If you thought the Fast and Furious franchise couldn’t get any crazier, buckle up: F9 is here to obliterate your senses. This is a movie so unhinged that it transcends ‘good’ or ‘bad’, ultimately becoming a joke you’re either in on or you’re not. I mean the last part quite literally. Characters practically wink to the camera while discussing their own invincibility and the laws of physics — a sign of self-awareness that none of this makes a lick of sense, and you should just enjoy the ride. I can’t help but admire the movie’s commitment to its own absurdity. In an age of self-serious and dour blockbusters, here we have something that’s unabashedly goofy, even at the risk of alienating other people (and I mean a lot of other people). The action scenes are chaotic to the point of being incomprehensible, yet the insanity drives the spectacle forward, all while delivering some intentional (and unintentional) laugh-out-loud moments. Still, there is a limit to mindless enjoyment, with serious lulls in momentum arriving when the lack of stakes and tension settle in. I also can’t see any of this holding up in a living room or on a laptop. Experiencing a movie this big and dumb relies upon seeing it big and loud, and in anything other than a movie theater, it’s probably a chore to sit through.
You’ll also have to sit through a deadly serious storyline. You can thank Vin Diesel, who genuinely believes he’s creating some Oscar-worthy family drama, while everybody else seems to realize they’re in a dumb action movie. The clash between this and the self-aware action is both jarring and hilarious to watch. Scenes of melodrama between Vin Diesel and John Cena are followed by Vin Diesel turning into Superman, and the transition — or lack thereof — is enough to give you whiplash. Whether this all makes F9 a deranged masterpiece or total garbage is in the eyes of the beholder. However, even I — somebody who had a great time watching this movie opening weekend — have to take a step back and evaluate where the franchise goes from here. The border between self-awareness and self-parody is quickly dissolving, and if the following movie is even remotely bigger than this, it will be a legit fantasy sci-fi film. But, man, I’ll be damned if it’s never been so fun to watch a franchise running on empty fumes.