BAXTER — Oh, brother!
“F9: The Fast Saga” takes sibling rivalry and kicks it up a notch by mixing it with adrenaline, automobiles and action in the family-themed film franchise.
The new release again stars Vin Diesel as Dominic Toretto, the patriarch of a motley crew of other death-defying thrill-seekers whose skills behind the driver’s wheel are unparalleled.
Joining the volatile mix this time around in the action film helmed again by Justin Lin is professional wrestler-turned-actor John Cena, who plays Dom’s estranged brother Jakob.
The major motion picture and expected summer blockbuster begins with a flashback involving their dad competing at a race track decades earlier with his young sons as part of his pit crew.
That fateful and tragic day set the events in motion that drive a wedge between the once-close brothers, with the gravelly voiced Dom overprotective of his kid brother Jakob.
Fast forward to the present, and audiences find Dom in relative tranquility living off the grid with his wife and cohort Letty Ortiz and his son, when members of his crew show up out of the blue.
They come with a furtive plea for help that was directed at Dom and his partners in the form of a video distress signal sent from a plane that went down in remote and hostile territory.
Dom initially wants to leave his old life behind but, as someone else mentions in the movie, no one can outrun their past, so the bald-headed action star goes on the rescue mission in large part because he realizes his brother Jakob is involved somehow.
No sooner can sleeves be ripped off shirts to expose python-strangling-sized biceps does Dom drive into the fray to locate the cause of all the consternation and the resulting hail of bullets.
Fans of the two-decades-old film franchise have come to expect over-the-top action, explosions and physics-defying heroism, and the latest two-hour-plus movie doesn’t disappoint.
There are plenty of faceoffs, stare downs and shootouts in the PG-13 film along with some fan service plot points that could have done with more explaining for the franchise’s uninitiated.
But to give potential moviegoers some indication of how successful the Fast & Furious franchise has become, “F9: The Fast Saga” includes not one but two Academy Award-winning actresses.
English actress Helen Mirren proves in the movie she’s not ready for a bus pass or ready to be chauffeured in her 70s as she eludes those giving her chase by burning some serious rubber.
Charlize Theron is the other Oscar-winner that lends her considerable acting chops to the feature film to give the razor-thin screenplay a little dramatic heft with her smoldering intensity.
But no one ever, I believe, has gone to one of the movies in the franchise and come out of the darkened theater thinking it will be a serious contender for best screenplay at the Oscars.
What “F9: The Fast Saga” does do — and has always done for the most part — is deliver mile-a-minute thrills played out on the big screen that have to be seen to be believed.
RELATED: Now showing at Lakes 12 Theatre
The real danger of such a long-running franchise built on car chases is how to keep going forward without running empty in the bid to outdo what came before on the silver screen.
The latest sequel still gives the franchise’s fans out-of-this-world excitement — figuratively and literally — and even manages to pay homage to actor Paul Walker, who costarred with Diesel in the original “The Fast and the Furious” that came out in 2001.
Walker ironically died at the age of 40 as a passenger in a real-life fiery crash in 2013. The 2005 Porsche Carrera GT he was in crashed into a concrete lamp post and two trees in California.
“F9: The Fast Saga” does not show Walker’s character on screen but mentions him and at its conclusion references him visually when a car pulls up to greet the others before the credits roll.
The motion picture is playing at the Lakes 12 Theatre in Baxter and Sunset Cinema in Pequot Lakes, and it is the eighth sequel in the franchise. But if you think those involved in the money-making franchise have any ideas about putting on the brakes, you’d be wrong.
A ninth sequel has been announced as “F9: The Fast Saga” secured the record this weekend for films opening during the coronavirus pandemic with $70 million. “F9: The Fast Saga” had five previous release dates in the U.S. between 2019 and 2021 in part because of the pandemic.
“F9: The Fast Saga” holds a 59% approval rating among critics and an 84% approval rating among audiences at Rotten Tomatoes, a review-aggregation website for film and television.
The consensus from the critics at RottenTomatoes.com: “‘F9’ sends the franchise hurtling further over the top than ever, but director Justin Lin’s knack for preposterous set pieces keeps the action humming.”