Fast & Furious 9: Film Review

Fast & Furious 9

Courtesy of Universal

If you like your Fast and Furious movies silly, ridiculous and illogical then you already know you’re going to have a great time with Fast & Furious 9, also known as F9.

So, here I go trying to explain the plot: Dom (Vin Diesel) and Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) are retired and living a quiet life on a farm when they are summoned by a video message from Mr. Nobody (Kurt Russell), who informs them that he had captured the villain Cipher (Charlize Theron) but then his plane was attacked by rogue agents. The team – also consisting of Roman (Tyrese Gibson), Tej (Ludacris) and Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel) – go to help and discover one half of a device named Aries, which can hack into any satellite or computer system when paired with its other half and an activation key. After Dom’s brother Jakob (John Cena) rocks up and steals the first half, the team must track him down and make sure he doesn’t get the other pieces.

It’s pretty tricky to review Fast and Furious in the same way you’d review anything else because they’re a whole different beast. You know exactly what you’ll get going in – high-octane action, fast cars, ridiculous stunts that defy the laws of physics – and that’s almost become their appeal nowadays. Heck, the audience at my screening whooped and applauded at the big dumb setpieces! You just have leave your mind at the door and laugh at how insane it all is.

Taking all that into account, the ninth instalment is still definitely one of the weaker ones. Sure, the action is absurd (that’s nothing new), but my biggest issue here was mostly to do with how flimsy the plot was. It is so thin and forgettable – it’s generally just Ramsey dropping the next load of exposition to get the actors from one cool location and action setpiece to another. This time they bring in electromagnets to mix up the sequences and I like that they’ve given us something new, even if their usage is very inconsistent. But, you know, all the characters seem to be invincible despite the death-defying stunts, so I shouldn’t be expecting realism. The films have become less high stakes as they’ve gone on as nobody seems to get injured or die anymore and if they do, they miraculously return at some point anyway!

Surprisingly though, this film tries to give us some character depth and delivers backstory on the beef between Dom and Jakob via frequent flashbacks to them in relation to the death of their dad. Vinnie Bennett was well cast as the young Dom but I couldn’t stop laughing at Finn Cole from Peaky Blinders being a young John Cena. That didn’t work for me. I can appreciate what director Justin Lin was trying to do with these scenes but it sometimes felt like I was watching two different films.

Diesel is the man who runs the show but he is actually the most boring to watch onscreen in this, with Rodriguez coming in close second. Outside of the action sequences, in which they’re very physically capable, they just have this brooding and serious presence and not much else. So bland! I also think it’s hilarious they just decided to give Dom and Mia (Jordana Brewster) a brother after nine movies! Jakob is pitched as their toughest nemesis yet but Cena doesn’t have a threatening presence, not compared to Theron’s cold and calculating Cipher (who is wasted this time around).

There are some wins for the ladies though. Brewster has been given an upgrade and gets to do some stunts of her own, Helen Mirren is back for a fabulous but completely unnecessary car chase, and Ramsey is given much more to do. She’s my favourite of the ladies and I like that she’s the brains and tech whiz of the team, is funny, and is getting more involved in the action sequences.

But my favourites overall are Roman and Tej. They are the best because they lean into the silliness more than any of the others. They offer up fun, levity, personality and humour in a film often devoid of it, bring much-needed comedy and lightness to proceedings and they make me laugh the most. The space gag wouldn’t have worked in other hands and I love how they point out the ridiculousness of events like the audience would, with Roman getting to the bottom of how Han (Sung Kang) is alive, asking the questions we needed (it still doesn’t make much sense but just roll with it). If you’re a fan of Tokyo Drift, make sure you keep an eye out for some of Kang’s old co-stars too.

Fans of the Fast franchise will probably eat up this instalment in a heartbeat, even if it is weaker than numbers 7 & 8.

In cinemas from Thursday 24th June

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Here Are the Young Men: Film Review

Here Are The Young Men

Toxic masculinity has come under the spotlight in the last few years so naturally films addressing the issue come along, such as Here Are the Young Men.

The film follows a trio of friends in Dublin in 2003 – Matthew (Dean-Charles Chapman), Joseph (Finn Cole) and Rez (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo), who love to take drugs, get into trouble and have a wild time after they leave school. One day, they witness a young girl get killed in a car accident and they each react to the shock differently. None of them really dig deep and express how they’re feeling – and their parents don’t seem interested in hearing their concerns either – so their emotions manifest themselves in a variety of self-destructive and troubling ways.

I liked what the film that had to say about toxic masculinity and men failing to admit vulnerability and talk about their troubles but I wasn’t completely sold on the execution and how the story played out. I thought it got too dark – presumably exaggerating the extreme side of toxic masculinity – and lost the message a little bit. Although it was totally bizarre and surreal, a dream (was it a dream?!) which places Joseph on an American game show in which he has to use guns and grope women to prove himself as “a real man” was quite effective in driving the point home, once you get used to how weird it is.

Chapman is the film’s moral compass and the one who must do what’s right, even if he takes a while to figure it out. He had quite a complex emotional role and did rather well. Cole has the flashier part as the deranged and sadistic Joseph and he was remarkably convincing as the twisted character, while Walsh-Peelo played the quieter and more sensitive Rez. Rounding out the cast is Anya Taylor-Joy as Matthew’s free-spirited love interest Jen. She has a captivating onscreen presence – as always – and makes Matthew take responsibility for who he’s friends with.

Here are the Young Men takes a while to get going but eventually becomes quite a shocking and thrilling watch. I didn’t agree with all the surreal flourishes but it was quite a powerful piece.

On digital platforms from Friday 30th April and DVD from 10th May

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Dreamland: Film Review

Dreamland

Photo Credit: Ursula Coyote.

After impressing as Michael Gray in Peaky Blinders, British actor Finn Cole finally gets to prove his leading man chops by starring alongside Margot Robbie in Dreamland.

The film is set in a small Texas town in 1935. Local teenager Eugene Evans (Cole) decides to go on the hunt for wanted bank robber and suspected murderer Allison Wells (Robbie) to collect the handsome reward, but he doesn’t need to go very far – turns out the wounded Allison has been hiding out in his family’s barn. He becomes torn between helping and capturing the seductive fugitive.

Dreamland looks impressive, with stunning Depression-era landscapes set in the Dust Bowl, an area hit by a severe drought in the ’30s, but there’s not much going on under the surface. It had the potential to be much more, but the screenplay by Nicolaas Zwart is shallow and doesn’t amount to an awful lot. The film is narrated by Eugene’s younger sister Phoebe (Darby Camp) 20 years later (voiced by Lola Kirke) and it seemed like a cool idea at first but didn’t get used to great effect and ultimately felt rather unnecessary.

The movie is also described as a thriller but that doesn’t feel particularly accurate. It didn’t ever feel particularly exciting or thrilling. Not as much happened as I was expecting it to as the first half of the movie is spent with Eugene falling in love with Allison as she recuperates in the barn. More action comes in the second half but it’s fleeting – a glimpse of what we could have had – and the finale, which should have felt dramatic and poignant, made barely any impact at all.

Robbie, who also produces, is as captivating, alluring, and magnetic as always but as good as her performance is, she doesn’t steal the shine from Cole. She lets him lead and he does well as Eugene, particularly towards the end when he has more emotional heavy lifting. Individually they were strong, but I never once bought their romance; it was not remotely convincing, but that’s mostly down to the screenplay – the twists and turns of their love affair didn’t feel earned or ring true. I also didn’t understand why Garrett Hedlund signed up for such a small role – perhaps it was chopped down a lot in the edit?! That’s the only explanation.

It sounds like I hated Dreamland but I didn’t at all – it was a simple and easy enough watch and I enjoyed watching the two actors I like work with each other, but I’m frustrated because I wanted it to be better and it had the potential to do so.

In cinemas from Friday 11th December

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Peaky Blinders was disappointing as a standalone season

I am a huge fan of Peaky Blinders so I was excited when it returned for its fifth season a few weeks ago. However, I feel a bit deflated about the whole season now it’s over.

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