Review – Cars, Catastrophes, And Clod-Heads (“F9”)

The Fast ‘n’ Furious franchise jumped the tracks a while ago with Fast Five, but really went bonkers with Fast ‘n’ Furious 6. After that, every film has been less a movie and more a Warner Bros. cartoon with LOL unimaginable leaps in logic, gravity, physics, and hilarious plot devices.

Any franchise that delivers such utter nonsense with a wink and a smile is okay in my book, but this one goes beyond the pale. When we last saw the Avengers. . . sorry, I mean, the family (they use that word alot), Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) rescued his son from the evil clutches of the supervillain, Cipher (Charlize Theron), and finally settled down with his love, Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) to a life of leisure. Uh-huh. Right. Sure. That lasts about 30 seconds when his pals come a’callin’ with bad news: covert ops leader Mr. Nobody’s (Kurt Russell in a brief cameo) plane has been shot down carrying Cipher AND one-half of the deadly McGuffin. . . I mean, the geosphere gizmo called The Aries Project.

This device, if put together can–like Skynet–take over every computer in the world! Bwahahaha! And who’s behind this nefarious plot? Why, none other than some rich megalomanic called Otto (Thue Ersted Rasmussen) and his henchman, Jakob Toretto (John Cena), the long-lost brother of Dom. They’re also using a captured Cipher as their pawn, but we’ll see how that goes. Anyway, faster than you can say “Furious, assemble!”, Dom and Letty get their crew together to stop super-spy Jakob and his bad guys.

Dom has super-hacker Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel), buddy-buddy racers and comic-reliefs, Roman Pierce & Tej Parker (Tyrese Gibson & Chris “Ludacris” Bridges), Dom’s sister Mia (Jordana Brewster), and Han (Sung Kang) who was “killed” in part 6, but not really. There’s also a few other assorted friends from past movies that join in on the nuttiness. A newcomer is Han’s kick-ass ward, Elle (Anna Sawai), who holds the key to that Aries thingamabob. Anyway, while all this is going on, we are treated (??) to flashbacks to 1989 and the racetrack life of young Dom & Jakob and how the tragic death of their father shaped their lives.

The entire movie is one very long (145 minutes!) mission to get that Aries whatsits and the people/action that comes in-between. We have an oh-so brief encounter with Deckard Shaw’s mum, Queenie (Helen Mirren in a brief cameo), multiple shoot-outs with villains that went to the Stormtroopers School For Villains That Can’t Shoot Straight, a laughably silly opening chase in the jungle, Dom Toretto growling at everyone, Roman remarking that he’s never gotten hurt, no matter what’s happened to him in all the past adventures (LOL!), and the stupidity level of the plot being stretched beyond reason. 

In fact, this whole movie has gone beyond my wildest expectations that this is by far the WORST movie of the franchise. Allow me to explain. Screenwriters Daniel Casey (a newbie) and director Justin Lin (Fast & Furious 6) have made this ninth entry SO epically dumb, SO unimaginably stupid, it defies description. Yes, I expected magnificently huge plot holes and buckets of deus ex machinas (which I got in abundance), but the level of cartoonishness was SO off the charts, it was embarrassing, even for THIS franchise! I can suspend my disbelief just so far until I have to shake my head and do a face-palm. It has finally become a self-parody of itself where it no longer cares what reality is. This is now a full-on fantasy/SyFy movie.    

However, will all that being said, this film DOES deliver on the mind-numbing crazy, the wild action, the explosions, incredible car chases that take your breath away, some decent fights. . . although Lin does has trouble shooting his fight scenes and must learn to back his camera off on the action. Then you have the BIG set pieces in act three that feature, of all things, electro-magnets. This seems to be the main centerpiece of the movie, but it’s obvious the writers have zero knowledge on how electro-magnets really work. . . unless it’s convenient to the plot, that is. So, just scoop out your brains and don’t even think about the outer space stuff, you’ll get a headache!   

**Now showing in theaters only


Desperado (1995)

Part two of Robert Rodriguez’s “Mexican Trilogy”, (El Mariachi & Once Upon A Time In Mexico being the others), this rockin’, violent, and dark comedy boasts some terrific acting from its stars Antonio Banderas (who gets to sing!), Salma Hayek, Steve Buscemi, and a surprise cameo by Quentin Tarantino.

If you remember El Mariachi, you’ll remember “the Man with the Guitar”, a Mariachi singer that has a penchant for violence. His lethal story is regaled one afternoon in a filthy bar in Mexico by an American tourist (Buscemi). He explains to the curious patrons there that El Mariachi (Banderas) is looking for someone named Bucho (Joaquin De Almeida), who happens to be the local drug lord. Truth is, El Mariachi had had a run-in with him before (see the previous movie) and wants him dead. As the bartender (Cheech Marin) sluffs it off as rumors and tall-tales and does some business with a weird guy telling jokes (Tarantino). But later, El Mariachi shows up and a full-blown massacre occurs.      

News of the carnage reaches Bucho who orders a hit on El Mariachi, who gets wounded in a street brawl. He gets taken in by beautiful Carolina (Hayek) who patches him up. As El Mariachi recovers, he meets a street-wise kid (Abraham Verduzco) playing a guitar, and becomes his eyes & ears on the street. But Bucho, realizes that Carolina is hiding the ‘man in black’, and wages a small war in town to get him. El Mariachi, call his two buddies, Campa and Quino (Carlos Gallardo & Albert Michel Jr) to help him out. . . with guitar cases that double for rocket launchers and machine guns!

After the bloodbath, El Mariachi and Carolina head over to Bucho’s compound to confront him directly where it’s revealed that Bucho and El Mariachi are (gulp!) brothers! Bucho offers to let El Mariachi go IF he lets him kill Carolina. Ooooo! Wrong request! El Mariachi kills Bucho, then shoots his way out of the compound. Just how violent was this movie? The MPAA board originally gave it an NC-17 due to its graphic violence, forcing Rodriguez to cut alot away for an R rating. Seems he likes his blood quite a bit. If you ever saw his From Dusk Till Dawn, you’ll know what I’m talking about! 

Before he started making all his goofy family-friendly movies (The Spy Kids franchise), this movie showed off his creative talent for writing & direction a raw, visceral, and downright fun violent crime movie with lotsa bullets, knives, explosions, and a kick-ass score to back it all up; a Rodriguez trademark. Another Rodriguez stand-by is his terrific camerawork, with his slo-mo, sweeping shots, and holding on someone’s face for their reaction is just elegant. The man exploits his camera almost as much as Sam Raimi; a true master. 

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