Alrighty guys and gals, we are back and we have made it to the halfway mark in “The Fast and the Furious” franchise! Today we’re talking about the fourth installment, cryptically titled “Fast & Furious” not to be confused with the first movie, “The Fast and the Furious”. Seriously, this series has the most asinine naming convention with the “Die Hard” movies coming in as a close-ish second.
In my reviews for “2 Fast 2 Furious” and “The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift”, I noted that it throws up major red flags when only one or even none of the original main cast of a movie return for the sequel (save a cameo). Well there are two sides to every coin and if no returning cast is a bad sign then the entire cast returning is a great sign! That’s right kids, the whole gang is back – Brian, Dom, Letty, and Mia! Honestly this film feels the most like a direct sequel to the original film that started this whole series off. “2 Fast 2 Furious” was pretty good and “Tokyo Drift” was ok, but I feel like “Fast & Furious” manages to recapture all the good that was in the first one and most of that comes from the characters and that central theme of family that I keep talking about.
“Fast & Furious” opens with Dom and Letty running a high speed hijacking just like they were doing in “The Fast and the Furious” and this is probably the best way to bring the audience back to that first movie because it gives them something very familiar to grab on to in their minds after spending the last two films doing things very differently. The opening heist scene serves to recenter and reorient not only the story and characters but, maybe most importantly, the audience. This was key after “Tokyo Drift’s” story was almost completely unrelated to the previous film (and also the only movie in the series to not improve upon the previous one’s box office numbers). Long running movie series like “Fast and Furious” need to have those series hallmarks to give the audience a feeling of remembrance. Much like “Star Wars” movies open with a shot in space or the way James Bond films start with an intense action sequence followed by an opening credits music video for that movies theme song, the “Fast & Furious” movies always open with a race or car based action sequence of some kind and that is on full display here.
You may be asking how being familiar differs from being formulaic. Familiar is when something reminds you of something that came before it. Formulaic is running a “paint by numbers” on a story, making it almost exactly like what came before it. This can be a fine line to walk (See also: Star Wars – The Force Awakens).
Now, I do believe that this is where the series starts to push on the boundaries of believability. In the previous movies, I could easily buy that the characters could drive the way they do in the cars they have but here, that is suspension of disbelief is starts to crack a bit. Can a sufficiently trained driver in the right car do what the guys in “Tokyo Drift” were doing? Yes – I’ve seen YouTube videos of it. Do I believe that even the most proficient stunt car driver could time driving under a bouncing tanker truck? Not really… no….. Also, the scenes in the tunnel, especially the second one, stretch what I believe a real person could do. Although, I think I better get used to that though. From what I know of the series going forward, it only gets more nuts from here.
As I said earlier, this entry brings back that theme of family. The plot of “Fast & Furious” revolves around Dom wanting revenge on the drug runner that murdered Letty (more on that in a bit) and newly minted FBI Agent Brian looking to bring down the same drug runner, forcing to two to cross paths and reconcile their differences so they can achieve their mutual goal. We see a family that was broken when Brian’s true identity was revealed in the end of “The Fast and the Furious”, broken when Brian and Mia’s romance didn’t work, and most importantly broken when Dom’s love, Letty was murdered because she was put undercover by Brian at Letty’s own request. All of this serves to drive the main characters apart and makes it that much better when they all come back together in the end.
“Letty dies in this one?” Yea, well Letty being murdered was really rather shocking and somewhat confusing to me. I have seen Michelle Rodriguez in the trailer for “The Fate of the Furious” so I know she continues on in the franchise and because of that, I did not expect this movie to end with Letty being dead or at least presumed dead. Right up until near the end of the film, I fully expected Brian to reveal that the FBI had Letty stashed in a safe house and faked her murder to draw out Dom to help bring down the bad guy. In the end, I guess this is merely the burden of knowing what comes next and I’ll have to wait and see how the writers pen themselves out of a corner with that one.
Another note on something I wasn’t expecting – HAN IS BACK! …. for like five minutes… Han is one of the drivers in the opening heist scene and it was great to see him back but again, like Letty, it was confusing given his fate in “Tokyo Drift”. Han later has a line of dialogue in a conversation with Dom where, after Dom tells him to get out of town, Han says he has heard about some stuff going down in Tokyo. This tells the audience that the movies don’t exactly happen in a linear fashion, which as a stickler for continuity irks me some, but if we get even a little bit more Han, I’ll live.
In the end, “Fast & Furious” righted the ship and got the franchise back on course with a familiar story, returning characters, and scaled up action and I am most definitely looking forward to “Fast Five” (which at least has a damn number in the title to let you know where in the series it goes).
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Until next time, Thank You for reading and ….
SEE YOU AT THE CINEMA!