I wrote at length about F9: The Fast Saga when it made its triumphant debut in cinemas a few months ago. My fellow critic Emily Wheeler also wrote an excellent take on the film (and the franchise as a whole), which made me happy because frankly, most of the other critics I know just didn’t connect with it.
Of the franchise, F9 probably asks the most of audiences: a total suspension of disbelief, which, frankly, should’ve been put out to pasture in the second film; a willingness to invest in the characters; and the attention span to sit through over two hours of successively outlandish action sequences. It’s the first movie since 2009 that doesn’t employ Dwayne Johnson’s brand to help support itself with audiences who probably don’t give a shit about Vin Diesel’s earnest attempts at being a testosterone-addled poster boy for positive masculinity. Coming off the franchise high of Fast & Furious 6, the production team had to deal with Paul Walker’s death in Furious 7 and a studio eager to up the star power of Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham in The Fate of the Furious. Both films suffered. F9 feels, for the first time in almost a decade, fully engaged in the high-concept spectacle and soap-opera family melodrama that made the franchise such a success in its best days.
The new 4K release of F9 includes a director’s cut of the film, which basically means Justin Lin is able to reinsert a lot of character-building sequences into the flow of his otherwise ceaseless masterpiece. Most are noticeably superfluous but also really nice to see — especially extra moments for Mia Toretto (Jordana Brewster), whose big return in this film meant a lot to me as a fan of the franchise but probably didn’t mean shit to general audiences, hence the cuts. An additional flashback shows more of the popular family in their earlier days, which is funny because most of them were around that age when the original movie came out. I’d still watch a prequel with this cast! The director’s cut is a nice treat for fans who love the film, but the theatrical is better-paced and ultimately a better film, much as it was with the extended editions of the Lord of the Rings franchise.
It should be noted: The 4K copy of F9 is easily the best possible look for the film. Absolutely gorgeous.
Special features include a gag reel and several mini-docs. Topics include the #JusticeforHan fan movement that led to the resurrection of fan-favorite character Han (Sung Kang) and the introduction of John Cena into the franchise as Jakob Toretto. There is also a feature-length commentary from Lin.