After nearly twelve hours of watching Dom and his crew perform feats of vehicular daring, I am not any more interested in cars than I was when I started. However, I did find myself being charmed by the films, which exist in a universe where loyalty trumps the law, and where backyard barbecues and armed robbery both bring families closer together. Here’s my written-through experience of watching all six movies as a first-timer, complete with observations, asides, and the occasional high-speed detour.
Movie #1: The Fast and the Furious (2001)
One thing that is immediately apparent: Nobody in this movie gets hurt by a car. They get beat up in fistfights, forcibly fed motor oil, and shot at from moving vehicles, but when their cars get flipped or crushed in street races, they emerge unscathed.
So Paul Walker plays Brian O’Conner, an undercover police officer who infiltrates a street-racing gang to crack a DVD player theft ring. Should he maybe focus on catching all these illegal street racers instead? You know, while he’s there?
“What is this guy, sandwich-crazy or something?” sneers one of Dom’s sidekicks, clearly setting up the sequel Brian O’Conner: Sandwich-Crazy Cop.
Vin Diesel really has this strong-but-sensitive thing down. I believe that Dom lives his life a quarter mile at a time. And I’m much more interested in him than I am in O’Conner, who for the record is a terrible cop.
I mean, I’m assuming that when police officers go undercover, they have to at least make an effort not to break the law. For starters, O’Conner has a traffic violation about once every ten seconds.
Not that Dom is a super-competent criminal. “Hey guys, I came up with a great hijacking scheme: We find a truck full of DVDs that’s doing 80 on the highway, smash its windshield with a grappling hook while it’s still moving, and then one guy boards the truck while the rest of us drive really crazy to distract the driver. It can’t fail!”
I really thought this movie would have more exploding cars.
And more nudity. Overall Fast and Furious is remarkably chaste.
Is there a name for the shot that focuses on a series of lined-up drivers one at a time?
“You’ll find anything on the web, anything about anybody.” Right, this movie was made in 2001, when that still needed to be explained to audiences.
The big car race is called “Race Wars” and the rival team is Vietnamese, so… nobody working on the movie had a problem with this? Nobody?
I get the sense I’m supposed to be turned on by these garage scenes. So many engine parts! So many wrenches! Sorry, guys. I got nothing.
All the cars in the race scenes look like candy. Or Matchbox cars.
Sadly, Paul Walker’s death really casts a shadow over these race scenes. The movie presents street racing as a victimless crime, the grown-up equivalent of bumper cars. But from what I’ve read about Walker’s death, the driver’s fatal mistake was rounding a curve too fast. This movie is intended as escapism, but some realities are harder to escape than others.
I had a feeling the quirky-savant character Jesse (played by Chad Lindberg) was not long for this particular world. Even so, his drive-by death feels like an afterthought, like the screenwriter forgot to kill him a car crash in Act 2.
And in one final act of being-a-really-shitty-cop, O’Conner gives Dom his car. It’s also a metaphor for how Vin Diesel totally stole this movie.
Movie #2: 2 Fast 2 Furious (2003)
Wait a minute, Dom isn’t even in this one?? I feel robbed. Like a truck driver hauling DVD players.
So John Singleton’s strategy of coping with Vin’s absence to pack this movie with as many attractive B-listers as possible: Tyrese plus Eva Mendes plus Devon Aoki plus Michael Ealy plus Ludacris equals one Vin Diesel. It’s like Voltron.
“I didn’t know pizza places made car engines.” Oh snap! O’Conner knows more about the differences between Italian restaurants and car engines than the entire Miami PD put together!
Okay, I may not find all the car stuff exciting, but I can’t say I mind watching Tyrese and Paul Walker wrestle in the sand.
Roman Pearce (Tyrese) to Monica Fuentes (Eva Mendes): “He did the stare-and-drive on you, didn’t he? He learned that from me!” Now I’m imagining Paul Walker and Tyrese hurtling blindly down the highway, lost in each other’s eyes. How is Eva Mendes ever going to compete with this bromance?
Tyrese is totally winning me over, though. I love that Roman’s defining characteristic is “hungry.”
His secondary characteristic is “shirtless.” Apparently Singleton asked the actors to improvise a lot, which leads me to believe that Tyrese’s default improv technique is “have a snack, remove a piece of clothing.”
Oh, I see, his hunger is a metaphor. Roman is hungry for justice! And respect! And also those empanadas. You weren’t going to eat those, were you?
Whoa, O’Conner just landed a car on a yacht! I take back everything I ever said about him being a bad cop. I’m pretty sure landing a car on a yacht is a perfectly good substitute for the police exam.
Once again, nobody in this movie gets hurt by a vehicle. I guess the fantasy of Fast and Furious is to be able to push your car to the limit without worrying about stuff like safety? “Let’s see what you got” is a recurring thing people say to cars in these movies. Maybe there are people in Honda Civics across America who secretly think their cars could do this stuff, too, with just a little encouragement.
Movie #3: The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift (2006)
It’s Fast and Furious Goes to High School!
I’m still waiting for the women in this franchise to become more important than hood ornaments. This cheerleader squealing “Winner gets me!” doesn’t bode well.
As a child of the suburbs, I was always exploring half-built housing developments, so I appreciate the sight of our hero Sean (Lucas Black) wrecking this one with his car.
Here’s a big departure from the previous two movies – Lucas Black and Non-JTT Kid from Home Improvement have come out of their race with visible injuries. Director Justin Lin has raised the stakes: Cars are dangerous now!
However, Lin is not committing to this high-school premise. The teenagers live together in industrial lofts and spend their days working through a seemingly inexhaustible supply of fancy sports cars, which makes me wonder what they’re going to write about in their college application essays.
This movie suggests a thriving international subculture of teenage street racing junkies, who hang around abandoned parking garages to watch a series of 10-second races. I cannot believe all these girls would waste their outfits on this.
I’m assuming that “drifting” is a real thing that cars can actually do, but I haven’t seen it before, and I appreciate that. Thanks, Justin Lin!
Halfway through the movie, Sean casually mentions to his would-be girlfriend Neela (Nathalie Kelley) that he’s never seen her “drift.” She then gets behind the wheel and proceeds to do it flawlessly. While I appreciate the effort here, it’s not like her vastly superior driving skills had any effect on the plot whatsoever. We’re still supposed to root for the guy who keeps crashing into stuff.
Sean talks about how he became addicted to racing after he beat a “rich kid” who challenged him. That idea seems to be at the crux of this whole franchise: Street racing destroys class superiority. The 1% will never triumph because they have no idea how to fix their own cars, let alone outfit them with NOS and dashboard computers and God knows what else.
Going back to that thing where cars are dangerous now, we have the first car-crash victim of the entire franchise: Han, the Dom-like mentor played by Sung Kang. Even though he was the most appealing actor in the whole movie, I find it myself unmoved by his death, because this movie has no emotional stakes: it’s all about settling scores.
On the plus side, this climactic mountain race may be most inventive one in the franchise so far. It looks cool and feels legitimately dangerous, with cars drifting in triple-formation down steep cliffs.
And there’s Dom! He seems to have come to Japan to hang out with a bunch of high school kids, which is a little weird, but whatever. I missed him.
Movie #4: Fast & Furious (2009)
Can we all acknowledge how weird it is that the fourth movie has the same title as the first one, minus the “the”s? It’s like if they called the next Star Wars movie Return of Jedi.
So we’re back in Dom’s world now, and Han is there! Really though, how is this possible? Was Tokyo Drift all a dream? Is this movie a prequel? I’m questioning everything I knew to be true.
This oil-tank sequence is essentially a train robbery from an old Western, plus explosions. Not complaining.
Not only is Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) back, but she gets to star in an action sequence! We haven’t seen a female character do that since the first film.
And now she’s dead. My triumph was short-lived.
I do have some feelings about Letty dying, unlike when Han died. (Or did he?) She and Dom seemed really happy together. And Dom has already suffered a lot of loss in his life — so much, in fact, that he once tried to kill a guy with a wrench in despair. I hope somebody hides his tools this time around.
Mia (Jordana Brewster) to Brian: “Maybe you’re the bad guy pretending to be the good guy.” Thank you, Mia, for being a better judge of character than the HR department of our federal government.
Speaking of which, is Dom still a good guy? Because he’s definitely dangling that dude out of a window.
Fast and Furious fatigue is setting in. I feel like I’ve already watched this street race.
Man, I had no idea this much auditioning was required to become a heroin mule. I’d have guessed the process was more like, “Are you willing to carry heroin illegally across the border? Congratulations, you’re in!”
O’Conner gleefully plants meth in a guy’s apartment and arrests him. It’s cool though, because that guy was one of the bad drug traffickers, and O’Conner is one of the good ones.
“I appreciate a fine body regardless of make.” This is some high-level car innuendo going on between Dom and Future Wonder Woman.
O’Conner admits that it was his fault Letty died, and he offers to make it up to Dom by basically scuttling the entire FBI mission. I understand O’Conner’s loyalty to Dom, but I can’t understand why he became a police officer in the first place.
There’s a big showdown. My eyes are glazing over.
And now they’re in Mexico! My lazy DVD subtitles translate “Vaya con Dios” as “speaks Spanish.”
After murdering Gran Torino Man with his car, Dom decides to stop running and accept a prison sentence. But wait! Brian and Mia and the Spanish-speaking guys are here to hijack the prison bus! That’s a pretty good ending, and now that O’Conner has gone full outlaw, I like him a hell of a lot more.
Movie #5: Fast Five (2011)
Fast Five picks up where the last one left off, which means, I guess, that Han is still alive and Letty is still dead. I’m still really confused about both these things.
Is it really that easy to flip a bus by hitting it with a car? Is this the Fast and Furious version of cow-tipping?
That newscaster was Perd Hapley! Omigod, if anyone in this movie appears on Y’heard With Perd, I will be so happy.
Within the first three minutes, it’s clear that Justin Lin has been given way more money for this one. Or a giant tax break from the Brazilian government.
I like O’Conner more as a fugitive but I keep expecting someone from the FBI to show up and rehire him. “We don’t have enough officers who are skilled at crashing into cars and running away. We need you more than ever, O’Conner.”
With that awesome-looking ravine jump, Dom just basically turned into Batman. Maybe Letty’s cross gives him superpowers.
I’m feeling some significant white guilt over how cool-looking I find the favelas. They’re slums, but they’re pretty slums!
Can you imagine being the guy who put Dwayne Johnson and Vin Diesel together in the same movie? I can picture Justin Lin looking at his DP and saying, “We’re gonna need a bigger lens.”
Every one of these movies involves giant sacks full of money. Where does one buy these sacks? Are they available on Amazon?
Sample Amazon review: “Great sack. Good size. Did not break open during train heist.”
I love how suddenly, all these characters from previous movies are criminal masterminds with specialized skill sets. Last time we saw Roman and Ludacris, their most impressive abilities were “eating” and “fixing engines,” respectively.
In fairness, Han’s ability to come back from the dead is pretty impressive and would no doubt come in handy.
Speaking of which, I know Michelle Rodriguez is in at least one more of these movies. I keep waiting for Letty’s evil twin sister Betty to show up.
I don’t believe for a second that Ludacris was secretly a safe-cracking expert this whole time, but I love it.
Rejected titles for this movie: 5 Fast 5 Furious. High-Octane Five. Ocean’s Eleven.
Everyone is having such a good time together. This is the first of these films that actually makes me want to hang out and eat barbecue with these crazy car people.
Who’d have guessed that Gisele (Gal Gadot) would get the most interesting back story? Considering I identified her strictly as “hot girl” in my notes from the last one, I’m impressed.
This cop-car race is such a little-boy fantasy. It’s pretty adorable.
Is it wrong to call a Fast and Furious movie adorable?
Of course both FBI agents turn for Dom. He didn’t kill Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) with a wrench, and not killing someone with a wrench is the highest form of loyalty.
Plus, the entire universe of these movies would collapse if Dom weren’t always the better man. Because he lives outside the law and had a strong father figure, he can clearly see right and wrong in a way that the rest of us cannot. Dominic Toretto is the Übermensch.
The bank-vault theft puts us squarely back in old West, cowboys-and-sheriffs territory. There’s a lot of masculine American myth-making happening in Fast Five, with shades of Robin Hood, James Bond, Batman, heist movies, Westerns…
… and the Bible. All those shots of the Christ the Redeemer statue were no coincidence, guy: Dom is this movie’s Jesus figure, telling his disciples that sacrificing himself “was always the plan.”
And now, Justin Lin will spend the last five minutes blowing his remaining budget on location shots.
Omigod Letty is alive!! And she’s joining the Avengers! That’s what usually happens in end-credits sequences, right?
Movie #6: Fast & Furious 6 (2013)
Home stretch! This movie came out just two years ago, but having crammed a decade of Fast and Furious into a ten-hour binge, I’m having trouble comprehending this. If the characters start explaining the internet again it won’t surprise me. My sense of time is completely screwed up.
Of course Brian and Mia’s baby is a boy. The father-son theme was just introduced in the last movie, but dammit, they’re going to ride it into the ground.
I’m amused by this opening montage of Memorable Fast and Furious Stunts and Also That One Time Gal Gadot Wore a Bikini.
Gia Carano and Gal Gadot are both in this movie, which means that Zack Snyder watched this movie and picked Gadot over Carano for Wonder Woman. The mind boggles.
Definitely getting tired, because I had a moment where I thought the Vin Diesel head lookalike in the interrogation room was Ben Kingsley. A jacked Ben Kingsley is definitely what this franchise needs.
Suggested spin-off: Roman Pearce’s Party Jet.
I feel like I’ve watched several movies lately with bad guys named Shaw. IMDB confirms that I am thinking of either X-Men: First Class or Open Season, which in any other context would be hard movies to mix up.
Remember when this crew was stealing DVD players? Now they’re fighting an international terrorist. Lots of opportunity for advancement in the super-fast-driving industry.
Why do these films have such a love affair with parking garages? Nobody likes parking garages!
So far they’ve mentioned Robin Hood, The Avengers, and James Bond in this movie, which justifies everything I wrote about Fast Five.
“You don’t turn your back on family, even when they do,” says Dom after Amnesia Letty shoots him. Dom is a fucking saint.
Aww, after all these years together, Roman still thinks Brian is pretty.
Even though this movie has a scary terrorist with a mustache, the real villain is clearly the snooty British man who thinks The Rock and Ludacris can’t afford fancy cars.
This thing where Brian goes to jail is literally the worst plan these guys have come up with yet. And that’s saying something.
Michelle Rodriguez and Vin Diesel are so good together that I’m willing to forgive this dumb amnesia subplot. I would really appreciate a DVD commentary from Oliver Sacks, though.
Lots more hand-to-hand combat in this one but driving is still the weapon of choice. It’s that Batman fantasy: a superpower that can be harnessed by ordinary people.
I just skipped backwards to watch Ludacris say “They got a tank!” again.
Naturally Dom saves Letty’s life with a feat of superhuman strength, fueled by love. “Some things you just have to take on faith,” he tells her, and then he turns some water into Corona.
And Hobbs lets the terrorists go to save Mia’s life. Pretty sure he has a tattoo that says What Would Dom Do?
Once again, Dom sacrifices himself for the sins of the world and emerges unscathed. Gisele is not so lucky.
Just in case the whole faith-and-family thing hasn’t sunken in yet, this movie ends with a prayer.
Psyche! It ends with Jason Statham killing Han. Which means 1) Han is really dead, and 2) Jason Statham was hanging out in Tokyo for all of Tokyo Drift. Now I have to re-watch the movie to see if Jason Statham is lurking in the background eating ramen.
Watch a video about ‘Furious 7′ below: