Tag Archives: Jordana Brewster

John Cena’s In This One

F9: The Fast Saga

by George Wolf

So if this is the ninth installment, that means all laws of physics went out the window 7.5 Fast films ago. Just remember that when there’s a Plymouth Fiero in space for reelz.

Dom (Vin Diesel) and Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) have been trying to live a quiet life in the country with little Brian, but they’re going to need a sitter.

Seems Mr. Nobody (Kurt Russell) sent the gang an S.O.S. not long after he captured Cipher (Charlize Theron). Now Mr. N. is missing, Cipher’s on the loose, and everybody’s trying to get their hands on both halves of a device that, when made whole, will take control of every weapons system in the world.

And you know who already has one half? Dom’s bigger little brother Jacob (John Cena). We haven’t heard about Jacob until now because the boys have serious beef about who was to blame for their father’s death in a 1989 stock car race.

So Dom’s ad nauseam mantra of “family” has its limits.

Lighten up, right? Don’t take it so seriously, this franchise is about the action! I get it, and when the tone is right (like it was with director James Wan in Furious 7) I’m right there with you.

But this film takes itself waaay too seriously. Director/co-writer Justin Lin is back for his fifth go ’round, and after an opening filled with the usual auto gymnastics, settles into a story surprisingly heavy on the spy game.

Cena gets no chance to flash his charismatic mischievous side, as he and Diesel seem intent on making steely stares and jaw clenching an Olympic sport. Roman and Tej (Tyrese Gibson and Chris “Ludacris” Bridges) try to fill the playful void left by Hobbs and Shaw, but their hi-jinx seldom rise above silly wise cracking.

Plenty of familiar franchise faces return (Lucas Black, Shad Moss, Helen Mirren, Jordana Brewster and Sung Kang), often bringing with them a good amount of exposition explaining what their characters have been doing or why they aren’t really dead.

There’s so much nostalgia, you’d think they were actually trying to put a bow on this whole thing if the film wasn’t simultaneously inventing new threads. And as the running time keeps running, it all starts to feel pretty tedious.

But if you want your flying cars and electro-magnet explosions on the biggest screen possible, F9 will eventually give that to you (even in IMAX where available). Just don’t expect the self-awareness to realize how close they are to self-parody.

Also, hang through the credits and you’ll get a stinger with a big clue about what’s coming in the tenth round: a Prius on top of Mt. Everest.

Not really. But at this point, why not?

So Random

Random Acts of Violence

by Hope Madden

The last time I saw Jesse Williams get into a car on a road trip to horror, the journey delivered one of the most fun flicks of 2011, Cabin in the Woods.

He’s back on the road in co-writer/director/co-star Jay Baruchel’s graphic novel adaptation, Random Acts of Violence. Williams plays Todd, creator of the adult comic series Slasherman.

Though writer’s block is keeping him from finishing the final installment, Todd hits the road with his publisher Ezra (Baruchel), assistant Aurora (Niahm Wilson), and girlfriend Kathy, played by Jordana Brewster. (Brewster also starred in a road trip to hell—for character and viewer—with the 2006’s Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning.)

Their goal is to visit the landmarks associated with the comic’s inspiration, the gruesome serial killer dubbed the I-90 killer who terrorized a stretch of highway from 1987 – 1991. Todd and Ezra hope to drum up some publicity for their comic con appearances. Kathy is researching her own related project, a nonfiction and victim-centric book about the same killer.

The film lands on ground fertile for horror examination. Most interesting and timely is the conversation around perspective. Are we beyond the point as a society where we make the serial killer our protagonist when we can instead take the point of view of the victim? (The popularity of the book and series I’ll Be Gone in the Dark suggests that we may be.)

Too bad the film relegates this conversation to a single argument: men create horror and women hate that; meanwhile, women create something more wholesome. (Counterpoint: much of the best horror of the last decade was made by women, and if it’s gruesome you want, please see Julia Ducournau’s fantastic 2016 rumination on adolescence and meat, Raw.)

The film does boast moments of provocative carnage, plus flashes of intriguing content. Rather than the traditional creepiness inspired by the Midwest rural route gas station—the isolated community somehow suggesting incest and cannibalism without every directly saying so—Baruchel conjures the far more realistic and modern blight of meth to achieve the same unhealthy atmosphere.

Never a particularly compelling presence, Williams lacks the gravitas to shoulder the suffering artist schtick and Brewster’s presence doesn’t elevate the tensions. Both Baruchel (an outstanding purveyor of nerdy support in any cast) and the tenderly engaging Wilson offset this lack of chemistry in their brief screen time, but it’s not enough.

Random Acts of Violence could have been an interesting indictment of the true crime phenomenon. It might have been an intriguing entry into the Writer’s Block Turns Horrific family (of which The Shining is patriarch). Instead, it’s a mainly competent but frequently lazy flick with gore to spare and some fun animations, but it could have been a lot more.