In 2001 The Fast and The Furious was released. The Fast and Furious franchise now has nine main story films, one spin-off film, an animated show, and a theme park ride. Somewhere around the 4th and 5th films, they changed from a mix of street racing, car tuning, and low-level crime to full-blown globe-trotting heist films. It took a little while for the transformation to be complete, but that transformation has given this franchise legs. The cast has remained mostly intact, though we all wonder if Ja Rule regrets leaving. Paul Walker’s untimely death was movingly incorporated into the storyline.
The cast has also expanded, including Dame Helen Mirren, to include a huge variety of characters. Some cast members have left and come back; their on-screen deaths explained away once they wanted back in. While each film can stand on its own, F9 is best viewed if you rewatch The Fate of the Furious (8th film) and The Fast and The Furious: Tokyo Drift (3rd film, oddly 6th in sequence between Fast & Furious 6 and Furious 7). Justin Lin has also returned to the director's seat after directing the 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 6th films.
F9 was supposed to be a summer blockbuster in 2020, instead, it is kicking off the return to theaters for many Americans in 2021. It is a fantastic way to bring back audiences, especially when many parts of the country are facing unseasonably high temperatures and lack central air conditioning. The long run time of 2:25 is a blessing in the heat, though you will lose interest throughout the film. There are wonderful action scenes, but much of the film's long length is due to the advancement of the plot. John Cena joins the cast for the first time as Jakob, Dom’s (Vin Diesel) primary adversary and brother. They spend a lot of time arguing about the past and not driving cars and blowing things up.
F9 was a solid Fast and Furious film. I think some of the previous films were better and packed more action per minute. Much like Godzilla vs. Kong, the time spent away from the action does not help the film. There are plenty of laughs to keep the mood light and destroyed cars to put a smile on your face. Do not spend any time thinking too deeply about the plot or character motivations and you should enjoy the film. Sit back, relax, open a Corona, and watch this film like I did, with FAMILY.