cars go smash

A Desperate Attempt to Make Sense of Life, Death, and the Fast Family

Notes on F9, and incest, from someone who hasn’t seen any of the other movies. Photo: Giles Keyte/Universal Pictures

For nearly two decades, I have managed to learn very little about the Fast and Furious movies, save for the fact that they are about people crashing into one another’s nice cars on purpose. As someone both bored by cars and troubled by profligate property damage, I knew innately that these movies were not for me. However, the past year has changed everything I thought I knew about myself and cars. I no longer have any idea what I like or what would be fun to do, and I have been inside a lot more cars than is typical, meaning I am approaching a better understanding of what they’re “about.” With all that in mind, I decided I really wanted to go to a movie theater and see F9, which I only now learned is actually the real title of the movie and not just something we’ve been saying at work to save time.

Before seeing the film, I wondered if it would be worth it to brush up on the Fast and Furious universe. But I quickly decided against doing so for three reasons. The first is that I knew there had to be other people out there like me: people who dissociate during action scenes and can’t tell any of the male characters apart; people who forget what their rental car looks like four minutes after locking it and then can’t find it in the parking lot; people who can’t understand why Vin Diesel, a shaved potato, is the star of a multibillion-dollar franchise that will continue to churn out related properties until long after we all die; and people who wanted to see F9 despite all of this, mostly because there are basically four movies total in theaters right now. The second reason is that I am lazy, and the third is that it was funny to me.

So I went into the theater merrily blind, asking myself one burning question: Would I be able to understand — and, more important, enjoy — F9 with absolutely zero context? Below is an account of my desperate attempt to make sense of the incestuous, destructive vision of the Fast family and to figure out what the hell was going on with everyone, all without doing any sort of ancillary research and paying only as much attention as is physically possible (84 percent).

Overall Impressions

It’s not an exaggeration to say the entire plot of this movie hinges on magnets. Photo: Giles Keyte/Universal Studios

On Anger

My takeaway from the Fast and Furious films, based on one of them, is that nobody seems that furious. Certainly, everyone is fast, but for the most part, everyone remains calm, and there is a lot of hugging and discussing of feelings. Most characters have a very detached, sarcastic approach to conflict. Rarely does anyone raise their voice. There’s a fair bit of punching, but it seems perfunctory.

On Sexuality

The sheer quantity of long, intense glances in this film makes it seem like basically everyone has fucked one another or has lingering sexual tension because they wanted at one point to fuck one another but then didn’t. This includes siblings. Despite the overwhelming sense of sexual baggage and the complex interpersonal histories, nobody actually has any sex. Sex is not even implied offscreen. It’s insane. What’s going on here? Everyone layers their shirts in a way that suggests virginity and the year 2008.

On Dialogue

Like the television show Friends, the Fast films seem to hinge on the notion that the audience unilaterally adores all of these characters and knows everything about them, and that’s why everything they say is funny and charming, even when they say things like “My ass is en fuego” or “This is like looking for Where’s Waldo at Harry Potter World” or “We got beautiful women, the best cars, the best everything.”

On Driving

The Fasts (as the characters shall collectively be known) all seem profoundly addicted to the act of driving, even when a scene in no way requires driving. In general, the characters are driving constantly, so much so that when they get to a new place, they only ever stay there for a few minutes before driving once again. I understand that driving is their raison d’être (and potentially their source of income, though payment is never visibly exchanged and it’s unclear who would even be paying them and for what), but I don’t totally understand why.

On Magnets

It’s not an exaggeration to say that the entire plot of this movie hinges on magnets. Is this a franchise-long obsession or simply a desperate attempt to find a new way to smash things after eight movies of smashing things without magnets? Hard for me to say with my limited exposure.

On Smashing

So much stuff is smashed, often using the magnets. I bet the production smashed 5,000 cars or more while filming. At one point, cafés and scooters are smashed. I respect that things need to be smashed in order to create stakes, but I simply can’t comprehend why there had to be this much smashing. Eventually, the smashing loses its shock value. But perhaps that’s the point: When everything is smashed, nothing matters. When nothing matters, you are free.

On Family

This movie overflows with hypocrisy. There’s a lot of talk about “family” and the concept of a chosen family and the ties that bind, but then in the first five minutes, Dom and Letty straight-up abandon their child to go on a dangerous, mysterious mission that will take them to at least 14 countries and put them in the path of many murderous foes. When Dom suggests it may not be the best move, considering their child, Letty looks at him with horror and disgust. “This isn’t who we are,” she says, meaning … parents.

On Mortality

Ludacris and Tyrese wonder idly if they are immortal and invincible as a group, considering their vast experience of driving crazily and never dying despite widely acknowledged car-crash statistics. This makes sense, considering the very low premium the Fasts place on life, children, and personal property.

On Time

I can’t speak for the other movies, but the ninth movie is too long. It’s two and a half hours. I was stunned by the Christopher Nolan hubris of this run time. The only movies that should be more than two hours are Titanic and Meet Joe Black. However, I can understand how, if you like these movies and find them diverting, they are a nice way to pass time quickly and not think about death (as it does not exist as a concept in earnest here).

Character-by-Character Breakdowns

This is Dom’s mysterious brother, who is so large. Photo: Giles Keyte/Universal Studios


I didn’t know Ludacris was acting in these films — or at all, actually. I never caught his character name, and I can’t Google it based on my own arbitrary rules governing this piece. He seems to be the Chandler to Tyrese’s Joey. His primary trait is being annoyed with Tyrese and telling him to stop talking. He likes numbers, and unlike most of the other characters, he fears and respects death.


What happened to Tyrese? The last time I checked, he was a hot male romantic lead, and now he’s making jokes about being dumb and eating too much candy. This is a disaster.


Dom is “a Toretto.” This is meaningful in ways I’ll never understand. He is married (?) to Letty, but it’s a sexless marriage, one born out of convenience and mutual respect. They kiss only once, when he nearly dies and she saves his life in a way that defies physical laws, but it’s a passionless kiss of two people caught up in a life they never imagined for themselves. His child, named Brian, was conceived with another woman who is never named in this film but was killed by Charlize Theron. He wears tight waffle sweaters and tank tops exclusively. He has sexual tension with his sister and his brother, and Letty accepts this. He doesn’t know how to fix a hot-water heater in the country despite seeming to have an excellent grasp of mechanics. He smells like Cool Water.

Young Dom

This is a different character from Dom. He looks literally nothing like Vin Diesel. I’m stunned that this person was cast to play Vin Diesel as a young person, and the only explanation is that Vin Diesel insisted upon it because he has no idea what he himself looks like. Young Dom punches somebody once and then goes to jail for years, but then he grows up to kill people with cars as a profession and that’s fine.


Letty surely used to be in love with Jordana Brewster but then pitifully married Jordana Brewster’s brother instead. Letty has two leather jackets: one black, one white. She brings both on a spontaneous trip to a militarized town on a small island. She can climb walls, as evidenced by her rescue of Dom from the bottom of some kind of malevolent indoor well.


This is Dom’s mysterious brother, who is so large. Like, Gaston levels of large. He is the Ashlee Simpson to Dom’s Jessica. He also has sexual tension with Jordana Brewster and Dom. He is a professional spy, and he wants to destroy the world because his brother made him leave town after he maybe killed his dad by helping him throw a race. Which reminds me, where are everyone’s moms? Anyway, Jakob looks enough like his character’s young self that I don’t feel the need to split them into two people.

Jordana Brewster

Also “a Toretto.” She’s a yoga mom who lives in the suburbs but wants back in on the action, i.e., driving everywhere all the time and smashing into things. Secretly in love with Letty but can’t act on it because she has four children and lives in Westchester. Her husband is a hedge-fund manager, and her oldest daughter, Coco, is a TikTok influencer. When she goes to Tokyo with Letty “for work,” they stop driving long enough to go to a sit-down restaurant and order noodles. She picks at but does not eat her noodles.


There are apparently two Brians. One is a child, and one is the person taking care of the child while his parents fuck off around the world for no pay. The elder Brian “has the safest hands in the world.” I am pretty sure this is Paul Walker, but I don’t want to know if Brian is canonically a ghost or merely a great babysitter.

Charlize Theron

Charlize Theron is clearly acting in a different movie that was accidentally cut into this one. Here, she is locked inside a clear box because she angered the Fasts or the Russians or both. She definitely killed Brian’s mom, but Dom forgives her for it, though not enough to help her get out of the box. Inside, she has a drone. Her hair has been forcibly cut to look like a combination of Justin Bieber’s and Kate Gosselin’s. She changes outfits once in the box but has no bathroom.


A hacker who can’t drive. No romantic attachments to anyone onscreen. Really cute, so this makes no sense. Why is nobody fucking?


Faked his own death after being forced to date Gal Gadot, who pretended she was the first person to think of Tokyo. Now he’s back because he gave up on faking his death.

Bow Wow

A man who is friends with two other men who invent a spaceship with a car on it. Once referred to as “Twinkie.” Unclear what he does or how he contributes to the Fast legacy.

Helen Mirren

Has two British accents. One is more Oliver, the other more Queen Elizabeth. Has sons. Is a thief.

Cardi B

A fake Interpol agent who used to steal gas in the Dominican Republic and now has a big group of girlfriends who help her do fake Interpol heists at the castle from The Favourite.


Eastern European, angry for unknown reasons. Wants to take over the planet via “Project Aries” (see below). I can’t remember if he dies. Involved somehow with the magnet.

Those Two Scientists

An unnamed, quickly murdered married couple who invented Project Aries, which involves two halves of a little shell that, when activated by the couple’s daughter’s DNA, scrambles all the tech in the known universe. But they didn’t intend to do anything bad with this apocalyptic tool; they were just being scientists.

Mr. Nobody

No idea who this person is or why all the Fasts leave their actual families to find him, even though that was seemingly the whole point of the movie.

The Guy at the Garage

The guy at the garage tells Vin Diesel that he raised Jakob after Vin Diesel kicked him out for killing his dad. He hands him a Corona. The guy at the garage has seen some shit. He says, “You gotta make peace with the past before you can [something or other verb] the future.” Which, ultimately, is what I’ve done by ignoring all of the Fast and Furious movies.

A Desperate Attempt to Make Sense of the Fast Family