Report Card - 'The Fast and the Furious' Franchise
With the upcoming release of Fate of the Furious, we take a look back on the films that made this franchise one of the largest, and longest running series of films in recent memory. Here I'll be giving each film a grade and then at the bottom an overall score for the series. Be sure to comment and tell us your thoughts on the series. Lets have a conversation!
The Fast and the Furious (2001)
The Fast and the Furious is the film that started it all. The movie is the most stand-alone film in the franchise and is basically a remake of Point Break but with souped-up cars and scantily clad women. I actually enjoy this film quite a bit, and while it is most definitely riddled with clichés, it's an enjoyable romp with some good action and decent drama. Also, it's probably Vin Diesel's best performance as series regular, Dominic Toretto.
2 Fast 2 Furious (2003)
This was the franchise low-point for me. 2 Fast 2 Furious is only notable for introducing the character of Roman Pierce played by Tyrese Gibson. The movie has probably the most throw-away plots of the entire series and features some of the most stilted acting I've seen. As much as I like Paul Walker, the guy isn't much of a draw without that back-and-forth, friend-or-foe dynamic between Vin Diesel. There is one memorable race where a Corvette gets crushed under the wheels of an 18-wheeler, but that's really about it. The rest of the film is cheesy and honestly a bit boring and everything is shot in a very bland, unappealing way. Only watch 2 Fast 2 Furious if you're a series completest, otherwise don't even bother
The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift (2006)
For me, Tokyo Drift is one of the best films in the series. I really admired that it was a stand-alone story and that almost the entire movie surrounds the Tokyo racing scene. Lucas Black, while sometimes goofy to watch, has an undeniable southern charm as the films lead. And though it has been done to death, I enjoyed the fish-out-of-water story. The change of scenery to Tokyo was a great decision, and made Tokyo Drift feel like a sequel that actually tried something new. The racing and action sequences are also filmed with competence by Justin Lin, who we'll probably be referencing a few more times here.
There are still plenty of flaws with Tokyo Drift. The love interest isn't strong and there's still a ton of that cheesy machismo strewn throughout the entire film. Still, this was a breath of fresh air for the franchise and showed that more stories could be told within the world.
Fast and Furious (2009)
After Tokyo Drift wasn't as successful, the only way this franchise was going to have a shot at moving forward was bringing back Vin Diesel and Paul Walker. Justin Lin came back to direct what seemed like a last-ditch effort at the time, but it ended up being a surprisingly massive hit and single-handedly breathed new life into the hemorrhaging series.
Fast and Furious might have been a financial success, but the movie wasn't all that great. That's not to say it's terrible either. There's some memorable action set-pieces here and it really is nice to have the gang back together, even if the journey isn't nearly as compelling as it was the first time out. The plot isn't anything the write home about and basically recycles the same drug-lord scandal that we've seen done to death. There's also a lot of CGI on displayhere, which is really disappointing coming from a franchise that is known for having real, tangible action and racing. So while Fast and Furious has its moments, its still no where near as fun or engaging as some of the other films in the franchise.
Fast Five (2011)
This film blindsided me. It did the impossible. This was the rare fifth entry that managed to be better, a lot better in fact, than any of the films that came before. Fast Five is an exhilarating film that is expertly shot and staged by Justin Lin. All of the characters have meaningful relationships and the sense of "family" is reinforced in a meaningful way. In addition to this, Fast Five introduces us to Hobbs as played by Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, and his humor and charisma adds so much to the film. There's definitely still some cheese-ball stuff sprinkled throughout, but it almost adds to film's dopey charm. Fast Five finally achieves the perfect balance between heart, humor and the pure joy of seeing expertly choreographed action sequences involving fast cars.
Fast and Furious 6 (2013)
While Fast and Furious 6 isn't quite as good as Fast Five, it still takes the torch and runs as far as it can with it. This is a fun movie that you could say "jumps the shark" more than a couple of times, but the family dynamic is still intact and the action, while ridiculous, is still very well done and always engaging. This is also the only film in the franchise to end on a more grim note, I won't spoil it, but there are a few main characters that don't make it to the end of this one, and it's an emotional experience to see them go.
Furious 7 (2015)
If you thought Fast and Furious 6 was ridiculous you ain't seen nothing yet. Furious 7 just says f*** it and throws cars out of planes, jumps cars from skyscraper-to-skyscraper and still manages to be a respectful and emotional rollercoaster ride in how it handles the passing of franchise regular, Paul Walker. I really enjoy this movie from a pure popcorn standpoint. It knows what it is and makes no apologies. It's super cheesy but isn't boring for one single second. Furious 7 most certainly isn't for everyone and is very hard to follow if you haven't seen any of the films that come before it, but if you know what you're going into, it's a blast.
The Fast and the Furious Franchise
The Fast and Furious movies are dumb action films, we know that, but what separates them from your Transformers or your G.I. Joes is that these movies have real people within the loud, clanging metal chassis, and that makes a big difference. F&F will continue to be a cut above so long as they keep audiences invested in their unhealthy yet charming definition of "family".
Overall Score: B-