosophy of fast cars and familial bonds (but mostly cars – and, here, a noticeable amount of Corona beer) has devolved into a convoluted mess of spontaneously invented hurdles to thwart spontaneously invented save-the-world routines, stretching the plot into an unbearable clutter of repetitive adventures. Perhaps in a last-ditch attempt to take the series in a new direction (along the lines of “Leprechaun 4: In Space,” “Hellraiser: Bloodline,” “Jason X,” “Moonraker,” and too many others to list), careening across the planet’s roadways isn’t enough; rocketing into low Earth orbit, where apparently spacesuits duct-taped together are sufficient, is the latest realm for these car aficionados and speed junkies. In the end, the entertaining moments of colossal destruction are overshadowed by exhaustingly moronic, fantastically unthinkable undertakings – to the point that the best scene involves someone who doesn’t know how to drive at all. “As long as we obey the laws of physics, we’ll be fine,” insists Tej, after (of course) nearly two hours of taking no notice of such logic.
– Mike Massie
The Fast & Furious Franchise