With the “Fast and Furious” (2001–) franchise in the news after the stunningly emotional feud between Tyrese Gibson and Dwayne ”The Rock” Johnson, it seems appropriate to revisit the series that went from a gritty crime thriller to a bizarre bonanza of all things bro in just eight movies.
When Paul Walker got behind the wheel in the early 2000s as an FBI agent ready to hunt down some high-speed thieves, he probably didn’t expect to spend the remainder of his career undermining the legitimacy of its beginning. What was once a franchise grounded in car culture and vaguely offensive stereotypes has instead become a series of two hour explosion orgies that occasionally feature Kurt Russell.
Vin Diesel remains the stalwart figure of the series as Dom, a bald dude who is often angry but is also into emotional growling — kind of like an average Tufts student. This viewer has lost track of how many times his girlfriend or sister or someone has died and or returned from the dead, but through his performance, you can tell that Diesel also has.
When it got too boring to just show cars leaping off of cliffs and oversexualizing all female characters got old, the series brought in The Rock, who I think portrays a law enforcement officer, but might also be the Hulk or just Dwayne Johnson wandering around the set hitting things, unaware that he is being filmed. Every time he talks I am almost convinced it is the latter. His arrival cements the classic franchise “oh-darn-I-think-we-just-went-die-hard-sequel-ridiculous-but-hey-we’re-profiting-so-let’s-blow-more-stuff-up” moment that nearly every action franchise has reached, but he has helped steadily growing box office receipts to a total of more than five billion dollars. If the world spent that money instead on say, climate change, that would be a total shame because then we wouldn’t get to see a lot of bald dudes hit each other with metal. In addition, we get high-level set pieces like a submarine rising through ice or weird shots of Paul Walker’s brothers standing in for him after his death.
Of course, there are still cars. Every once in a while in one of these movies, a character will get behind a wheel and rev the engine, as if to remind the audience what movie this was at least intended to be. There are appearances by actors who seem to not have realized how many people might see them lose their dignity while padding their retirement funds. Wonder Woman is here, I guess, but not in a fun Wonder Woman way.
Jason Statham plays the same character he plays in every movie he has ever been in, and it seems vaguely to fit until The Rock attempts to crush his skull. Watching Dwayne Johnson in this series while simultaneously listening to him sing in “Moana” (2016) is an experience I cannot recommend, but I cannot not recommend, if you get my drift. Get it, drift? Like drifting in cars? Remember, because the Fast and Furious was about cars? It’s okay. They forgot too.