HOLLYWOOD—It is hard to believe in 20 years we have had 9, yes count’em people, nine entries into “The Fast and the Furious” franchise. Well it could be worse; it could be like a horror franchise from the 80s that clocks out 8 to 9 sequels in a 10 year period. The first flick is a classic, the fourth installment revitalized the franchise, the fifth, sixth and seventh installments were stellar (with each getting better than the predecessor), and to be honest I thought “F8” with Charlize Theron as the villain was one of the best.

However, we’re now at the ninth rodeo, amply titled “F9” and the whole idea of people constantly coming back from the dead is not only getting old, but defeats the purpose of killing off a character America. The shock value has no impact if the audience knows they’re coming back from the dead people! It is no spoiler and no point in acting as if a major facet of audience doesn’t know about Han (Sung Kang), is back from the dead and a notable player in this new saga.

This time around we learn about another face from the past, this time tied to Dom (Vin Diesel) and Mia (Jordana Brewster), as their long-lost brother Jakob (John Cena) returns to their lives. I do find it quite hard after 8 movies not a single peep have been heard about Jakob. I would assume this is the writer’s way of trying to keep things fresh for the audience, but Cena’s Jakob is simply a replacement for Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson’s character, and it doesn’t work people.

Cena doesn’t come close to delivering those theatrics and the fun that ‘The Rock’ brought as Luke Hobbs. I kept asking myself throughout the movie, “Why isn’t Hobbs here?” That character brought a level of fun to the franchise and its notably missing here. In terms of the narrative, it is indeed an extension of its predecessor “The Fate of the Furious,” but there is one major problem: the villain, Cipher (Charlize Theron) is a foot note this time around. She barely appears in their film and when she does it feels like such a waste of talent for the actress who was AMAZING in “The Fate of the Furious.” There is no notable villain for “F9” and that is a major problem. Well there are villains, they just aren’t menacing and don’t deliver major obstacles for our protagonists as a true villain should.

Jakob is not a formidable foe to Dom and his team which includes Letty, Roman, Tej and Ramsey, and a host of others who appears in cameos and small scenes playing a nod to previous entries. In the past, the franchise knew how to balance a butt-load of characters and let them all shine, here it just feels like everyone is just clamoring for screen time and I was bored a large portion of the movie. There is the hunt to activate a device that would provide whoever has control of it the ultimate power, so much to the point our heroes are jetting to outer space. That seems to be the trend for the past 2-3 movies right?

Yes, America, you heard me correctly: outer space. Look some of the stunts in “The Fast and Furious” franchise have been amazing, hell epic, but there are times when you see things and you just go, yeah, that could never happen and a car in space orbiting around a satellite is one of them. In addition, a car speeding across a swinging bridge that looks deftly dangerous for a human to walk across, yet a car can cross it and not fall mere seconds after stepping foot on it, really makes you question the reality of the franchise.

Cars can do epic things, but the movie really pushes the envelope, because why the hell not it’s the ninth entry, they have to give something to the audience to keep them coming back people. Is there any good in “F9?” Yeah, if you’re looking for action, gunfire, wild and infamous car chases you get all of that and more, but again, a touch of realness has to come into play otherwise you’re laughing at the audience for getting caught up in the melee and that is never a good sign people.

I think the gas is starting to run out on the franchise, and if I’m being honest, there might be 1 maybe 2 more entries in the franchise before its time to turn in the car keys. However, if they plan to end the franchise they have to end it strong with core characters in the mix, NOT being afraid to kill off character and make sure they stay dead, deliver a villain that oozes evil in a messy, but entertaining way, and craft a narrative that is exciting, enthralling and keeps your interest. “F9” was delayed multiple times because of COVID-19 amongst other things; perhaps it should have been delayed a bit longer to tighten up that script to ensure audiences would be thoroughly entertained.