The Fast & Furious universe may be disproportionately inhabited by gruff bald men, but it still manages to find a little room for female pop stars, too. Who can forget the scene where Rita Ora kicked off a London street race in Fast & Furious 6, or the time Iggy Azalea popped up in Fast & Furious 7 to deliver the immortal line, “Where you been at, ghost girl?”
So it was not exactly surprising last year when Vin Diesel announced that Cardi B had joined the Fast family for F9. But now that the movie’s been released, it turns out there’s a twist. Unlike her predecessors, Cardi’s not playing herself. Instead, she plays a character who gets Diesel’s Dom Toretto out of a jam in the movie’s second act. The key information of exactly who Cardi’s supposed to be, and her connection to the wider Fast universe, is dispensed in a whirlwind minute-long scene, which paradoxically gets more confusing the more exposition it contains. As our in-house expert on the basic plot points of contemporary blockbusters, let me explain it all for you.
Okay, so: Cardi is playing Leysa, the leader of an all-female paramilitary group that poses as a SWAT team to help Dom escape the clutches of the movie’s secondary villain, an asshole rich kid whose dialogue makes it clear this movie was originally supposed to be released into a world where Trump was still president. As Dom intones in his trademark baritone, Leysa is apparently “Cara’s sister,” and because this is a franchise that assumes the audience has a Star Wars–level reverence for everyone who’s ever appeared onscreen, we’re all expected to remember immediately who Cara is and what her deal is.
In case you’re having trouble, Cara — her full name is apparently Cara Mirtha, and she’s played by Dominican American actress Mirtha Michelle — is a minor character from the franchise’s fourth entry, Fast & Furious. She’s part of Dom’s crew in the Dominican Republic; in the opening gas tanker robbery, she’s the one who connects Han’s truck to the fuel containers. She peaces out shortly afterward, and as far as I can tell, has not been mentioned since. (According to Cardi’s monologue, she’s doing well, with the money she made from the gas heist directly contributing to her little sister becoming the leader of said all-female paramilitary group. In the Fast saga, even more so than in Cloud Atlas, everything is connected.)
Cara gets slightly more to do in Los Bandoleros, the short film written and directed by Diesel that functions as both a prologue to Fast & Furious and also the actor’s love letter to the D.R. She picks up Han from the airport, and the two of them have a miniature rom-com arc: First, they give each other the eye, and then they share a little romantic banter in a bar. And that’s it! Basically Cara flirts and climbs around fast-moving cars. This would be more offensive if it wasn’t more or less what the male characters in Fast & Furious movies do too.
One question remains: Why did the F9 writers decide to make Cardi B the relative of a random supporting character from six movies ago? It’s possibly a nod to Cardi’s Dominican heritage. But it could also be foreshadowing. This is the movie that famously brings Han back from the dead. Why not also revive his first-ever love interest — if not from the dead, then from the recesses of Fast fans’ memories?