Last year, I compared the eight remaining playoff teams to the eight existing Fast and Furious movies in the main franchise. This season, the finals have almost coincided with the release of Fast 9 and it couldn’t be more perfect because there is only one team I want to use to complete the comparison. I may have already written a piece featuring them, but I swear there is a Phoenix Suns tinge to Fast 9.
I figured I would give everyone two weekends to see the movie before I started spoiling things. I also happened to get horribly ill—non-COVID related, just like Cam Johnson—immediately after seeing the film. Some might say that my brain couldn’t handle all of the family, coronas, fast cars, and cameos.
Those people might be right.
But I’m back like Han and I’m ready to explain this idea far better than the movie explained how he was still alive.
First off, Fast 9 is a fun ride, but it is not the best of the series. The action scenes are excellent except for the fact that they’re more CGI-heavy than past installments. Or perhaps I should say that the lack of practical effects—particularly people jumping out of cars—was more noticeable this time around.
Weaving between those set pieces was a plot I could barely wrangle. It felt like I was trying to guard a Chris Paul drive. I didn’t know what was going to happen except they were going to end up in space. I couldn’t track which side was which and who wanted what. I just know that there was a device that…controlled stuff? It felt like a placeholder, the “BIG BAD INVENTION” that the screenwriters never went back to.
Just to be clear, I loved the team dynamics, the set pieces made me grunt, and I enjoyed myself the whole time.
Good Not Great
Similarly, these Suns are not the best finals team, either. They are balanced on both sides of the ball with long, active defenders, and dynamic offensive talent. Still, the Lakers were laughing at them when they were fully healthy. The Clippers pushed them to six games without Kawhi Leonard. Their backup center is Dario Saric… But I love this team just the same. I love how they battle. With Chris Paul at the helm, they really do play older than their average age.
As if you needed me to say it, Chris Paul is the Vin Deisel of this team. Vin has been a part of other franchises, yet the Pitch Black series never quite reached the same heights as the Fast franchise. The Clippers and Rockets were successful, but neither brought Paul this far. He is the dominant voice of this team. That pronoun could refer to either man. Dominic Toretto cares more about family than just about anything. The same can be said for Chris Paul in the State Farm commercials. They’ve both conveniently forgotten about their brothers as well.
The Fast and Furious cast has ballooned into an incalculable list of names. Helen Mirren gets to drive a purple Lambo around and literally the only reason is to have a scene where Helen Mirren gets to drive a purple Lambo around. She’s one of the most amazing actresses alive and she’s practically scenery! It’s incredible.
Everyone plays their part perfectly. The same is true for the Suns. They’ve built a versatile and deep roster. Cam Payne is the Tyrese of the group. He flamed out of other projects, but he can get hot for a few minutes in the Fast series and carry the moment. Jae Crowder is the Ludacris, of course. He’s been shockingly vital to two straight finals contenders. I was similarly surprised that Tej was a hacker, but now it’s just a vital role he plays.
Mikal Bridges is Letty. In just the ninth movie, she carries the emotional strength to convince Dom to leave the…farm? She also knee drops a guy out a window. Whatever the franchise needs, she does. Bridges is a similar Swiss Army knife. He’s a good defender, he can shoot and he has insanely long arms. He doesn’t take away from the alchemy.
Cam Johnson is Mr. Nobody. He feels like an afterthought, but when he’s on-screen, you know he’s there. Dario Saric is Mia. Perhaps maligned, but actually a very important member of the group.
Deandre Ayton is Ramsey. The newcomer that I wasn’t sure was a good fit. I was underwhelmed in her first outing. Then I felt like she really found her groove in this one. Ayton has been incredible all playoffs. He works his ass off. He does whatever he can to stay with quicker guards and battle the bigs. He catches game-winning lobs. Ramsey could have a similar moment.
Frank Kaminsky is Bow Wow. I guess they brought him back for a reason, but he really feels shoehorned in. I could have done without his screen time despite the novelty that he was there.
That leaves us with Devin Booker, aka Han. This is his chance to show he should never have been doubted (killed off). He was always the coolest guy on the team. Devin Booker is here to get buckets. Do I get this whole backstory that they tried to work in for Han as to how he’s alive? Nope. Do I appreciate it when Roman calls him out on that? Do I think Han could lead his own franchise? Probably not. He’s a perfect fit alongside Dom in that way.
The final comparison is the big bads. Giannis and the Bucks are a pretty good stand-in for the villains of Fast 9. Giannis is a physical freak, just like John Cena’s Jakob. I look at Bobby Portis the same way I look at Cipher’s hair choices—like seriously, what’s going on here?
The Bogdanovic deal last offseason was very much the equivalent of the four-minute star wars analogy that happens in the middle of this movie. Every time I think about it, I feel more confused and curious about what really happened and what the point of it all was.
Oh by the way, spoilers for Fast 9.
Sort of. It’s kind of spoiler proof. They tell you they go to space and that Han comes back in the trailer. And yet it still got me to go to the movie theater for the first time in 17 months. The Suns being in the finals is generating the same sort of excitement. The Suns organization has built this team like the perfect Dodge Charger. Now, let’s see them let it rip. No matter what happens, the Suns have my heart. They’re family.
Do you have thoughts on which Sun is Cipher? Hit me up in the comments. Have a great day!