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‘F9’ cast, Vin Diesel pick up where they left off in hard-charging ‘Fast and Furious’ franchise

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In the “Fast and Furious” films, no one’s more of a family man than Dominic Toretto. But now, in addition to keeping the world safe, Vin Diesel’s muscular hero also has to deal with a broken brotherhood.

Sibling rivalry shifts into a whole new gear when Dom’s forced to confront his little brother Jakob (John Cena) in “F9” (in theaters Friday). Hard feelings are rife between the two, and rogue superspy Jakob is a thorn in the side of Dom and his crew as each brother seeks pieces of a dangerous high-tech device.

Furthering the series’ theme of family, this time through blood, is what lured Justin Lin back in the director’s chair for the ninth “Fast” installment.

Sibling rivalry breaks out between Dom (Vin Diesel, left) and Jakob (John Cena) in "F9," the ninth film in the "Fast and Furious" series.
Sibling rivalry breaks out between Dom (Vin Diesel, left) and Jakob (John Cena) in "F9," the ninth film in the "Fast and Furious" series. GILES KEYTE/UNIVERSAL PICTURES

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"There was an opportunity to explore the origins of the Toretto mythology, and it became undeniable for me," says Lin, who directed four previous films in the franchise.

After so many movies, Dom’s put together a fairly large team and they’ve all got some sort of drama going on in “F9” between the crazy action scenes. Here’s what you need to know going into the new “Furious” flick:

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Vin Diesel's Dom deals with fatherhood as well as brotherhood

In the last film, 2017's “The Fate of the Furious,” Dom learned he has a son with his ex-lover Elena (Elsa Pataky), and after her death, the former street-racing patriarch ventures off the grid to live a quiet isolated life with Little Brian (named after the late Paul Walker’s character) and Dom’s wife Letty (Michelle Rodriguez). He’s reluctant to get back into the fight when his crew comes calling, as he tries to keep his kid safe. But he changes his mind when he realizes his own brother is involved.

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Being dads is something Diesel and Lin have talked a lot about since they first connected in 2005 when Lin cast him in a cameo role in the third movie, “Tokyo Drift.”

With “F9,” Lin thought it’d be interesting to see how Jakob’s return would affect Dom as a father. “On our first week, to see Vin walking with a 3-year-old, just hanging out before we were shooting made me really appreciate" how important fatherhood is in both their lives, Lin says.

‘F9’ offers callback to an iconic scene from the original movie 

In the first “Fast and Furious” film 20 years ago, Dom explains to undercover cop Brian (Walker) why he’s scared of a Dodge Charger that Dom and his father worked on, and tells him about the tragic death of his stock car racer dad and the ensuing incident that sent Dom to jail. It also gave rise to one of the franchise’s most indelible lines: “I live my life a quarter-mile at a time.”

Jakob Toretto (John Cena) is the little brother Dom's kept secret, even from his loved ones, in the "Fast and Furious" films.
Jakob Toretto (John Cena) is the little brother Dom's kept secret, even from his loved ones, in the "Fast and Furious" films. GILES KEYTE/UNIVERSAL PICTURES

The emotional underpinnings of that scene are revealed through flashbacks in “F9” that show exactly why Dom and Jakob aren’t on speaking terms – and why Dom’s kept him a secret from his own family.

“Here is the champion of brotherhood for two decades. If we look in the dictionary at ‘brotherhood,’ we see a picture of Dom and Brian," Diesel says. "And yet if we just go further back in time, we see that he's been going through life feeling as though his (real) brother is accountable for the loss of his father. That's deep.”

Letty also feels the pressures of family

Rodriguez’s character has been Dom’s ride-or-die since the original film, aside from the brief period when she was presumed dead after an explosion, Dom hooked up with Elena, and Letty had to overcome a bout of amnesia. The events of “Fate” have affected her as well: She's suddenly enlisted as a mom to Little Brian following Elena’s death, while she struggles to adapt to a slower-paced life and her evolving relationship with Dom. 

"F9" finds Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) dealing with suddenly being a mom and struggling with the pace of her life.
"F9" finds Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) dealing with suddenly being a mom and struggling with the pace of her life. GILES KEYTE/UNIVERSAL PICTURES

Letty has a helpful sounding board in Dom’s sister Mia (Jordana Brewster), and right before tackling some rough dudes in Tokyo, the two longtime friends discuss the changes in their lives. For Lin, that thoughtful scene “felt like it was years in the making."

Mortality begins to weigh on our protagonists

Roman Pearce (Tyrese Gibson) has been a franchise fixture since 2003’s “2 Fast 2 Furious.” Yet it’s not until “F9” – after surviving many unbelievable, harrowing situations – that he begins to wonder if they’re actually invincible. “Y’all ever thought about the wild missions we’ve been on? We’ve taken out planes, trains, tanks. I’m not even going to think about the submarine,” Roman says to Tej (Chris “Ludacris” Bridges) and Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel). It’s a moment that resonates later in the movie as Roman and Tej go where no “Fast and Furious” characters have gone before.

Roman (Tyrese Gibson, center, with Chris "Ludacris" Bridges and Jason Tobin) begins to wonder if he's invincible after so many death-defying missions in "F9."
Roman (Tyrese Gibson, center, with Chris "Ludacris" Bridges and Jason Tobin) begins to wonder if he's invincible after so many death-defying missions in "F9." GILES KEYTE/UNIVERSAL PICTURES

“Heading into year 20, it felt like it was a good time to check in with Roman, who's having an existential crisis," Lin says. “We made a very conscious effort to acknowledge that these characters are going to grow and they're going to age, they're going to mature, they're going to evolve. If anything, that's the heart and soul of our franchise."

Han returns from the dead to rejoin the crew

Sung Kang’s snack-happy racer was introduced as a mentor figure in 2006's “Tokyo Drift” and perished in a fiery car crash at the end of the movie. But that didn’t keep Lin from including him in Dom’s crew in the next three films. It’s not until the end-credits scene of “Fast & Furious 6” where audiences saw Han’s death and the man who was responsible: Jason Statham’s villainous Deckard Shaw. “I thought I was done. I locked the door and moved on. It had closure,” Kang says. “I was cool with it.”

But many fans weren’t: They started a #JusticeForHan movement, and Lin found a way to bring Kang back into the fold. While folks will have to watch the movie to see how and why, a gripping scene reunites Han with his friends, and Dom especially is touched.

“It's like going back to your first day of school. You wonder if you're going to end up eating lunch by yourself in the cafeteria or if anyone is going to talk to you,” Kang says. “But going back to it, it's just like that scene: Everybody was so gracious and welcoming. It was like a great homecoming.”

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