The world is saved and the globe is hopped in "F9: The Fast Saga," but the key moment is when Michelle Rodriguez enters a car and, instead of doing it the way most people do, she gracefully jackknifes through a window, as if she's never heard of doors or doesn't believe in them.
The cool way is the only way for the "Fast and Furious" crew, which now has so many regulars that screenwriters have to spread them out and send them to various foreign countries for no good reason other than to give us backdrops of Georgian mountains and Tokyo streets. The plot is simple — stop a madman who has a device that can control every nation's defense systems. But "F9" is so ridiculously complicated, and so completely uninterested in showing how its cast gets from one place to another, that I lost track of where the climactic car chase was set. Tbilisi, I want to say?
All nine of the people depicted on the poster play prominent roles in "F9," and it doesn't even show Helen Mirren or Cardi B, who have splashy cameos, or Dwayne Johnson, who's apparently done, or Kurt Russell and Gal Gadot, both briefly glimpsed, or the villain. He's Jakob, the younger brother of "Fast and Furious" patriarch Dom (Vin Diesel), and he's played by John Cena, the most agile actor that World Wrestling Entertainment has given us. Flashbacks, which are terrible and plentiful, reveal a tortured relationship between the brothers that must be worked out while the planet is being protected.
The "Fast" people have come a long way from the Los Angeles street racers who were introduced way back in 2001. None has a visible means of support but they all seem to be wealthy enough to hop a plane to Edinburgh on a moment's notice and you know their muscly shoulders wouldn't fit in Economy. Actually, since they constantly appear in new countries as effortlessly as most of us walk from one room to another in our house, I have a theory that an unexplored element of the franchise is that all of them can teleport.
It's impossible to make sense of a movie with a dozen major characters, and "F9" generally doesn't bother. Chaotic, long (2½ hours, including a mid-credits scene that reintroduces yet another character) and disinterested in the lives lost when the characters transform picturesque cities into demolition derbies, "F9" does occasionally recapture the energy that can make these movies dumb fun.
The side crew introduced in the third movie, "Tokyo Drift," returns to "F9" and everything you need to know about them is summed up by one primo line of dialogue, "Is that a Pontiac Fiero strapped to a rocket engine?" Yes. Yes, it is.
I also loved Cena ziplining over the historic sites of Edinburgh, as well as a sequence in which a giant magnet inside a speeding truck is flipped on and off, attracting and repelling cars as if they are tiny metal scrapings. And there's a tank that has to be driven at 80 miles per hour although the speedometer only goes to 70, which is the "FF" equivalent of "turn it up to 11."
Almost all of "F9" is turned up to 11, except when the characters get all "Fast and Furious and Filosophical" with psychobabble such as, "We've got to make peace with the past if we want hope for the future." In fact, maybe it's best not to quibble about whether the "FF" mayhem makes sense, since it's when the action pauses and the characters talk that things get really deadly.
Chris Hewitt • 612-673-4367
F9:The Fast Saga
** out of four stars
Rating: PG-13 for violence.
Where: Wide release.