Flicks With Nicki – Very Brief Movie Reviews: Fast and Furious 1-8
A few years ago, an author friend was surprised to learn that I hadn’t seen any of the “Fast and Furious” movies. She’s a brilliant person who writes literary fiction. She is respected as an author and editor. “I think you’d really like these movies,” she said. I wasn’t sure how to take her recommendation. Was she insulting me? I like action movies. But I have little tolerance for stupidity. A movie about fast cars? I usually pass.
I haven’t loved any of the blockbuster movies of this summer, so I’m gearing up for the “Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw” because it has to be better than “Spider-Man: Far From Home.” Over the past few weeks to catch up, I watched all the movies in the “Fast and Furious” series for the first time.
The Fast and the Furious (2001)
The LAPD doesn’t bother giving the undercover cop a cool name. He uses his real name Brian (Paul Walker), the white guy trying to fit in the multicultural world of street racing. He needs the truth about the bad guys led by Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel). Their crime is high speed heists, fast cars against 18-wheelers. The conflict? Brian falls in love with Dom’s baby sister. Is Dom really a bad guy? Or has Brian found a true friend and family?
Location: Los Angeles.
Crime element: Stolen DVD players.
Best car moves: Jumping a bridge. Harpooning speed racer to a semi-trailer at 180 miles per hour. Driving a fast car underneath the semi-trailer.
The good: Dom’s girlfriend Letty (Michelle Rodriquez) and sister Mia (Jordana Brewster) know as much about cars and racing as the boys. Ja Rule makes a brief appearance as driver Edwin.
The bad: The script and acting. Watch the movie with any 13-year-old. They can recite the script before the actors do.
Best Quote: “You can have any brew you want, as long as it’s a Corona.”
It’s so bad, it’s good. I’ve seen it twice. Grade: C
2 Fast 2 Furious (2003)
Brian, who still hasn’t earned a cool name, has to take down a drug lord with the help of his disgruntled childhood friend Roman Pierce (Tyrese). See how Tyrese has a good name?
Location: Miami. If you can’t remember which movie is which, the location will help.
Crime: Drug lord.
Best car moves: A car jumping a dock to land on a boat.
The good: We meet Tej (Ludacris). He has good screen name and real-life name. Suki (Devon Aoki) has an all-female crew and drives a pink Honda. I didn’t know I wanted a hot pink Honda until I saw this movie. But I do.
The bad: The script and acting is actually worse than the first movie.
Trust me. This is a building block movie. It is bad, but you will need information from this movie in future Fast and Furious films. Grade: C-
The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift (2006)
An American teen busted for street racing is sent to Japan as his punishment where he immediately starts street racing. The twist is that in Japan, they have to take sharp corners hence the drift. American kid falls in love with the only non-Japanese girl at school, because duh. She happens to be dating a nephew of a member of the Yakuza (Japanese mafia). They don’t want the American dating their girl or racing on their streets. Respect means learning to be the DK – Drift King.
Crime: In this one, it really is the script.
Best car moves: Racing in a parking deck.
The good: Han is one of my favorite characters in the series. Post-credit scene.
The bad: The script and acting are actually the worst of the series. But once you watch this one, it goes uphill from here.
Some will argue that you should watch “Tokyo Drift” after “Fast and Furious 6,” to preserve the chronology, but I disagree. Watch it in the order of theatrical release. It’s too bad to watch later in the series. Would you tell someone to watch “Phantom Menace” before “Star Wars?” No. You wouldn’t. Grade: D-
Fast & Furious (2009)
By removing “THE” we end up with the 4th installment of the series. Hollywood did the same with “Predator’ (1987), “Predator 2” (1990), and “Predators” (2010), and “The Predator” (2018). That’s not confusing at all. Brian returns to L.A. to help the FBI bring down a heroin ring. Can Mia forgive him for leaving her three movies ago? Can Dom work on the right side of the law?
Crime: A different drug lord.
Best car moves: Racing through secret underground tunnels under the U.S. and Mexico border.
The good: Vin Diesel is back along with Michelle Rodriquez, Paul Walker, Ludacris, Tyrese, and Jordana Brewster. Addition of Gal Gadot as Gisele and Sung Kang as Han from “Tokyo Drift.”
The bad: Every once in a while, I tried to make sense of the plot. Don’t.
Old and new friendships form. Interesting mix of humor, action, and angst. I can’t explain it. This movie was almost, dare I say, good. Plot lines and characters from previous movies start appearing. Grade: B-
Fast Five (2011)
Brian and Dom plan one last heist in Brazil so they can retire. There’s the pain of lost love and the return of an old friend from the first movie that will break your heart. The big addition here is Agent Hobbs played by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. Dwayne Johnson is the bacon of Hollywood. You can add him to any movie to make that movie much better.
Crime: A different drug lord yet again. He has a gigantic safe that the crew plans to steal.
Best car moves: Stealing cars off of a train! Dragging that safe through Rio via a car chase.
The good: There is suddenly some intricate storytelling. I don’t want to give away any plot points, but interesting stuff happens in this movie.
The bad: Not enough Michelle Rodriquez.
Suddenly this is not a car chase movie, but a spy movie. I don’t mind. The antics are unbelievable and ridiculous, and you wonder when you’ll need to shout to your passenger “Take the wheel” while driving to Whole Foods. Really good movie. Grade: B-
Fast & Furious 6 (2013)
Dom, Brian, and Hobbs go to Europe to take down a team of mercenaries lead by Owen Shaw (Luke Evans). Dom is conflicted when someone from his past resurfaces. We get the best cinematic love story of all time. And we also get the second-best cinematic love story of all time in the same movie. I may have gotten teary once or twice. I held it together, but I was shook.
Crime: International espionage.
Best car moves: Race cars take down an aircraft carrier. Many different people leap from cars to other moving cars.
The good: This is a love story and a tragic love story with car chases.
The bad: Not enough shirtless men.
Best Quote: “You don’t turn your back on family, even when they do.”
There are complicated romantic relationships. This is one long romance novel made into a movie. Might be my favorite of the bunch. But they keep getting better. Grade: B
Furious 7 (2015)
Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) seeks revenge against Dominic Toretto and his crew. Jason Statham is the British bacon equivalent of Dwyane Johnson. Like seriously add him to all your movies. Not sure how I was able to survive the various types of sexy this movie served up for the fans. Even Ludacris is sexy. Also some car chases. Very sweet and appropriate sendoff for actor Paul Walker who died during filming. You can tell the writers love all of these characters.
Crime: The crew must save a hacker who’s been kidnapped by mercenaries. I think.
Best car moves: Cars parachute out of an airplane. Cars crash out of one skyscraper into another skyscraper and into another skyscraper. No lie. This happens. The laws of physics and Earth’s gravitational pull are inconsequential in this movie.
The good: We’ve spent enough hours with the characters that they’re our family at this point.
The bad: Maybe it was 15 minutes too long, but those minutes had Vin Diesel. During this movie I realized that I fully and completely love Vin Diesel.
Quotes: “I don’t have friends. I have family.”
It took me all of these movies to figure out that they are rated PG-13. The violence is not graphic. There is the obligatory booty shot scene with some scantily clad ladies dancing. The scantily clad ladies are probably why I will not give any of these movies a Grade A. As it stands a very solid Grade: B+
F8: The Fate of the Furious (2017)
Dom betrays his team for unknown reasons with super evil Cipher (Charlize Theron). She’s so bat-crap insane, I had to close my eyes because she was channeling Hannibal Lecter. When I opened my eyes Helen Mirren was in the movie. Helen Mirren! Let’s recap: Vin Diesel, Dwayne Johnson, Jason Statham, Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese Gibson, Chris “Ludacris” Bridges, Nathalie Emmanuel, Elsa Pataky, Kurt Russell, Charlize Theron, and Helen Mirren all run and jump and chase and fight and drive fast cars.
Location: New York and Russia.
Crime: Stealing nuclear bombs and submarines.
Best car moves: Cars race on ice and are chased by submarine.
The good: Real heroes take care of those they love. It’s always about family. We see everything from soccer games to a baby in a gun battle. That was weird, but I see what they’re doing with that family theme.
The bad: I was crying. I was laughing. I was all over the place emotionally.
Another solid Grade: B
In summary, I am sorry I missed these movies the first time around. Though it might be a good thing I watched them all together now. I went outside of my comfort zone, and I liked it. I could have easily left the franchise after movie 1, 2, or 3. They went from stealing DVD players to stealing nuclear bombs. That’s impressive. After eight movies, I’m completely a fan. I’d love to know who else has enjoyed the series with the cameos and quick references to old characters and plots points. I can see why my friend suggested it. It seems like a big video game at first, but when you look closely everything fits together like a beautiful puzzle. For that, I give the entire series a Grade B+.