Fourth movies in a franchise are harsh. Remember when we were all promised a brand new start to the Indiana Jones Franchise, and we got our fridges nuked and Shia Lebeouf fighting off CGI Monkeys? Remember that great moment when we all wondered in what the world had to behold when we learned that there would be an all CGI character named “Jar Jar Binks?” Even the fourth Harry Potter movie was kind of dire, ending in death. And the fourth Hunger Games is shaping up to be all the most depressing moments from that last book. (Which part are you looking forward to? The when Prim dies or when Katniss spends a good portion of her time recovering from massive burns?). So, when the fourth Fast and Furious movie, Fast and Furious, ended in a cliffhanger, it was a bold move.
Fortunately, the Fourth movie went all out and was essentially a reboot of the whole idea of what was at the core of Fast and the Furious and their franchise. Brian O’Conner back in the FBI, then finally leaving it. The Conclusion was essentially the ending of the whole will they/won’t they of the Brian/Dom bromance. It reinvigorated the franchise, and it was undeniably good. It had all the action that you’ve come to expect, with fast cars and moral dilemmas. Good guys lost, bad guys won, and the law failed. And zero CGI monkeys, aliens for another dimension, or ending with the death of an actor who will be freed to go unleash the Twilight movies on us.
The fifth movie, Fast Five, picks up right where the fourth left off, with Brian, Mia, and the rest of his crew working to free Dom on his way to prison. Short version of this, they free him, managing to do it without killing anyone or freeing any other prisoner. Then we’re given a glimpse of what being on the run is really like, as Mia and Brian are out of money and out of options, ending up in Rio and at the door of Vince, who you’ll remember was able to ID Brian as a cop in the first movie. (And hasn’t been seen since.) He has a family now, and… one last job that’s easy money.
Quick pro-tip: If you find yourself in a movie, if anyone says that something is “easy” money, it’s code for “you’re going to find yourself being killed.”
Also, in a twist, Mia is pregnant.
Anyway, Brian, Mia, and Vince go on the heist, and to no one’s great surprise, everything goes wrong. Turns out that they were after one specific car, they were seized by the DEA, and a bloody gunfight ends with several dead agents, Dom showing up, and puts them on the radar of Luke Hobbs (The Rock!)
The group finds out that the car contains a chip that contains information about a mega-crime lord named Reyes and his various drops. Targeted by the DEA and Reyes’ men, the trio decides that the movie needs to be less another Fast and Furious movie and more an Oceans 11 movie, so they gather a crew of faces from previous movies, including Rom, Han, Gisele, Tej… to steal the money. Of course they do, but not after saving Luke Hobbs’ life and a dramatic car chase through the streets of Rio dragging a giant safe.
After the credits, Hobbs’ gets a little visit… and discovers that Letty is alive!
As I’ve mentioned, this movie serves several purposes. Broadly, it seeks to reinvent the series. Yes, there’s fast cars zooming through the streets… one of the more ridiculous moments comes when they all steal four police cars and they take a few minutes to have the loudest impromptu race possible… but rather than a simple race/drug running movie, we have a full on heist movie, straight with a crew and twists galore. It allows more layers to the series, as well as allowing it to grow up so to speak. No longer tied to simply having the characters race cars, they get to use those skills.
This also continues the idea of the ominous, unbending police presence that this movie likes to push. Luke Hobbs starts as one of the one-note police officers that blamed Brian when he wanted to get more information before raiding the warehouse in the first movie, but is able to evolve. When we first meet him, we get a sense of his authoritative voice and he presence. He could have easily just devolved into a terminator like drone, off to get Dom, Brian, and Mia. He isn’t really an antagonist, despite the fact that he is going up against our crew. When his police officers are murdered, he’s able to join them and even give them some space.
Where this movie excels is in the solidification of not only the group as a family, but as Brian and Dom as the head of that family. The re-introduction of Rome and Vince remind the group that when we met these two, they had other, more important right-hand men, people that literally saved their lives. Remember, in the forgotten ending of 2Fast 2Furious, Rome and Brian went off on their won to open a garage with stolen money… Dom is an interloper in their bromance. Vince was the person who was jealous of Brian and his relationship of Dom. But in the end, it is only Brian and Dom, driving together, perfectly in sync, that saves the day. They’re even dragging the symbolic baggage behind them that’s causing trouble. It’s only by releasing it to their friends that the burden is lightened. Essentially, the last movie was the will they/won’t they. This movie is basically the honeymoon: the two characters are now linked together, even more so now that Dom will be an Uncle to Brian and Mia’s baby.
There’s also the focus on fatherhood in this movie, and taking responsibility. Brian doesn’t remember his father; Dom not only remembers his father but the fact that he had a good father. He wants that for his sister’s child. That’s half the reason they even commit this crime, to solidify a life for all of them; to allow them to be together as a family once and for all. Really it’s a continuation of the emotional journey that started all of this. Dom can be a father because he knows who he is, but Brian has to discover it. That’s why Dom is more the head of the family, while Brian, an equal member, is still trying to discover himself. Remember, he didn’t belong with law enforcement so much that he joined up with the “bad guys” not once but twice.
Of course, they do end up becoming a family and free, unaware of just what is going to happen in the next two chapters.
Tomorrow: Letty’s alive, they meet up with the Bizzaro crew, and we get the moment that made me want to go back and watch all of these movies that we’re not talking about, and I don’t know why we aren’t.