Expert film discussion from completely unqualified people


March 31, 2015

Part IV ditches the definite articles and returns to form.

In this seven-part series, Rob watches the Fast and Furious films for the first time. Check out Part I here, Part II here, and Part III here

Fast and Furious (2009)

"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. You ever think about that?"
"Every day."

In Fast and Furious, all the pieces come together. No more identity crisis. No more growing pains. The series has finally found its tone and gracefully abandoned the adolescent car fetishism in favor of straight-up action and adventure. The relationships are believable. The stunts are inventive and well-executed. The writing is actually kind of decent. Until now (to borrow a phrase from Don Draper), we've had building blocks but no idea what the structure was going to look like. Paul Walker and crew have taken their tongues out of their cheeks and given us a confident adventure story that shows real maturation and inspiration. They've committed. They're actually trying this time. They've built a world, and now we get to live in it. 

After escaping capture at the end of Part I, Dom and his crew have moved to the Dominican Republic and gotten up to their old tricks, hijacking cargo from tractor-trailers. Letty and the rest are back (including Han! Guys, they brought Han back!), but after the police raid one of their storehouses, the group disbands to avoid capture. Months later, Dom must return to LA to mourn the sudden loss of Letty (Tangent: So Letty gets a completely badass action scene and is then killed off-screen? Yea. We'll be seeing her again). Dom traces her murderer to a Mexican Drug Cartel headed by Mexican Drug Kingpin Man and swears revenge. 

Meanwhile, FBI agent (!) Brian is also tracing the Mexican Drug Cartel headed by Mexican Drug Kingpin Man. He and Dom have a tense reunion and infiltrate the MDC as potential drivers. From here on, it becomes a battle of ideologies: Will Brian allow Dom to get his vengeance? Will Mia forgive Brian for his betrayal so they can get back to sexy times? Will Dom trust Brian and use his brooding machismo for the forces of good? The answer to all of these questions is a resounding "fuck yes."

Fast and Furious demonstrates significant growth for director Justin Lin. This film has a wonderful energy and scope sorely missing in Tokyo Drift. He and his team have also found a way to ditch the bullshit premise that any and all disputes in the underworld are settled with street racing (except the initial race, which works because it involves open freeways and live traffic). The cars actually do things other than drive fast, harkening back to what worked most in 2 Fast 2 Furious. The stunts are just the right level of ridiculous so that you're cheering without rolling your eyes. The settings are opened up for scale and action scenes are placed and arranged with much more care than in previous installments. Each one has a buildup, a purpose, and drives the narrative in a significant way. It's certainly not the balls-out action of John Wick or The Raid 2, but it's not bad, either. Dom and Brian still aren't actual characters, but their identities and motivations in this particular story are fleshed-out well enough that they're each a proactive force in the plot. That ending beat is excellent and it finally feels earned. 

Fast and Furious should serve as a model for the remaining installments. We now have a wealth of characters and scenarios to choose from, and all of the internal tension has been resolved (not to mention that great continuity snarl with Tokyo Drift). I can only hope the stakes continue to grow. How long before Dom and Brian are saving the president? When will Mia learn to drift? And when in the good god damn will Roman come back? 

I have absolutely no predictions for Fast Five. Maybe Dom and Brian will ride turbocharged velociraptors in outer space and then enter the Indy 500. Who the hell cares? I just want more. 


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