Fast & Furious 9 a feast of low-stakes globe-trotting carmageddon

Fast & Furious 9: Nathalie Emmanuel as Ramsey and Vin Diesel as Dom
Damon Smith

FAST & FURIOUS 9 (12A, 143 mins) Action/Thriller/Romance. Vin Diesel, Michelle Rodriguez, John Cena, Tyrese Gibson, Chris 'Ludacris' Bridges, Nathalie Emmanuel, Jordana Brewster, Charlize Theron, Kurt Russell. Director: Justin Lin.

Released: June 24

FOUR years after F Gary Gray hit the accelerator on a turbo-charged eighth chapter of the demolition derby – the first instalment without original cast member Paul Walker – director Justin Lin slides back into the driver's seat of the penultimate film in the series, co-written by Daniel Casey.

Their script quickly disables the handbrake on plausibility and makes no effort to slalom around gaping p(l)otholes, introducing giant electromagnets for one elaborate set piece that reduces Edinburgh city centre to rubble.

The divisive trams are conveniently absent from the streets of the Scottish capital as souped-up motors thunder over asphalt and cobbles. London fares slightly better: police cars are trashed during a night-time pursuit but Buckingham Palace and surrounding locales are unscathed.

Characters pointedly spend more screen time discussing their apparent invincibility, emerging from outlandish exploits without a scratch, than enriching emotional arcs or making sense of a preposterous quest to retrieve top-secret technology – codename Project Ares – which seizes control of global weapons systems.

In one case, a character presumed dead in an automotive fireball at the conclusion of Fast & Furious 6 is resurrected via flashback manipulation. Once it becomes clear that the racers can survive anything, and know it, Fast & Furious 9 jettisons dramatic tension from its exhaust pipe and screeches through a series of bombastic smash 'n' grabs that venture to the only place untouched thus far.

"Two dudes from the ghetto in outer space? You know nobody's gonna believe this right?" grins Tyrese Gibson to co-star Chris 'Ludacris' Bridges. We don't. Lin's picture isn't a complete car crash but airbags are repeatedly deployed.

The perfunctory plot begins with covert ops team leader Mr Nobody (Kurt Russell) capturing cyberterrorist Cipher (Charlize Theron) but his plane is shot down over Montequinto.

Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel), wife Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) and the team – Roman Pearce (Gibson), Tej Parker (Bridges) and hacker Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel) – head to the Central American jungle to investigate.

Following a daredevil escape from a minefield, they come face to face with Dom's younger brother Jakob (John Cena), a master assassin with an axe to grind, preferably against the forehead of his older sibling.

Intercut with misty-eyed flashbacks to 1989 and a traumatic incident on the banked oval of a speedway track, Fast & Furious 9 shifts through first and second gears but never achieves top speed.

Lin orchestrates spectacular, pyrotechnic-laden stunts in an emotional vacuum, heavy-handedly emphasising the importance of family in throwaway exchanges between team members.

Almost every surviving character from the sprawling saga is shoe-horned into the gung-ho globe-trotting. One half of Hobbs and Shaw materialises during a humorous end credits tease for the 10th and final film that will, on this disappointing evidence, have to incorporate an alien invasion, the melting of polar icecaps, a zombie apocalypse and full-cast song and dance number to up the ante.

Rating: 2/5

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