There’s something inherently charming about rewatching The Fast & The Furious
There’s something inherently charming about rewatching The Fast & The Furious (2001), from its plotline involving illegal LA street racing and the stealing of Panasonic DVD players. A cynical viewer could easily argue it’s just a shameless rip-off of Point Break (1991). I’d argue it’s more of a loving homage. There was absolutely no guarantee that the first pairing of Paul Walker and Vin Diesel would then spawn an entire high-octane, and gloriously over-the-top action franchise. But alas, it did.
They followed it up with the highly underappreciated John Singleton sequel, 2 Fast 2 Furious (maybe the best movie title of all time?). While Diesel’s macho, tank-top-wearing, Corona-swiggin’, infamous family-man-character of Dom Toretto, is gone in the wind, Walker’s on-screen foil is perfectly played here by Tyrese Gibson. Also, shoutout to the YouTube Channel “Ben From Canada” for the incredible twenty-minute deep-dive on the homoerotic subtext between Walker’s Bryan O’Conner and Gibson’s Roman Pearce. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l2PqynUel2E
The less said about The Fast & The Furious: Tokyo Drift (2006), the better. Lucas Black’s role as“All ‘round ‘bama boy, Sean Boswell” is at no point a compelling protagonist. Take a bong rip every time a character drops the word “gaijin” during the film’s nearly insufferable 104-minute runtime. Yes, it does introduce Sung Kang, as everyone’s fan-favourite nicotine-addiction-perma-potato-chip-chewing, Han. And yes, the entire story should have been about him instead.
After Tokyo Drift, Justin Lin really...ahem, took the wheel of the franchise, directing the following three films, in what had now become a true franchise. Fast & Furious (2009), drops both titular uses of “the” and any and all logic or physics, for a lean and mean revenge flick. Also known as “Rapid & Dangerous”, in French. The shocking death of Letty (Michelle Rodriguez), which some could argue as “fridging”, is the impetus for Dom to go on a single-minded quest of vengeance. Why they didn’t add the number ‘4’ at the end, still confuses me all these years later.
Fast Five (2011) sees the characters in even faster cars to even newer heights. Including an incredible third-act bank heist, where Dom and Bryan literally drag a top-of-the-line bank vault through busy streets by two suped-up muscle cars. The fifth flick in the Fast franchise also introduced DSS Agent Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) to the mix. He rules. He also, ahem... rocks. Take another bong rip every time Diesel mumble-growls the word “family”.
Fast and Furious 6 (2013), has its moments, but is overall an overwrought mess. This is the first film where storylines start becoming retconned. Remember when Letty died in 4? Well, she didn’t actually die. Instead of no-scoping her forehead, the guy who supposedly killed her nonsensically shoots the gas tank of her car, so she flies backward down a hill into the woods. This is where the films achieve true soap-opera status, because Letty conveniently gets amnesia for the sake of the plot. Ugh... Although the comically extended and impossibly long runway plane chase climax, is delightfully absurd.
I’d easily put Furious 7 (2015) up there as the best of the franchise, along with the fifth one. Modern horror maestro James Wan delivers an enthralling and gleefully over-the-top action spectacle here. Although, it is impossible to not feel intensely emotional as this was filmed during the terrible time in which Paul Walker tragically passed away. In many ways, Brian O’Conner was the very beating heart of the franchise. The ending tribute is both beautiful and makes me cry. Every time. “See You Again” by Charlie Puth and Wiz Khalifa will get you right in the feels.
The Fate of the Furious (2017) is an irritating step-back for the franchise. F. Gary Gray is a solid director, but the plot is more overwrought nonsense. Jason Statham saving a baby on an airplane by shooting and beating up a ton of bad guys, is a particular highlight. One of the very few. It’s as if we get to see his character of Deckard Shaw play the iconic Call of Duty - Spec Ops mission Mile High Club, but on the silver screen. Skip the rest.
Fast and Furious Presents: Hobbs and Shaw (2019) is a super fun buddy-team up action flick between Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham. Absurd, entertaining and utterly unapologetic. Due to the pandemic, F9 (2021) was delayed a whole year, and I’ve already forgotten most of what happened. Han mysteriously comes back. That’s great, but the hashtag #JusticeForHan still felt unresolved. What else? John Cena appears as Dom and Mia’s (Jordana Brewster) long-lost younger brother, whom we’ve never seen or heard of until now. Weird. That idea never really works. Oh, yeah, they also go into space. Yep. They did it. Now, I can forgive a lot of things and my suspension of disbelief for these movies is stronger than the toughest of suspension bridges. What I can’t handle—is them actually going out into space. Houston, we’ve lost the plot.
As a product of its time, more than two decades on, people have proven to love two things: fast cars, and family. As a spectacle of the early aughts, the fact that the Fast and Furious franchise is still going strong to this day, is nothing short of a hilarious miracle. Remember when these films were about stealing DVD players? Quite quaint in retrospect. The tenth film in the franchise revs its NOS-injected engines into theatres this upcoming weekend. You can bet I’ll be there opening weekend.
No matter how Fast X (2023) turns out this summer, good or bad, they really missed out on the perfectly golden opportunity to name the tenth flick, “Fast-Ten Your Seatbelts”.