Fast & Furious, not to be confused with The Fast and the Furious, aka the one that started this improbable franchise juggernaut. No, Fast & Furious is the fourth entry in the franchise and it’s an odd one really. It is the second film in the franchise directed by Justin Lin and in many ways it lays the groundwork for the films that come after it. But unfortunately that doesn’t make it an entertaining film.
Fast & Furious sees fugitive street racer Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) and reinstated FBI Agent Brian O’Conner (Paul Walker) reunite and reluctantly work together to take down a common enemy in a drug lord called Braga. It’s Brian and Dom being back together again that grabs your interest but unfortunately the film they reunite in is not that great. Clearly director Justin Lin was finding his feet in terms of tone with this film and the franchise.
His first film in the franchise, Fast and Furious: Tokyo Drift (which is not as bad as most people say) was flashy and cheesy and had a whole new setting and racing style. Fast & Furious reunites the characters that started it all, but, with the added murder and drug lords, it veers too far from the cheesy and becomes too serious and dull. There’s no comedic relief character (like Tyrese Gibson’s Roman in 2 Fast 2 Furious or Bow Wow’s Twinkie in Tokyo Drift), and everything’s very sombre as Brian deals with the fallout of tearing Mia (Jordana Brewster) and Dom’s family apart, and Dom is out for revenge after the murder of Letty (Michelle Rodriguez). While the film starts with a bang, with Dom, Letty and their friends stealing from a gas tanker truck, nothing after that is remotely exciting.
In hindsight, Fast & Furious feels like the set up for the next film. The main point of it is getting Brian, Dom and Mia back together, and finally pushing Brian from one side of the law to the other. When Brian and Mia meet again for the first time and talk about the events of The Fast and the Furious, Mia has a great line that describes Brian to a T: “Maybe you’re not the good guy pretending to be the bad guy. Maybe you’re the bad guy pretending to be the good guy.” Because that’s the thing about Brian, he’s a good cop but he fits in with the street racer scene so much better, and with Mia and Dom he finds a place to belong that he never had with the police or the FBI.
Unlike the rest of the films in the franchise, Fast & Furious doesn’t have that thing or moment that makes it standout. It’s known as the one where Brian and Dom return and Letty dies but ask anyone to say anything about the actual plot and I doubt they can. I mean, the climax of the film happens in a poorly lit tunnel! And it’s the second time our heroes have raced through said tunnel, so the car chase itself doesn’t offer anything new.
Every other film in the series can be summed up in one sentence. The Fast and the Furious – Point Break but with cars. 2 Fast 2 Furious – the one where a car lands on a boat or, as my fellow Jumpcut writer Sam calls it, “a Miami Vice race movie”. Tokyo Drift – the random one in Tokyo. Fast Five – the best one or the big heist team up one or the one where the Rock joins the fun (OK this one can be summed up in a lot of ways). Fast & Furious 6 – the one with the super long runway. Furious 7 – cars parachute out of a plane or the perfect tribute to Paul Walker and his character. The Fate of the Furious – the one where the gang takes on a nuclear sub.
As much as I don’t enjoy Fast & Furious, I appreciate it for being the foundation for the rest of the bigger and better films in the franchise. It’s the film that brought the original cast back together, it’s the one that introduced Gal Gadot’s Gisele and brought back Sung Kang’s Han meaning that Tokyo Drift technically hadn’t happened yet, and it’s the one that ended on a prison break meaning that anything could happen next.
Fast & Furious stumbled so the rest of the franchise could run. And run it certainly did.
Directed by: Justin Lin
Cast: Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Jordana Brewster, Michelle Rodriguez