Vin Diesel in Fast and Furious 9
Vin Diesel in Fast and Furious 9 Image Credit: Universal Pictures

Following a year that has seen entertainment come to a standstill on account of the pandemic, Vin Diesel and Universal Pictures should be lauded for their brave attempt to bring their multimillion dollar franchise to cinemas this week.

‘Fast and Furious 9’, or ‘F9’ as we know it, will accelerate towards a theatrical release in the UAE on May 20, with a global roll out to follow. While ‘Godzilla vs Kong’ can perhaps take credit for being the first film to receive a bumper opening this year, despite a pandemic raging outside the cinema’s doors, it is ‘F9’ that will steer the course for more production houses to release the parking brakes on their respective projects that could very well salvage the Hollywood summer of blockbusters.

Vin Diesel and John Cena in F9 Image Credit: Universal Pictures

‘F9’ has already been delayed by a year and while COVID-19 hasn’t been put to bed as yet, the ease of restrictions in countries such as the UAE, the UK and the US has given hope to Hollywood. Diesel himself is doubling down on fans returning to cinemas by appealing to them in a special video, requesting them to return to relive the magic of movies on the big screen.

“We expect a bumper opening for ‘Fast 9’, it will be big,” said the UAE distributor of the film. “‘Fast 7’ was the biggest in the franchise for UAE audiences, but this holds potential to be just as big.”

Fast and Furious 9 Image Credit: Universal Pictures

The ‘Fast and Furious’ franchise has been a money spinner for Universal, with the first eight films in the series earning more than $5.136 billion (Dh18.8 billion) globally, according to numbers aggregator Box Office Mojo. Couple that with the $760 million made by the ‘Hobbs & Shaw’ spin-off and it is only natural that Universal would take another spin around the track in shiny new supercars they like to employ — and blow up — with uncontained glee.

Vin Diesel with Justin Lin Image Credit: Universal Pictures

Diesel’s Dominic Torreto has come a long way from being the streetcar racer in the first film who teams up with an undercover cop (played by the late Paul Walker) to take down crime lords. The man has been in hiding, mourned the loss of his love Letty (Michelle Rodriguez), celebrated her resurrection, landed in a Brazilian prison, lived life as a fugitive and gone up against the terrorist Cipher (Charlize Theron). Joining him on the adventure of blowing up cars and speeding away in death traps is a motley crew that he calls family. In the ninth adventure, he is pitted against his own brother, black sheep Jakob Torreto, who is played by John Cena. Cipher also marks a return.

Fast and Furious 9 Image Credit: Universal Pictures

What makes ‘F9’ a safer bet than its predecessors is the return of director Justin Lin, who is credited for resurrecting the franchise after the first few films fell out with fans.

Fast and Furious 9
Fast and Furious 9 Image Credit: Universal Pictures

Whether or not Universal and Diesel’s bet pays off, as we head into the ninth film in the series and the 10th in the overall franchise if you count ‘Hobbs & Shaw’, we take a look back on the first eight films, along with the spin-off, which have steered the course to lead up to this action adventure.

The ‘Fast & Furious’ timeline

‘The Fast and the Furious’ (2001)

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‘The Fast and the Furious’ Image Credit: Universal Pictures

Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel), who is the king of illegal street racing, teams up with undercover cop Brian O’Conner (late Paul Walker) to take down the ruthless Johnny Tran (Rick Yune) who’s involved in big-rig hijacking.

‘2 Fast 2 Furious’ (2003)

‘2 Fast 2 Furious’ Image Credit: Universal Pictures

Ex-police officer Brian moves to Miami and gets involved in the street racing scene. He befriends Tej (Chris ‘Ludacris’ Bridges) and Suki (Devon Aoki), but his past life catches up and he must work with Roman Pearce (Tyrese Gibson) to take down a drug dealer. For those of you wondering what Dom was up to? Diesel reportedly declined to return for the sequel, saying that the screenplay was inferior to its predecessor.

‘The Fast and The Furious: Tokyo Drift’ (2006)

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‘The Fast and The Furious: Tokyo Drift' Image Credit: Universal Pictures

Sean Boswell (Lucas Black) is a street racer who moves to Japan to live with his father. There he learns about an exciting new style of the sport. However, when Sean takes on the local champion and falls for the man’s girlfriend, things blow up.

‘Fast and Furious 4’ (2009)

‘Fast and Furious 4’ Image Credit: Universal Pictures

Dominic returned to the franchise and comes out of hiding when Letty is brutally murdered. He heads back to Los Angeles and teams up with Brian (Walker also returned) to take on drug lord Arturo Braga (John Ortiz).

‘Fast Five’ (2011)

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Fast 5 Image Credit: Universal Pictures

After breaking Dom out of prison, the Fast family is on the run. In Rio de Janeiro, they must do one final job before they can gain their freedom. However, a corrupt businessman wants them dead and federal agent Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) is on their tail. What sets this film apart is Universal’s attempt to remove streetcar racing and transform the franchise into a heist action series involving cars. Lots of them.

‘Fast and Furious 6’ (2013)

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‘Fast and Furious 6’ Image Credit: Universak Pictures

Since the Rio heist, Dom, Brian and crew have retired as very rich fugitives. Meanwhile, Agent Hobbs has been tracking a gang of mercenary drivers. Hobbs asks Dom and his crew for help in exchange for full pardons for everyone and Letty makes a comeback. This instalment was directed by Lin and is considered one of the most successful films in the franchise, perhaps second to ‘Furious 7’ because of Walker.

‘Furious 7’ (2015)

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‘Furious 7’ Image Credit: Universal Pictures

After defeating international terrorist Owen Shaw, Dom, Brian and the crew have returned to normal lives. However, Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham), Owen’s older brother, is out for revenge. Elsewhere, Dom and company are enlisted once again to rescue a kidnapped computer hacker. The movie was directed by James Wan but received cult status because of Walker who died in a car crash halfway through filming. His brothers stepped up as stand-ins to complete his scenes. The movie also brought the crew down to Abu Dhabi for a few stunts and featured Bollywood actor Ali Fazal.

‘The Fate of the Furious’ (2017)

The Fate of the Furious Image Credit: Universal Pictures

With Dom and Letty married, Brian and Mia retired and the rest of the crew exonerated, a normal life is on the horizon but a mysterious woman named Cipher (Charlize Theron) forces Dom to betray them all. Luke Hobbs, Deckard Shaw and the rest of the gang unite to take her down. Dwayne Johnson and Diesel reportedly had a falling out in the making of this film, which sparked a spin-off for Hobbs in 2019.

‘Hobbs & Shaw’ (2019)

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Jason Statham and Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson in ‘Hobbs & Shaw’. Image Credit: Universal Pictures

A bio-threat is looming as a deadly virus that could ‘melt the insides of your body’ and annihilate weaklings from the human race is sought by a terror outfit called Etheon. Idris Elba plays the cyber-genetically enhanced anarchist Brixton, an old pal of Deckard Shaw’s (Jason Statham), who’s after the virus. However, his plan to extract the deadly agent is thwarted by MI6 agent Hattie Shaw (Vanessa Kirby), who just happens to be Deckard’s baby sister. Meanwhile, The Rock or Dwayne Johnson is Special Agent Luke Hobbs who goes Hulk smash along the way.

‘Fast 9’

Fast and Furious 9 Image Credit: Universal Pictures

Dom, Letty Ortiz, Roman Pearce (Tyrese Gibson), Tej Parker (Chris ‘Ludacris’ Bridges), Mia Toretto (Jordana Brewster) and Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel) reunite to take down terrorist and Dom’s brother Jakob Torreto who is on the loose with Cipher along for the ride. The film also marks the return of Mia, along with Sung Kang as Han Lue, who seemingly died in a collision in the climax of ‘The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift’ at the hands of Deckard Shaw but not really. He played mentor to Sean Boswell in the film, who also reportedly shows up in ‘F9’ as does Helen Mirren who plays Deckard Shaw’s mother.

Fast and Furious 9 Image Credit: Universal Pictures

The Oscar-winning actress said she completed a lifelong dream in the film by getting behind the wheel of a supercar. “I finally did it, yes!” she told ET of her driving experience. “And what a car! And what a drive, down The Mall in London! It was the coolest thing ever. With Vin (Diesel) next to [me]! Driving him, I mean, that was fantastic! And I do actually know how to do a double declutch. And an amazing car. It was a dream. It was fantastic.”

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'Fast and Furious 9' is out in UAE cinemas on May 20