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Dom and his cross in ‘The Fast and the Furious’ (The Kobal Collection/WireImage)
The characters in the Fast and Furious films live a life full of muscle cars, bikini-clad women, thrilling chases, and fights to the death. These are all pretty standard action-movie ingredients — but they co-exist with scenes of Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel), Brian O’Conner (Paul Walker), and their friends praying over meals. Huge sacks of money figure prominently in the films, but the most valuable item to Dom is the silver cross he wears around his neck. It may seem ridiculous to say this about a franchise known for booty shots, Corona endorsements, and explosive car stunts, but there is an undeniable Catholic undertone to the Fast and the Furious films. And Furious 7 is the most devout installment yet. (Warning: Spoilers to follow)
Take, for example, that cross necklace. Dominic wears it throughout the first movie, and gives it to his girlfriend Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) in the fourth. After Letty dies in a crash (or so it seems) while trying to help Dom, the cross becomes a symbol of her sacrifice. When Letty comes back, suffering from amnesia and trying to kill Dom, he gives her the necklace, which now represents his unconditional love and forgiveness. The cross gets its climactic moment in Furious 7, when Dom is pulled from a terrible car wreck, unconscious and not breathing. Letty, who has suddenly got her memory back, clutches the cross and tells him the heretofore-unknown story of their wedding — when the couple used the necklace to seal their vows. With that, Dom regains consciousness. Sacrifice, forgiveness, love, resurrection: These are all meanings that Christians attach to the symbol of the cross.
Watch Dom and Mia talk about family in ‘Fast & Furious 6’:
So does this mean that Dom is the movie’s Christ figure? Actually, it’s not that much of a stretch. When he’s first introduced, Dom is an enigmatic outlaw with a heart of gold. By midway through the series, though, he clearly emerges as both the leader and moral center of the Fast and the Furious universe. Like Jesus, Dom assembles a loyal group of followers, mainly blue-collar workers (fishermen in the Bible, car mechanics in Fast and the Furious) and the occasional government official (Matthew the tax collector in the Bible, Hobbs the DSS agent in the movies). To them, he imparts Christ-like lessons like “Money will come and go: The most important thing in life will always be the people in this room” (from Fast Five) and “You don’t turn your back on family, even when they do” (from Fast & Furious 6). (Compare that second quote to Matthew 18:21-22: “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him?”)
Dom’s gospel, of course, is a little more simplistic than the one preached from pulpits. His two creeds are “family” — a word he uses for both his friends and his literal family members — and “Ride or die.” Everything he does is in service to those core values. He deliberately loses a race so that his unborn nephew will receive the winnings. After Dom’s longtime friend Vince betrays the gang in Fast Five, Dom welcomes him back to the dinner table like a prodigal son. After he hurls himself off a bridge to save Letty’s life in Fast & Furious 6, he tells her, “Some things you just have to take on faith.”
Given Dom’s Christ-like qualities, it’s interesting that his foil Agent Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) is described in the films using Old Testament terms. Literally. “This guy, he’s Old Testament: blood, bullets, wrath of God,” says Brian O’Conner when Hobbs is introduced in Fast Five. Judging from his own use of metaphors, Hobbs agrees. “I’m gonna come down on them like the walls of Jericho,” he growls in Fast & Furious 6. Like the heroes of the Old Testament, Hobbs is all about justice: punishing sinners (“You just earned yourself a dance with the devil,” he tells Jason Statham’s villain Shaw in Furious 7) and rewarding the righteous. And in a nice bit of synchronicity, he’s played by a guy nicknamed The Rock. (See Isaiah 26:4: “The Lord himself is the Rock eternal.”)
Mia Toretto in ‘Fast Five’ (Universal)
These are all broad Christian themes, but if Fast and Furious has a denomination, it’s got to be Catholicism. The series makes several specific nods to the Catholic faith, including a confrontation with a drug dealer in a chapel in Fast & Furious; the Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro, seen throughout Fast Five; Brian’s son being delivered by nuns in FF6; and Dom and Letty being married by a priest in Furious 7’s flashback. Surprisingly, the most Catholic character in the franchise may be Mia Toretto (Jordana Brewster), who progresses from Brian’s waitress girlfriend to a kind of idealized mother figure. In the last three films, Mia is either pregnant or caring for a child or both. Like the Catholic interpretation of the Virgin Mary, who redeems the world through her perfectly selfless maternal love, Mia becomes the living embodiment of Dom’s “family” credo. She keeps the home fires burning while the rest of the crew saves the world from terrorism, and she redeems Brian by pulling him away from his criminal past. Mia is the only character besides Dom who always wears a cross, and when Brian frolics with her and their son on a beach at the end of Furious 7, it’s like a Pope-approved vision of heaven.
Speaking of which, the death of Paul Walker brings an unexpected spiritual weight to Furious 7. The previous movie, Fast & Furious 6, ends with a prayer, as Roman Pearce (Tyrese Gibson) blesses a meal by thanking God for “the gathering of friends,” “the loved ones we’ve lost along the way,” and “fast cars.” The newest movie takes these ideas a step further, and ends with a metaphorical vision of the afterlife. Following that idyllic scene on the beach, Dom drives off, and Brian pulls up beside him for one last race. The two cars speed up and go down diverging roads, as the Wiz Khalifa song “See You Again” plays. It’s the Gospel of Dom in a nutshell: Death gives way to new life, family is unbreakable, and fast cars ride on forever.