Wow, after two movies of no Dom Toretto he’s back (minus the quick cameo at the end of Tokyo Drift). Even going one film without Brian O’Conner felt like a while. But the boys are back in town, LA.
Now we finally get to the one that resembles what the series looks like today. The plot is more complicated than any we’ve had before and includes both Dom and Brian penetrating the drug smuggling world to avenge Letty’s death (spoiler). Brian is now a special agent with the FBI (remember his record got expunged at the end of 2 Fast) and Dom bums around the Caribbean and South America pulling off one last job and then lying low. Dom comes back to the city of angels to kill Letty’s murderer and tussles with Brian who also wants to take down the drug lord scumbag.
Whereas the first film was sort of a throwback action cop movie the fourth fits right in with its peers. The bigger international story, globetrotting, vengeance, convoluted heists and extreme CGI action sequences are all in line with the Mission: Impossibles, Bournes and comic book movies that are still immensely popular. I completely understand why the audience took to this installment and why the series has continued to go in this direction.
However I didn’t care for number four all that much and the script is the main culprit. Like Tokyo Drift this clearly seems like it was intended to be another movie that got rebranded to become a Fast and Furious. It’s completely different from anything we’ve seen in the first three. Now while that certainly is a good thing in my book I don’t think the story flows well, the way things are written you really only need one hero so having both Dom and Brian share the lead and do the same shit throughout is redundant and pointless, the villain doesn’t come off very threatening and the car sequences aren’t as well done as the ones in Tokyo Drift.
One of my biggest beefs is that the finale is a race/battle through CGI caves and it’s pretty confusing what the hell’s going on most of the time. It just looks sloppy and cheap that this is the route they went for the grand climax. Additionally there’s a scene earlier where they drive through the same goddamn CGI caves which makes me feel like I’ve been cheated out of some crazy car stunt work and a proper ending.
It makes sense though that this is the movie that shot the franchise into superstardom. The filmmakers managed to make the shit on screen seem way more important than some underground street racing thing, truck hijacking or a teen learning how to drift. The plot is actually more in line with 2 Fast by raising the stakes to include drug trafficking and making all the street racing be only one aspect of that. But fuck that movie. Fast & Furious is done way better.
Look, don’t get me wrong this is an enjoyable picture. It feels like the proper sequel to the original. You could completely skip films two and three, go straight to four and not miss a beat. And that’s one thing that makes the series so fascinating to me, it’s like they planned this entire saga out. And that notion only seems to get stronger with every installment by expanding and solidifying where the events in each film fall on the timeline. But we know that that is definitely not the case. Four and beyond were sorta planned more together but they did an incredible job incorporating everything that happened before that.
For me The Fast and the Furious is the best of the first four with Tokyo Drift at number two, Fast & Furious third and 2 Fast 2 Furious last. There are too many flaws in the fourth to place it any higher. But hey if you’re a fan of the series this one is crucially important for two reasons. One is it sets up the formula and events for the fifth and sixth films. And two is it did gangbusters at the box office which showed that the series was on the right track and more should be greenlit immediately. I totally believe this was make or break time. If number four bombed then either the sequels would continue in the direct to video market or none would be made at all. Four had to deliver big and it did (just not with me personally).