As the Editor-in-Chief of this here motoring blog-type-thing, I get to write about whatever I want. Lately it’s been new car reviews, but sometimes it’s just about things I like. The Fast and Furious movie series for example. Recently, we took you through a virtual tour of the filming locations from the original movie. Today it’s time to put an excellent idea I came up with in the restroom to good use and rank every fast and furious movie.
I’ve seen a lot of entertainment sites take on this task, but we’re enthusiasts, the target market, not some movie blogger. So ours will be best. Take a look and see if you agree. Comment if you don’t (or if you do I guess, I don’t care).
7. 2 Fast 2 Furious (Miami)
To be fair, the second movie had some big shoes to fill, sequels always do. That’s why they exist, the first movie was typically good enough to warrant a sequel. Well except for Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigalo, not sure how that got a sequel. Sadly, in this case they didn’t manage to capture the magic of the original. The first film was an epic look at cops, robbers, and street racing. The second one…was pretty much the same thing, but in a different geographic setting. And with an even less believable plot.
While introducing some good characters—Tej in particular, played by Ludacris, remains one of my favorites—it always felt like a cheap follow-up to LA. Sort of like the city of Miami itself. While the first movie didn’t rely on scantily clad female leads, save for a few extras in-and-around the racing scenes, Miami clearly did. Eva Mendes role as double-agent Monica Fuentes (wait..”Monica”..was that who Ja-Rule was talking about in the first movie?) but the fact that I really didn’t even remember her character’s name—yet remembered several of her amazing outfits—means that she was likely put there as eye candy vs. actually tasked with advancing the plot.
Tyrese is introduced as Brian’s in-shape, black friend, since Vin Diesel couldn’t be bothered to show up. Their chemistry isn’t terrible, and I’m glad his character Roman remains in subsequent movies for comic relief, but it couldn’t save 2F2F from the bottom of this list.
6. Fast and Furious (LA and Mexico)
Always known as the movie that got (some) of the band back together—at least Brian and Dom—it always felt weak from a plot perspective. And I say that acknowledging that most of the movies are weak from a plot perspective. O’Connor has moved on to the FBI, Dom is on the run, and Letty is dead, a drug kingpin to blame. John Ortiz plays an oddly likeable, constantly smiling, bad guy in Braga. Sure, later movies also manufacturer adversaries and bad guys that make very little sense, however I was left at the end of Fast and Furious feeling like I had just watched a darker version of 2 Fast 2 Furious with a different rich kingpin-type bad guy, and a new set of fast driving henchmen.
Thankfully Gal Gadot as Gisele was one of said hench…persons, an interesting twist that she ended up as a regular part of the subsequent cast. Most of the movie feels like we’re forced to watch Dom acting mopey about Letty; so it was less of a revenge feeling and more of a this guy needs to get back out there and start dating feeling. Plus, while there has always been dark elements to the F&F series, this one felt particularly dull and gloomy, with much less focus on flashy import tuner cars and more on guns and fight scenes. So it gets a low ranking in my book.
Yes, even lower than Tokyo Drift. Queue up the hate mail.
5. The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift (Tokyo…obviously)
I swear, I didn’t include this movie as high as I did for shock value; this is actually a shadow favorite of mine (and I even considered listing it higher)! You can say what you want about Lucas Black as the protagonist Sean Boswell, I thought he delivered quite well on the “fish out of water” flavor this movie needed. Overall, I loved the concept, this was the “different” movie that the series needed to spice it up a bit. I thought the overall style, the edits, the music choices, and the overall feel was fitting for the Tokyo backdrop. Naturally the drifting theme was not only timely, but interesting. Even the first scene, where Boswell mixes it up with Zachery Ty Bryan (naturally called “Clay” because of course) and his SRT10 Viper, was a lot of fun.
Naturally, they couldn’t quite bake the organized crime aspect out entirely, and we have to endure some Yakuza back-story. I enjoyed Brian Tee as the douchy antagonist “D.K.”; like Ortiz’s bad guy Braga, he spent much of the movie eerily smiling. If I were Boswell, I would have avoided this nutjob at all cost. But naturally he doesn’t, but finds an admirable sidekick to help him make better decisions (Bow Wow, who’s real name is apparently Shad Moss, the more you know!).
My favorite character is, of course, Han, played perfectly by Sung Kang. Not only does this introduce a future recurring character, unbeknownst to us (and likely to the producers at the time) it gave us quite a few great “let’s see what the kid can do” moments where Boswell is given a chance to make in the Tokyo drift world via Han.
It’s not a perfect movie of course, I’m still on the fence as a Mustang purist about whether the Nissan powered Ford was treasonous or not, and there are definitely moments where the plot stalls. However, I think that if this was not tied to the F&F franchise, and it stood on its own not to be judged against the rest, it would not rate so low on most people’s list. As a car movie, it’s solid.
4. Fast Five (Brazil)
There is an obvious point where Fast and Furious becomes Oceans Eleven. Fast Five is clearly that point, but it’s pretty fun, so I can’t fault them for it. Someone, smartly said “hell, we’ve got all these various characters across several movies, let’s have them meet”. And they did. Brian has to awkwardly endure BOTH of his fit, black, alpha-male friends meeting for first time. Dom establishes that he’s the badass, Roman is the funny guy, and things are generally cool between them. Tej becomes the tech guy who can solve anything with the right equipment. Tego and Don, who had smaller roles in Fast and Furious, and were played by two guys name…Tego and Don deliver some decent comic relief. Han follows Gisele around with his mouth open and you get to finally see what that asshole Vince (played by Matt Schulze) has been up to since yelling the word “Buster!” a lot a decade ago.
But it all works, and the addition of Dwayne Johnson is a great example of a sequel where adding a character actually adds something. Not only do they have their latest manufactured bad guy to go against (Reyes, played by Joaquim de Almeida), they have to run from US Department of State’s Diplomatic Security. A well armed bunch led by The Rock as Hobbs. Now maybe I’m biased, but I just like the guy, and I thought his mix of kicking ass and cracking jokes in Fast Five was spot on. Sure, they spend much less time in cars in this iteration, which I wasn’t a fan of, but as pure entertainment, it fits solidly in the middle of the rankings.
3. Furious 6 (London)
Full disclosure, I was in London the week after this movie, set primarily in London, premiered. I even saw it in the same theater that hosted the stars for the premiere. So perhaps I’m a bit biased, but this is a solid top three contender on this list either way. Bottom line, this was a very slickly put-together movie, and it felt much more “fun” than some of the rest of the movies in the series. As the movies progressed, and budgets increased, it was clear that the production value improved. Sure, there are some questionable physics (like leaping from a moving car to catch someone flying off of a tank and safely landing on the other side of a bridge on a parked car…for example) but in that same scene we get “uhh. guys…they got a tank!”.
Luke Evans is the contrived bad guy in this one, but this time it actually makes some sense. Letty has amnesia and ends up working for…OK, it doesn’t make a ton of sense; but at least we get to unite our disparate hero’s (anti-heroes?) with Hobbs recruiting Dom and the crew to help him take down Shaw in exchange for access to Letty, and their freedom. The rest of the ensemble cast returns, with the mysterious exception of Tego and Don, to help Dom reunite with Letty and to get their US passports back.
What I particularly loved about this one was the return of interesting cars, even if it was typically just for heist or counter-heist purposes. The F1-like flip-car was a treat, that’s actually a really interesting and unique alternative to the norm, build something totally custom! Hollywood! Combine that with Roman’s Mustang, Brian’s Escort Cosworth, Dom’s Mopar and all of the other hardware in Furious 6, and the cool European back-drops, and you had a pretty badass movie.
Gina Carano helped too. Plus the revelation of her double-cross is one of the few times in recent movie history where I actually went “holy shit!!!”. And then I said it again when Gisele went flying off of the Charger. And yet again after the credits, where in one of the best “did they actually just tie in the disparate Tokyo Drift movie to the current plot..yep they did” moments, the F&F writers integrated Tokyo Drift into the canon of the rest of the movies.
I’ll miss Han though. More on all that in a moment.
2. Furious 7 (LA, Dubai, etc.)
Take everything from Furious 6 and turn it up a notch or two, that’s Furious 7. Same protagonist cast? Yep, well except for Han and Gisele….! British bad guy? Yep, but this time it’s Jason-Fucking-Statham. A return to “Race Wars”? Hell yes. Chad Lindberg back as Jesse, over-nighting parts from Japan? Well, no, he’s dead too. But the rest was quite good. And that ending…oh man, who’s cutting onions. I’ll finish with that, don’t worry.
Sure, some of this movie was nonsensical, but using slammed Honda Civics to heist DVD players never really made sense did it? We join our crew back to reality, living their lives (well, again, everyone but Han and Gisele. Too soon?) without a care in the world. Except that (cue up the bum, bumm bummm music effect) the bad guy who they took down has an even badder brother! Of course he does. He even trolls by in a (modified..) Maserati during Han’s funeral, making for one of the more poignant lines of the movie:
Roman: “Promise me something, Brian. I don’t wanna go to any more funerals.”
Stupid onions. Is it dusty in here?
We get a random cameo from Kurt Russel as “Mr. Nobody” as a supposed CIA-type who’s there to help them take down (the other) Shaw. He’s sort of the Hobbs of the movie, since the actual Hobbs plays a pretty minimal role unfortunately. It adds to the plot, if a bit implausibly, and our team is off around the world in search of some tech gizmo that will help them find Shaw. Or something. Seriously, these are really stretching the bounds of what makes sense, but damn they’re fun!
The resulting explosions and car chases (and head on crashes) lead us to one hell of a final scene.
And honestly, I may not have put Furious 7 in this prestigious place in the lineup, but damn if they didn’t do an amazing job honoring Paul Walker through his character. I sob like a baby every time that Supra peels off, and Wiz Khalifa and Charlie Puth singing See You Again is perfectly matched to the scene. Paul died almost three years ago (November 13, 2013) at age 40. I’ll be 40 on Sunday. Puts life in perspective I guess.
Rest in peace Paul.
Oh, and for the record, I agree 100% with our friends at Jalopnik, let it go. Brian went off with Mia to take care of his family, that’s how that part of the story ended.
1. The Fast and the Furious (LA)
You’ll never beat the original. In almost every situation, that’s true. So I’ll respectfully disagree with all the other lists out there that do not put this as their #1. I go back to what I wrote about the original film after Paul Walker died.
“In June of that year (2011) I went to see The Fast and the Furious. The commercials looked good, cars, action, crime, drama, chicks, cool. And it had that guy from Varsity Blues, he seems pretty likeable. He was. And I loved the movie. I think I saw it twice in the theaters. Now I didn’t run out and buy stickers and a bigger wing for my car, but it made me appreciate driving, appreciate my car, and most importantly appreciate automotive culture. Hey, there are people out there who like to stand around and stare into engine bays and talk about cars. Cool.”
It’s been over fifteen years since the original came out, and I re-watched it recently to how I felt about it. It’s still the best. It established everything that the franchise is: the importance of family and fast cars, with a slight case of organized crime tossed in for entertainment value. So the 8th iteration is inbound this April, we’ll see how well it stacks up to the the Fast and Furious world we’ve grown to love.