F9 ★★★

Like any other Fast and Furious movie, you don't necessarily come for the story, characterizations, and underlying themes. It's most introspective layer has to do solely with family - and the same goes for "F9".

The "take over the world", virus threatening, cybernetic death trap has started to riddle this franchise creatively as "F9" succumbs to a similar narrative that doesn't offer much variety compared to other Fast storylines. However, as the unearthly ninth installment in this ever-growing franchise, it provides enough substance to develop the characters, let them shine, and attribute to the ridiculous action set-pieces we have all grown to love and appreciate.

As a huge Fast and Furious fan, I am not going to say this was my favorite addition to the franchise, but it's a bloody fun effort. Coupled with the fact that I was able to attend the World Premiere at the Chinese Theater, it's only made the experience that more enjoyable. However, there are some lackluster elements to the plot that failed to uplift the stakes for me, where some explanation and theory that I was looking forward to being revealed just wasn't worthwhile.

Lin has done an incredible job revitalizing the Fast franchise with exuberance, depth, and meaning. "F9" follows most of these themes once again, emphasizing its signature trait on family and living a quarter mile at a time, though its biggest still felt a tad weightless when trying to deliver in its biggest moments. For me, this is was how the film handled Han's return and the addition of John Cena as Dom's brother. While Han is one of my favorite characters, the emotional impact and reasoning for his big homecoming is a bit vague.

There's a lot that works with John Cena's Jacob and a lot that just misses the mark. Most of it has to do with Cena's performance itself. It's a bit dry and doesn't quite have a menacing enough edge to suffice as the film's antagonist, nor provide enough stakes. On the contrary, I really enjoyed the backstory into Dom's past that having Jacob in the film brought out. It only further provides history and deeper look into the dark past that still haunts the Toretto's to this day, and "F9" did a great job exploring that angle.

Overall, "F9" has plenty of riveting sequences and impractical stunts to offset reality, but instill loads of fun that will have audiences pleased. There's a nice little scene where Roman, Ramsey, and Tej even begin to argue their abilities to constantly withstand catastrophic injuries that furthers the pure lighthearted entertainment that these movies bring. With nine films under their belt, you'd be a fool to not understand the point of these movies. So rather than complain, just sit back and enjoy the ride.