Kevin: Well after a weird detour into the world of “drifting” by high school kids in Tokyo with “The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift,” the “F&F” franchise is back to doing what it does best: trying to pass off Vin Diesel as the coolest, sexiest badass of all time. That’s right, Vin is back in all his unintelligible glory as we continue our march to “The Fate of the Furious” with 2009’s “Fast & Furious”:
Not only did Vin return to the franchise, but the producers were fortunate enough to get Paul Walker, Jordana Brewster, and Michelle Rodriguez to come back as well, a task that was made easier by the fact that none of them had anything going on at the time. In this installment, Brian is trying to get back into the good graces of the FBI by taking down a mysterious drug lord named Braga, a mission that puts him in the path of Dom, who wants Braga as well for the murder of his sour-faced soulmate Letty. This leads to several CGI-enhanced races, Dom making no effort to hide himself despite being on the FBI’s Most Wanted List, a return to the world’s most boring romance between Brian and Mia, and Vin Diesel inexplicably proving to be catnip for any woman within a three-mile radius.
CJ: There are several other things I found very confusing, interesting, or stupid about “Fast & Furious”:
- The arc that Brian has over the course of this movie is all over the place. His boss basically tells him he’s straddling the line between being a good guy and a bad guy (something Mia also kinda points out). They aren’t wrong, as we see moments where Brian seems conflicted, like when he works hard to bring down a drug lord, but then also beats the shit out of a fellow agent who merely made a snarky comment. Basically, Brian is going back and forth between, “I kinda screwed up, but got a second chance at avoiding prison and am currently putting away drug dealers and the other worst of the worst. Buuuuuuuut, I COULD also drive recklessly around heavily populated major cities so hundreds of innocent people die all in the name of me sticking it to some random guy who is a dick. These same people would not be dead if I didn’t race either, and would be tucking their kids into bed as we speak. Decisions decisions!”
- Cinema’s best Han is back! That’s right, after killing him off in the last one the filmmakers decided Han was such an essential character to the franchise that they brought him back by turning the next several movies into prequels to “Tokyo Drift,” leading to an ongoing debate among the kind of people who drink Faygo about what’s the proper order to watch them all.
- At the end of Han’s shoehorned cameo early on, he’s talking to Dom and mentions how he might check out Tokyo. Now clearly this was written with everyone thinking this would be the last movie and it nicely places “Tokyo Drift” after “Fast & Furious” and we can all go home. But they weren’t expecting the franchise to start blowing up, so I’m looking forward to the next few sequels and watching Han going, “I know I’ve said this before, but this time I am DEFINITELY going to Tokyo you guys. Please look me up, because that’s where I’ll be. Good ol’ Han, living it up in Tokyo.”
- The most confusing plot point in this movie is that everyone is constantly surrounded by what I assume are horrible, unrepentant criminals, and yet they always decide to leave Gal Gadot alone with them. This isn’t like leaving her alone with me, where the worst thing that would happen would be me saying “Hey there, my name is CJ, may I buy you a drink?” Well that’s what I hoped would happen. In reality I’d muster “Hey,” pass out, hit my head on the side of the bar and then probably explode like a car on a typical episode of “CHiPs.”
Anyway, back to the movie:
During the opening robbery, the team is driving backwards, leaping over gas trucks, attempting to hook their cars up to the containers, breaking them apart with liquid nitrogen, all through winding mountainous terrain, and the whole time they find this hilarious.
As these rascals are goofing around, I like how the truck driver is of the “not on my watch” variety. This continues a long-standing tradition in this series of poorly-paid and low-skilled workers all deciding to risk life and limb to protect the boss’ bottom line. I’d like to believe that around water coolers in offices across America, whenever coworkers are discussing these movies the boss always chimes in with a “Do you guys remember the truck driver? He was great, really had the best interests of the company in mind!”
Mike: Regarding that opening heist, once again these guys really like to complicate their lives:
“We’re going to steal a gasoline truck!”
“That’s a great idea, gasoline is like gold here!”
“Damn right gang. So how are we going to do this? Set up a barrier, and when the truck slows down stick a gun in the driver’s face and steal it?”
“Hahahahaha! Sit down Tim, you obviously don’t know how we do things here. First, we need to get some souped up pickup trucks, then we’ll hire a few welders to build us a few rigs so that we can hitch the tanks to the pickups. Also, I’m thinking the best way to accomplish this is if we each really practice driving 80 mph in reverse down a mountain. Sound good?!”
Also, considering Letty’s the love of Dom’s life, he sure doesn’t have a problem constantly putting her in situations where death or severe injury is highly likely:
CJ: I also appreciate how after stealing the gas, which I assume is some kind of major crime, the team decides they need to relax and keep out of sight. So of course let’s head off to a downtown street race! Side note: What’s the audition process like to be one of the “Fast & Furious” street race hussies? Hmm, I think I know why Justin Lin stuck around to direct a few of these …
Kevin: It was hard for me to notice anything else after we see Letty mount Dom on the beach, and it’s really hard to tell who looks more manly in this scene.
CJ: Also did you notice that when they were about to kiss, Letty went in open mouth but Dom kept his lips shut tight? That was their best take!
Kevin: Either way, once again in a “F&F” movie, Brian’s boss says that the FBI is shutting down their investigation into Braga in 72 hours if they don’t come up with something. And once again, I don’t think this is how law enforcement works. Plus, what if they came up with something in 75 hours, is the director of the FBI gonna be like, “Sorry, but if I make an exception for you with my totally arbitrary deadline, what stops the next agent from pushing me to 78 hours, or god forbid an extra week!”
Apparently Braga has also killed three undercover FBI agents in two years, and once again if I know anything about law enforcement, it’s that they are pretty nonchalant about catching guys who keep killing them.
Although fuck, after seeing the “file” they have on Braga I can see why the director is less than confident in their progress. Not only do they not have a photo on file, but under his profile they list “Unknown” for his Alias, Ethnicity, Height, Weight, Hair Color, Eye Color, Markings, Date of Birth, Place of Birth, and Jurisdiction. Maybe don’t keep putting that screen up until you’ve filled in at least one of those details, because I imagine it gets pretty embarrassing for everyone to see. And I’m gonna go out on a limb and say that if nothing else, the ethnicity of Mexico-based drug lord Arturo Braga might be a little known. (And if you think that’s racist profiling, just note that every possible “David Park” they show us in the movie is Asian).
Mike: So the FBI lets Brian back into the Bureau after a major fuck-up five years ago when he let Dom go free. Then when they are given that mysterious 72-hour window to close a case they’ve been working on for two years, the FBI director replies to one of Brian’s typical dumbass ideas with the line “Maybe we shouldn’t have given you a second chance.” Has Brian really had to deal with this level of treatment for five years?! Now I actually feel bad for him. If he forgets to fill the water cooler in the FBI break room I guess there’s someone there to remind him that he’s on thin ice after that whole “Toretto thing.”
To Kevin’s point about the FBI losing three undercover agents to Braga, I recall Pablo Escobar had one DEA agent killed back in the day, and the entire United States government, the Colombian government, both militaries and god knows who else all banded together and didn’t quit until Escobar was on a slab with a slug in his brain. I guess the FBI decided to handle this situation a different way, by doing the exact same thing again. Their brilliant plan is to send a fourth guy in undercover. Good job guys! Way to think outside the box!
Kevin: After Dom hears that Letty was killed after returning to Los Angeles, he comes back as well seeking answers. At Letty’s funeral, a fellow agent tells Brian that facial recognition software identified Dom about 10 minutes after he crossed the border. Then he says, “I don’t get it, I thought he’d show,” after which we pan to about 300 yards away of Dom watching the funeral in the exact spot you’d expect him to be if he wanted to observe but not actually be there. So apparently the FBI just expected Vin to show up in his wifebeater and sunglasses and fold his arms during the funeral. Ha ha dickheads, he did exactly that but in front of an oil derrick a little ways away. God Dominic is good.
Later Dom returns to the old house (no indication about whether Toretto’s Corner Store, where Brian got his tuna fish sandwiches with crusts cut off, is still open). When Mia tells him that the feds are staking out the place, and they’ll find him, Dom responds with “They won’t.” Great, no need for any more obvious follow-up questions.
Mike: Yeah Dom makes absolutely zero effort to disguise himself while traipsing around L.A., a place where he is extremely wanted by a number of law enforcement agencies. He won’t even drive an inconspicuous car! At one point, even though they are staking out Mia’s house looking for Dom, the feds don’t see him go in and they don’t see him and her leave in his gurgly vintage muscle car (1970 Chevelle); instead they get reports that his car was spotted in the neighborhood. How many of these rides could there even be in L.A.? The call would go out over the police radio and the car would be found in about 11 seconds.
Side note: I think Dom subscribes to the Jack Reacher School of Luggage, since all he ever needs is a wifebeater. Where’s the bag with his allergy medicine and extra contact lenses?
CJ: My favorite part of Letty’s funeral are the tasteful purple, blue, and yellow street racing cars all parked behind the hearse:
Kevin: Of course let’s not forget the infamous “Fast & Furious” CSI scene, where Dom demonstrates that he’s the Sherlock Holmes of bald meatheads with some amazing powers of deduction based pretty much on just some skid marks:
According to Dom the burn marks on the ground were caused by nitromethane, and there is only one guy in all of L.A. who sells that. REALLY? This guy must be a billionaire because everyone seems to have this in their cars and apparently he has a monopoly on this shit.
Later when Mia and Brian have coffee at the café she says, “Maybe you’re not the good guy pretending to be the bad guy, maybe you’re the bad guy pretending to be the good guy.” Considering Paul Walker still can’t act his way out of a paper bag, I doubt he could pretend to be anyone other than a pretty boy surfer with an IQ just above Forrest Gump’s (RIP by the way Paul).
After almost catching Dom earlier, Brian and him cross paths again at an audition race to join Braga’s smuggling operation, pretty much exactly the same thing they did in “2 Fast 2 Furious.” You’d think Braga would want to keep this on the down-low, but as usual they’ve invited every stripper and prostitute in L.A. to walk around looking slutty before the race.
CJ remember when you wrote in “2 Fast” about how people would be racing down the freeway and be yelling out random shit like “I got yo’ ass,” and somehow the person he was yelling at would know what he said despite the fact that they are all driving in separate cars with the windows up going 100 mph?
Well how about before this audition race all four drivers are just loudly revving their engines with the windows rolled up, and at one point Vin looks over and says, “You sure you wanna do this?” and Paul Walker responds “A lot has changed,” to which Vin responds with, as far as I can tell without subtitles, “Hrumphadumpadgumph.” In real life I’d be like, “What? Hold up, can everyone stop revving their engines for a second, Dom wants to say something to me! Oh you were just making an offhand comment about the fact that things are different between you and me? Sorry, I figured that if you were looking at me and mouthing words in my direction that it was important! It was a little hard for me to understand considering we are in separate cars with the windows rolled up. Anyway, carry on everyone!”
By the way did anybody notice during the audition race that one of the other drivers runs head on into a pedestrian’s vehicle, which then completely flips over and crushes whoever was driving it, and when Paul Walker sees this he helpfully mutters “damn” and drives on? I’m pretty sure the fact that Brian’s undercover operation killed at least one innocent motorist is never mentioned (2:25 mark).
Mike: I noticed! I guess someone should have explained to that dead woman’s children that the FBI only had 72 hours to close the case, so they needed to make some drastic decisions.
CJ: Yeah they are racing through L.A. while the streets are full of civilians driving around. So a) The way to prepare for your secret drug smuggling operation is to draw a lot, and I mean A LOT, of attention to yourselves, and b) All of a sudden we have gone from inexplicably empty streets in previous movies to inexplicably full streets. Oh, and c) As a cop, isn’t Brian slightly obligated to do something about all the people that have died in this race?
Speaking of Brian, here’s another thing: Riggs and Murtaugh get their asses chewed out by the captain for city destruction that doesn’t even seem to compare to what Brian has done in this franchise. Seems unfair.
Mike: So Brian finally gets his big chance to prove to his FBI buddies that he’s a great driver, but as usual he loses to Dom. So in order to dig himself out of this “I’m a fuck-up” hole he’s in, he plants crystal meth on another guy and takes his place in the organization.
Kevin: Yeah after Brian plants a giant bag of meth on him a fellow agent says “You know that’s never gonna stick right?,” to which Brian responds, “It’s not supposed to.” Great, how long exactly should this poor guy expect to get cornholed in prison before your evidence tampering is discovered? And how exactly do you expect this won’t stick outside of you admitting you planted evidence? I assume Brian’s incompetence is so well-known that once the judge sees he was the arresting officer he’ll just assume there is no way Brian made an arrest based on actual detective work and let the guy go.
After Brian and Dom meet up again with Braga’s right-hand man Campos, Dom jokes to Campos that Brian used to date his sister. Let me ask, if you were Campos and were picturing the sister of Vin Diesel, would you get anywhere close to the ballpark of Jordana Brewster?
I think I would probably picture this:
CJ: While Vin is looking over Letty’s car in the warehouse, Gal Gadot brings something into the light:
Gadot: “Are you one of those boys who prefers cars to women?”
Dom: “I’m one of those boys that appreciates a fine body regardless of the make.”
Me: Did Dom just come out of the closet?
Kevin: I’ll also add that when you are watching this movie on regular volume and without subtitles, it is fucking impossible to make out a good 35 percent of Vin’s dialogue. He’s a triple threat in the unintelligible department: he talks in a bored monotone, he mumbles, AND he has a lisp.
CJ: So the FBI decides to put a tracker in Brian’s car, since they can’t trust him at all, except for the fact that they are letting him do whatever he wants with no real supervision. Anyways, how does it not occur to them that the bad guys would scan the car when Brian shows up to transport some coke? This was incredibly stupid and shortsighted police work. Finally, a movie that actually writes cops as they are!
After they get double-crossed by Braga’s men, Dom turns the tables by pumping some NOS into his car and knowing that somehow the cigarette lighter would cause an explosion not only in his car but somehow every car nearby. I like how Dom then gets shot in the shoulder and he has less of a reaction than a guy who gets hit with a snowball. But it’s okay, cause Mia was available to take it out and stitch him up. Her established background in making shitty tuna fish sandwiches is really paying off.
Mike: “The bullet’s not in there.” Well then were the hell is it? Did it hit Dom’s skin and fall back out of the hole?! Dom getting shot is such a non-issue that I’m wondering why they even put it in the movie.
Kevin: Yeah it really has no impact on anything going forward. Dom’s injury doesn’t limit him in any way at the end, in fact he’s immediately back to his favorite pastime of beating the shit out of Brian. I think Vin just thought it would look badass to not notice being shot, kind of like how he completely shatters the driver’s side window of a car with his elbow TWICE in this movie.
Mike: So after they get away with Braga’s money they arrange a sting to capture him at the pick-up. You guys remember the one, there were about 20 SWAT guys there, Gal Gadot was there, Dom, everyone. After we discover the “shocking” twist that Campos IS Braga …
… his people shoot a bunch of SWAT guys and drive off, with Dom chasing after them. I guess the whole FBI just gives up because the very next scene is Brian getting chewed out at FBI HQ for some bullshit. What the fuck is that? Also these clowns are more concerned that Dom got away than the billionaire drug lord.
Everyone is looking for Dom, meanwhile Dom is at his house! Fixing his muscle car for the tenth time in this movie. Dom doesn’t even have the garage door closed, Brian just walks right in! Not only does Brian walk right in but he walks right back out again and bangs Dom’s sister on the kitchen counter as she’s unpacking the SpaghettiOs.
When Dom decides to go back to Mexico to get Braga, there really isn’t any explanation at all as to why Gal Gadot decides to help him out. She says he saved her life, but she was already all over his jock way before that. She seems pretty close with Braga, she’s drinking tequila in front of his art work and shit. It seems like they’re fucking! Why is she so quick to turn on him? Is he not making her rich? Maybe she wants to take over his operation? It’s certainly not because of Dom, because he shuts this bitch down more than once as the movie goes on. I don’t get it. I also don’t get why her breasts are so small. I wish they were bigger.
By the way, how does wanted man Dom get into Mexico? Is border patrol not a thing anymore?
CJ: Either way he and Brian capture Braga incredibly easily, and after the race to escape Braga’s men, Brian grabs Fenix’s leg so Dom can hit him with the car. But, shouldn’t Brian have been run over too? How did he end up 20 feet away when he clearly could not move? Also, does that make an FBI agent an accessory to murder in the assassination of a non-US citizen?
Kevin: Let’s not focus on that, the important thing is that Dom gets his man, Brian gets the girl, and both Vin and Paul finally got a hit movie again after ditching the franchise back in George W. Bush’s first term. While everyone likely figured this would be a quick cash grab from a fading franchise, “Fast & Furious” went on to gross more than $140 million and showed that there was more gas left in the tank. But if they were going to take the franchise to the next level, the producers realized that they needed to smell what The Rock was cooking, which is why we got a boost of Dwayne Johnson in “Fast Five”:
PS: As we learn in the next installment, Letty isn’t actually dead, making Dom’s uncanny ability to visualize events he didn’t witness seem less impressive. So who is in the coffin?: