F9 Was My First Fast & Furious Movie. Here's My Review
I haven't driven a car in five years. Which is fine. Even though I raced Hot Wheels around as a little kid, I never thought I was actually meant to pilot a 4,000-pound hunk of a machine. And I really, really wasn't. Once, I tried to back out of a pizza shop's parking lot—this joint was on top of a hill, with a couple acres of forest underneath—and I floored the gas instead of the brake, coming an inch away from rocketing over the tiny parking stop, free-falling for 30 feet, and crashing into a pine tree.
That's all to say: Cars? Not really my thing! Which also happens to be my pathetic refrain when someone's eyes get big and they tell me—and this happens more often than you'd think—how I managed to go 20 years without seeing a single movie from the Fast & Furious franchise. I don't know. It just never happened. But it's not like I live in a trunk. I know the "See You Again" piano twinkle when I hear it. I know Vin Diesel likes himself some family. I know there are nine films in the Fast series, not even counting a spinoff, which amounts to something like over 24 hours of cars going vroom and what I can only assume is A-grade action-hero-ing from Michelle Rodriguez and The Rock, who I'm pretty sure are in these movies.
On Saturday night, something hit me—a craving, really—that drifted into my brain, at the speed I imagine my boy Vin must drift a Charger (that's a car, right?) across a nondescript parking lot in one of these films. I wanted to go to the movies, because that's something we can do again. Damn, who knew? The newest Fast entry, F9, is out. So I brought my mom and my grandpa—who both haven't seen any of the past, count 'em, eight! Fast films—to the theater for an inaugural ride.
I don't know why I expected anything else, but F9 opens with the deafening GRRRRRRS of the tricked-out car that used to wake me up at night when I lived in Queens. Then, after what looked like the big-boy version of the opening scene of Cars, I genuinely could not comprehend what I was seeing for an hour and a half. This is probably where the past eight movies come into play. But I did meet the family. Ludacris, Tyrese, Michelle Rodriguez, and Vin's white V-neck—which I haven't seen since The Pacifier. I assumed these people have done this ride-cars-in-formation-thing dozens of times before. This was confirmed when Tyrese developed the self-awareness to know that he's a movie character. (Why not!) Even though I was still confused, I realized I'd probably fall in love with F9 when Vin Diesel and Michelle Rodriguez sling-shotted their ride off of a cliff and just stared blankly out of the windshield while doing it. Plus, I was happy to see a familiar face in Cardi B. Can someone tell me if she's playing a fictional version of herself who founds a do-gooding international spy organization? Because that's probably something that could happen in real life.
Around the time Vin Diesel drowned and went on a vision quest, I finally got my bearings. At least enough to understand that the family is essentially a counterterrorism unit sponsored by Mercedes. But I still had questions.
Why is Vin Diesel so burdened?
Are there any other Fast movies that are frighteningly meta?
I understand that Vin Diesel was a dick to John Cena and made him drive away forever, but what happened over the course of 15 years that made him want to initiate nuclear apocalypse?
Will NOS ever not be cool?
Gal Gadot was in one of these? Who's the monster who decided to kill her off?
Are magnets crucial to every Fast film?
With about an hour left to go in F9, I had two things: 1/ A deep, inner realization that I was watching something entirely unlike I had ever seen before, for better or worse, and 2/ Swamp ass. F9 is the kind of movie that gives you swamp ass. (Theater seats are notoriously unkind to those prone to swamp ass.) But I will always enjoy things crashing into each other, which is the only thing I remember from the third act of F9, aside from the Corona ad at the end. F9 was a genuine thrill—and not just because I loved being back in a movie theater again. When Han came back from the dead, I had goosebumps, even though I didn't know who Han was. I laughed like an idiot at a Minions joke, of all things, which is something that kept me up that night. Can we get the buddy-comedy spinoff where Tyrese and Ludacris go to space and stay there? F9 left enough skid marks on my already-melted brain that I'll probably go back and watch the other films. Especially the one that has more Helen Mirren in it, if that exists.
After the post-credits scene rolled—why Jason Statham trapped a man inside a punching bag, I may never know!—and the swamp ass had settled, we drove across the parking lot to the neighboring Sonic. On the way over, my grandpa turned to me.
"Well, kid, you good?"
"Yeah," I said, wondering whether or not subjecting my family to 145 minutes of Vin Diesel merited an apology. Grandpa paused for a second.
"The name's Fast & Furious?" he asked matter-of-factly, not a hint of humor in his voice. "Well, it's fast. And furious. There ain't no ands, buts, or ifs about it."
This story originally appeared on Esquire.com. Minor edits have been made by the Esquiremag.ph editors.