There’s a lovely moment in Schitt’s Creek where day-time soap legend Moira Rose, is asked to take part in a new series of her show, despite her character having been killed off (on several occasions). Moira yelps, “But that last time I was shredded!” “That’s why we have writers,” purrs a colleague, “let them do their magic!”
Much magic has been woven by the writers behind this franchise which, since 2001, has spasmodically tracked the exploits of street-racer-turned-international-crime-fighter-and-proud-wearer-of-tight-vests, Dom Toretto (Vin Diesel).
In this ninth instalment, a dear friend of Dom’s, whose explosive demise has been milked for tears in no less than three different Fast & Furious films, turns out to be fit as a fiddle. Meanwhile, the backstory of a villainess (Charlize Theron), is provided via the helpful words, “Cipher! She’s the woman who killed the mother of your child!”
While the devout, family-obsessed, Corona-chugging Dom attempts to foil a heinous plot cooked up by his long-lost super-spy kid brother Jakob (John Cena), cars on a highway get pinged from side to side thanks to mighty magnets controlled by chunky, easy-to-read dials. It’s like Tenet for toddlers.
Man, it’s fun! Partly that’s because the action set pieces, if not quite up to Mission Impossible or MC Universe standards, really are choreographed with flair. Just as importantly, there’s a truckload of self-reflexive wit (the bit where a car enters deep space is especially cheeky).
F9 is also impressively un-blokey. In Furious 7, the camera all-but pawed the thongs of various pit stop girls. We get none of that crap here from director Justin Lin (who’s made four Fast & Furious movies, but didn’t stick around for 7 and 8). Dom’s wife and sister, Letty and Mia, make a proper impression, as does London hacker Ramsey, who comes into her own in Edinburgh. There’s a super-sexy sequence too, with flirtatious Cockney crim Queenie (Helen Mirren, spectacularly knowing behind the wheel of a purple sports car).
Queenie’s son, Owen Shaw, once said: “In our line of work, predictable makes you vulnerable.” Much about the series IS predictable and fans would revolt if Dom were to growl, “God is dead, family’s over-rated and by the way, make mine a Camden Hells.”
But the F&F formula has definitely been tweaked and it’s pleasantly jolting that, despite the 12A rating, we’re treated to pungent lines like “Spoilt, rich pricks run the world!”
The film’s full and rather unwieldy title is The Fast Saga which, if you say it quickly, sounds like The First Aga (now there’s a story that’s never been told). Lin and Diesel have created a soap opera that’s as engaging as it is laughable. For my money, F9 is the best of the bunch. With 10 and 11 on the way, I can’t wait for this to be continued.
145mins, Cert 12A. In cinemas