I’m going to start out this series with a film series I just recently completed. I’m ignoring the web spin-offs for now and just focusing on the feature films.
In general I find these films to be great “popcorn flicks”. They don’t require a lot mentally and usually bring some decent entertainment value depending on which film in the series.
#6 – 2 Fast 2 Furious
Overall Assessment – Barely Watchable
I talk about turning off suspension of disbelief but really all I can do is crank it down. I have setting I call “Comic Book Physics”. That’s a pretty low standard. 2 Fast 2 Furious required a greater suspension of disbelief than comic book physics. I’d say it insulted my intelligence if I wasn’t already voluntarily watching a movie called “2 Fast 2 Furious”. These are not movies you watch for the acting, but I do enjoy cars. Except the two “Hero Cars” are just downright gaudy, as if the paint scheme and decals in the original movie were just too subtle. This is such an obvious desperate cash-in from the original that I’m surprised it didn’t kill the franchise. The lack of Vin Diesel’s presence is just glaringly obvious. Trying to have Paul Walker carry this movie is a huge mistake.
From a car guy perspective there are just too many things wrong with the movie. The best car in the movie is shown at the beginning and then gone. What the protagonists use for the remainder are not even close to as powerful or capable. The car races make even less sense than the original movie as well. There is a race against a pair of muscle cars that should have been an easy win for the protagonists. The movie does a very convincing job of making you believe the heroes are not that capable as drivers considering what they find difficult.
Interestingly, you could pretty much skip this movie and it wouldn’t have much impact on the rest of the films. Sure, they introduce a couple of characters who appear in later films, but they cover everything you need to know about them in those films. As though the filmmakers have realized what a mess of a film they had on their hands.
#5 – Fast and Furious
Overall Assessment – Passable
I vacillate whether this should be “Passable” or “Barely Watchable”. The idea is nice, bringing back the original cast of the first movie. In some ways it is a reboot, giving characters some new traits they didn’t have before to better define them. However, I would not say new car preferences is characterization. One in particular is now Dom appears to prefer American Muscle even though when we were first introduced he was driving a Mazda RX-7 and we last saw him driving off in a Toyota Supra. The plot really goes nowhere, it is a series of set pieces. The races rely way too much on CGI as well, which really detracts from the movie.
For a movie about cars, it really goes nowhere, and then it is over. I’m surprised this attempt to refresh the series didn’t end it. Then again, if you can continue to make films after 2 Fast 2 Furious then it probably takes more than this lukewarm mash-up of a film to sink a series.
#4 – Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift
Overall Assessment – Passable
That’s right, I am claiming that the film most people consider the most pointless in the franchise is not actually the worst film. Honestly, if you ignore the film series this is a halfway decent “fish out of water” story that also happens to involve fast cars. We get into the usual problems though. Lack of logic, plotholes, and situations that flat out do not make any sense.
The two most glaring examples, which are problematic because the entire movie is based on these situations, is that the main protagonist is working for someone else after trashing one of his cars and then there is the classic desireable female who is dating the biggest jerk on the planet. For the first, what doesn’t make any sense is who the protagonist is even paying back the guy whose car he utterly trashed. He seems to be doing more damage and costing more money than he could possibly be earning for his new “employer”. For the second, I realize the hot babe/love interest initially being paired off with a jerk is a standard trope. However, in this case the jerk/antagonist has absolutely no redeeming qualities. The love interest is not Japanese and is as much a fish out of water as the protagonist, she’s just been there longer. I guess the antagonist/jerk is rich? That seems to be all he has going for him, except the love interest doesn’t seem to care about that. Why is she with him again? How is this a conflict? It just doesn’t work.
There are also tons of plot contrivances that seem to be explained away as “Because it’s in the script!” moments, including the entire final race and what is at stake. This is a movie watched with a heavy suspension of disbelief and an appreciation for Japanese automobiles. I found myself liking the protagonist in spite of myself. However, because he was not in any of the other movies I think it turned audiences against him.
#3 – The Fast and the Furious 6
Overall Assessment – Entertaining
I think a lot more thought went into this movie and as an action thriller it does ok. It gives away its plot twist earlier than I think the filmmakers realize so when it happens I wasn’t surprised. In fact, I wondered why it didn’t happen sooner and almost thought it was TOO obvious and I was reading too much into the movie. Nope. Spot on. Fast Five was a tough act to follow so it’s not surprising that this film falls short, but it’s needlessly silly and aggressively stupid. There are physics on display in this movie that make 2 Fast 2 Furious seem realistic by comparison.
You’ve seen the previews so I’m not giving anything away but the tank chase is sillier than it is suspenseful. You just know the heroes are going to stop it somehow, so there isn’t much at stake. The movie also relies on a lot of internal silliness. They are stopped by electronic gizmos so they switch to older cars that the gizmos can’t affect, except we never see the gizmos again. Not even a throwaway line by the bad guys about how the cars they’ve switched to don’t have electronics. The good guys specialized knowledge or cars makes them more effective than an elite international law enforcement team, just because they understand cars. I about choked on my popcorn that these former petty criminals were about to out-investigate the pros. Really? In the age of the Internet? Then, even though I understand the movie contrivance that says the good guy drivers need to square off against the bad guy drivers, but then the good guys show up woefully unprepared. Why were they all not carrying at least one law enforcement type with them. I know, I know. “It’s in the script!”
The entire movie is like this. Much like 2 Fast 2 Furious, the plot is merely a vehicle to get to the action sequences and car chases. All of which are well done, but there is way too much goofiness going on and it’s distracting. What sets this apart is that the filmmakers at least take the entertainment value seriously and so it’s a good popcorn flick while 2 Fast 2 Furious was just a blatant cash-in.
#2 – The Fast and the Furious
Overall Assessment – Guilty Pleasure
There are not many film series or franchises where the first film doesn’t hold the top spot. After all, you need the first film to establish the foundation for everything else. That said, I just can’t do it. The original movie was a straight up guilty pleasure that shone the spotlight on street racing culture of the time and combining it with a crime thriller to fill out the movie. A formula that was revisited for the second and fourth films as well.
The Fast and the Furious set up the ongoing reliance on “Because it’s in the script!” moments that had no basis in reality. We still had plenty of races and chases to keep us occupied, with the occassional gunplay thrown in for good measure. Vin Diesel really is the star of the show, alongside the many cars he appears with or in, but when he disappears from the franchise for two films it really hurts.
#1 – Fast Five
Overall Assessment – Guilty Pleasure
I almost hate to put this first but this really is a moment in the film series where someone got smart and said “Let’s keep the core concept but make everything else different!” Unlike some of the past films where criminal enterprise was something to keep our interest alongside the street racing, Fast Five is a straight-up heist movie. This is also a movie that bends the laws of physics in new and creative ways. Car guys, forget everything you know about traction, horsepower, and handling. This is not a car movie per se, it is just a movie where cars are the tool of choice.
Big props to tying in characters from all of the previous films and setting them up to stand on their own without having to know much about previous films. That is the reason this film works so well and surpasses the original. No prior knowledge is needed. Also, Vin Diesel is such a big intimidating actor that it was brilliant casting having him go toe-to-toe, or knuckle-to-knuckle, with Dwayne Johnson. An inspired piece of casting seeing these two physical behemoths throw down. They held nothing back in their big fight and it was a great moment for any action movie fan.
Don’t get me wrong, this is an awful movie just very entertaining. Of all the movies it is just downright disrespectful to women. There’s always been a split dynamic for women in this movie. The capable ones and the eye candy. In Fast Five one of the female leads is employed as both and it’s not a great moment at all. That and the final chase scene will challenge your suspension of disbelief, though it doesn’t work overtime to completely crush it like some of the other films in the series.
I define a guilty pleasure as a movie that I acknowledge is not a good movie but I enjoyed it anyway. These are some of my favorite movies though they will never top films that are both well done and entertaining.
Not a great film and probably what most people define as a “popcorn flick”. I might enjoy it enough to watch it more than once but it is not going to be considered great cinema by anyone.
Probably entertaining but not something I’ll watch again. Usually a movie I watched to say that I have seen it or part of a film series that I want to complete.
I didn’t fall asleep but probably left disappointed. The film had some entertainment value but was either forgettable or had some many inconsistencies that I find myself questioning its internal logic for days after seeing it.