Flicks With Nicki – Family, Feminism, and Fun in F9Nicki Salcedo. Photo by Dean Hesse.
Very Brief Movie Reviews: Fast and Furious 1-8 https://decaturish.com/2019/
I pride myself in being like a Vulcan. I like logic. When I think about what makes a good story, I think of character depth and relatable plot lines. I’m a person of reason, and yet I burst into tears during the opening scene of “Fast & Furious 9.”
It starts with a flashback to a story we first heard in “The Fast and The Furious” from 2001. Nine movies and 20 years later, we see the defining moment from the life of Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel). In this installment, Dominic is pitted against his brother Jakob (John Cena) who steals a super weapon for a group of bad guys including Cipher (Charlize Theron).
The world is in peril. Dom assembles his team. His team is his family. Letty (Michelle Rodriguez), Roman (Tyrese Gibson), Tej (Chris “Ludacris” Bridges), Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel), and Dom’s sister Mia (Jordana Brewster). Off screen, Brian is still a part of the story, so the ghost of Paul Walker is ever-present.
Dom grew up as a poor kid in Los Angeles. He starts out as a street racer and petty criminal. He moves on to busting cartels in Mexico and taking out a crime lord in Brazil. He eventually travels to Europe, the Middle East, and Russia as a government agent. The movies are filled with one-liners, fast cars, explosions, and a scene where the hero must fight off a dozen goons all at once. There are cameos and call-backs to all the previous movies. Some of the villains will die. Some will become good. Others will get away. But our heroes triumph.
There are days when you want reality. There are days when you want ridiculous characters and unbelievable plot lines. They may be laughable, but I adore these movies. If you haven’t been watching, go ahead and take a leap of faith.
Why am I crying over a guy who drives off a cliff as a part of his regular commute to work?
“I don’t have friends. I have family.” But it’s more than that. “The Fast Saga” has consistently shown male leads with healthy friendships, a focus on family, and men confident in their roles as fathers. Dominic and Brian are portrayed as faithful to their wives. Action movie alpha heroes are known for one-night stands and with an aversion to domestic life. Not so in this series. Even back in the first movie of the series, Brian is the one willing to wash dishes with Mia when the others mocked him for it. This is a movie about street racers, and there is less male fragility than you would expect.
The series contains many important women. Remember Suki? Monica? The women love and respect each other. The women are equal in the missions. Women of all ages are strong and sexy. In “F9,” we learn that Ramsey doesn’t know how to drive. She ends up stealing a truck. When she catches up with the men, they don’t take the wheel from her. They don’t mansplain how to drive. They hop into the truck, and she continues to drive terribly and slowly. This is a movie about driving fast cars, but the team trusts her.
I enjoy watching a high speed heist. I like dudes in white tank tops. I like the moments when the laws of physics and science no longer matter. We’ve seen the team race against trucks, trains, boats, submarines, and airplanes. “F9” moves well past ludicrous into farcical. There is an attempt to break the fourth wall with the audience and admit their feats of strength and speed are absurd. We don’t need this. Vince harpooned himself to a speeding semi-trailer in the first movie. The stories started out absurd twenty year ago.
In the world of regular movies, “F9” is Grade C. Even though I loved it, it isn’t a great movie. The franchise doesn’t know how to top itself. But in the world of “The Fast Saga,” it’s a solid addition to the core story. This movie filled me with happiness. When my family got home, we started watching the first “The Fast and the Furious” again. I took that as a positive sign, because we needed to step into that world one more time. Surprising amounts of family, feminism, and fun. I may have gotten teary at the end too. My son will be fourteen this summer. His only comment after the movie was, “Maybe next time they’ll use their cars to time travel.” I hope so. Grade B.
Nicki Salcedo is a Decatur resident and Atlanta native. She is a novelist, blogger, and a working mom.
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