It’s true confession time – I adore The Fast & The Furious franchise. Fast cars, amazing stunts, antiheroes you enjoy rooting for, and more besides. By now, if you don’t know about this franchise it’s because you’re actively avoiding it.
However, these movies know exactly what they are – smart fast fun. And we can all use some fun. Sure, the hubs and I both street raced during part of our misspent youth and we never saw race “events” like the ones in these movies, but I’m not going to these movies to see real life. I’m going to be entertained, and these movies are definitely entertaining.
It helps if you’ve seen the other six movies in this franchise, but it’s not a requirement – the opening minutes of Furious Seven will catch you up on what’s pertinent. However, if you haven’t seen the other movies, this review has spoilers for them in it.
Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) and his crew think they’re out of “the life”, but, of course, they’re wrong. The older, badder brother of one of their enemies is hunting them and, in order to have a hope of stopping him, Dom has to help the CIA – led by Mr. Nobody (Kurt Russell) – rescue a hacker from terrorists who mean business. Meanwhile Brian O’Connor (Paul Walker) is having adjustment issues with being a married father in suburbia, and Dom’s sister, Mia (Jordana Brewster) doesn’t want to tell her husband that she’s pregnant with their second child lest Brian regret settling down. Dom’s beloved Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) hasn’t regained her memory yet, but it’s coming back in flashes and they’re affecting her. And the crew, still affected by losses taken during Fast & Furious Six, doesn’t know yet that one of their own has been murdered.
The stunts are literally amazing. The hubs had some trouble with suspension of disbelief but I didn’t, because any time something insane was done, we’d been shown or told how it would be possible prior to the scene. Close to impossible, sure, but not impossible, and so I just enjoyed myself as each stunt outdid the one prior.
Once you get past the first sequel, the other sequels tend to fall into types – Fast & Furious was the “getting the band back together” movie, Fast Five was the “caper” movie, Fast & Furious Six was the “taking on our evil twins” movie, and Furious Seven is definitely the “bad guys taking their revenge” movie. At the end of Fast & Furious Six we see Han (Sung Kang) killed – which ties the 3rd movie, The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift, “properly” into the chronological timeline – by Declan Shaw (Jason Statham), who wants revenge for what the team did to his younger brother, Owen (Luke Evans). We see Han’s death again at the start of this movie, after it’s been established that Shaw is a total, terrifying, badass who’s managed to put Super Government Badass Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) into the hospital. And then it’s car races, car chases, explosions, some serious stunts, and danger ratcheting up around every turn.
There are several things I like about this franchise beyond the fact that I enjoy the car races, the fight scenes, the stunts, and the explosions – this franchise, like Dom himself, never discards anybody. If a character was in one movie and they lived, then they can and do come back into others. Not every character in every movie, but as it makes sense. This is especially key when talking about female characters – so many times in a long-running franchise (looking at you, James Bond) the women are interchangeable. One movie they’re there, the next every character has forgotten them and a new chick’s there instead. But not this franchise.
Romance drives this franchise as well, but it’s romance more from the male characters than the female ones. The men in these movies value their relationships, be they romantic, friendly, or professional, and Dom and Brian, in particular, make choices for love all the time. They love their women and they have no issues being exclusive to those women, nor do they have issues letting their women be equals.
Happily, every female character can actually pass the Bechdel Test. Yes, they care about their men, but they have lives outside of those men, and they can all drive and/or fight and/or be badass just as well as the men can. In Fast Five, thinking Letty dead, Dom hooks up with Elena (Elsa Pataky), who’s also mourning the loss of her beloved husband. In Fast & Furious Six, Letty’s found and Elena goes off to work with Hobbs – and is back in Furious Seven, still being a fully realized character.
The same goes for male supporting characters. Roman (Tyrese Gibson) and Tej (Chris “Ludacris” Bridges) were in 2 Fast 2 Furious, and have been major supporting characters since Fast Five. Other characters come and go in various movies, depending on where they can fit into the storyline and/or if they die. No good character is left behind.
This is also one of the rarities in Hollywood – a major franchise that’s totally diverse. That I have to mention this remains its own sad commentary, but in the Fast & Furious franchise, what’s on the screen reflects what’s really out there, especially in major metropolitan areas like Los Angeles, where the characters are “based”.
The writers are also excellent at fixing what could be issues in terms of continuity and character development. Because the producers originally didn’t want to make a star out of Vin Diesel, they didn’t bring him back for 2 Fast 2 Furious. Paul Walker passed or wasn’t offered Tokyo Drift. The films made money, but somewhere along the way, the realization that this worked better with Diesel in the lead and Walker as the second dawned on everyone. However, that left Tokyo Drift hanging around, confusing everyone. The writers took that problem and created a story arc over 4, 5, 6, & 7 that makes you care a lot more about Tokyo Drift in general, and Han and all the characters he interacts with in particular. Making all of this work – as canon – is tremendously harder than it sounds. Making it all work and work better is truly impressive.
The far-too-early death of co-star Paul Walker casts its shadow on the movie. It’s dealt with in a really meaningful, well-handled way (bring tissues or get some napkins from the snack bar, because the chance of tears is high). Walker died before they were done making the movie but you can’t tell. Thanks to two of his brothers and impressive CGI, it’s impossible to tell which scenes are the real Paul and which ones aren’t.
Especially since we can’t see Brian O’Connor ever again, the series could end with this movie pretty perfectly, but they’re already talking about who’s going to be in F&F 8, so it looks like a sure bet that it’ll be roaring into a movie theater near you sooner as opposed to later. And I’ll be first in line to see it.
I’m not going to these movies to see real life. I’m going to be entertained, and these movies are definitely entertaining. There are several things I like about this franchise beyond the fact that I enjoy the car races, the fight scenes, the stunts, and the explosions – this franchise, like Dom himself, never discards anybody. If a character was in one movie and they lived, then they can and do come back into others. Not every character in every movie, but as it makes sense. No good character is left behind.