Franchise Flashback: Fast and Furious

If you had told me back in the early 2000’s that we would be on the fifth Fast and Furious in 10 years, I would have slapped you in the face for being a filthy liar but here we are, 2011 and Fast Five is out in theaters this weekend.  As we usually do, let’s take a look back at has brought us to this point.

The Fast and The Furious (2001): The movie that kicked off the franchise was a pretty blatant rip off of Point Break with street racing replacing surfing/sky diving.  The original movie also put Vin Diesel on the map as one of the de facto action stars of the 2000’s.  It also kind of introduced the world to Paul Walker, so put that in the “con” column.  The first movie takes it self much more seriously than the other entries in the franchise but that makes it even more hilarious when lines like “I live my life a quarter mile at time” are uttered.  The first movie also focuses much more on the actual street racing which gradually receded into the background in favor of ridiculous action sequences.  The plot of the original movie finds LAPD officer Brian O’Connor going undercover in the world of illegal street racing to try and find a gang of hijackers that have been terrorizing the truckers in the area.  Brian becomes close with Dominic Toretto and his crew of racers and signs point to another racer, Johnny Tran, being behind the hijackckings, but a raid proves that he isn’t.  Brian eventually realizes that Dom and his crew are the hijackers and he and Dom’s sister Mia attempt to stop the gang before they get themselves killed by the, now heavily armed, truckers.  They manage to save the crew but Brian has to blow his cover.  Brian and Dom have to put aside their differences to chase down Johnny Tran after he kills one of Dom’s crew, Jesse, in a drive by because Jesse fled from a desert street race when he lost a pink slip race to Tran.  Dom and Brian manage to kill Tran and his cronies and Dom attempts to flee before Brian can arrest him.  Dom goads Brian into a drag race and the two barely avoid a train but Dom clips his Dodge Charger into a parked semi-truck.  Dom is pretty badly injured but instead of arresting him, Brian gives him his keys to his Toyota Supra and allows Dom to escape.

2 Fast 2 Furious (2003): Directed by Boyz in the Hood director John Singleton, 2 Fast 2 Furious started the franchise’s move toward stupidly entertaining action movies, albeit with the absence of Vin Diesel.  Paul Walker was left to carry the movie and, with rare expceptions, he is never up to that task.  Thankfully Tyrese Gibson and Ludacris are on hand to offer comedic relief and Eva Mendes is on board for eye candy.  Plot wise, the movie picks up a short time after 1, with Brian now off the force and on the run for having aided and abetted a felon, among other crimes.  Brian eventually makes his way to Miami and hooks up with the local street racers.  After winning a pretty heated street race one night, Brian is caught by the police using a EMP device and is offered a deal by a joint FBI/US Customs task force.  They want Brian to go undercover as a potential driver for drug kingpin Carter Verone.  Brian agrees but wants his old childhood friend Roman Pearce as his driving partner.  If the guys are successful, all their respective crimes will be pardoned.  The guys manage to win an “audition” race for Verone and are given the job of delivering two trunk loads of money to a drop off point so that Verone can smuggle it out of the country.  The guys get help from another undercover FBI agent, Monica Fuentes, and she reveals that Verone plans on killing the guys after they drop off the money.  The guys come up with a plan to ditch the Verone henchmen who are riding with them and to get the FBI to raid Verone’s private jet.  Unfortunately, Verone is smuggling the money out with his boat.  He takes Monica hostage and Rome and Brian decide to jump one of their cars onto the boat in a last ditch effort to stop Verone.  They somehow able to land the jump and Verone is apprehended by Monica.  Rome and Brian are given full pardons by the FBI but they also manage to steal some of evidence money.

The Fast and The Furious: Tokyo Drift (2006): Considered a “spin off” of the Fast and Furious franchise, Tokyo Drift is a fan favorite because it’s kind of the turning point when F&F realized how stupid it actually was and decided to embrace it and then up the ante.  I think Tokyo Drift sets a ridiculous bar early on that it never really reaches but it’s still a pretty fun vehicular action movie, even with only a cameo from Vin Diesel at the end.  It also does a great job of showing how crazy Japanese culture is.  Chronologically, Tokyo Drift is the last movie in the timeline as fan favorite character Han Lue dies in Drift but is alive in Fast & Furious and Fast Five.  The movie follows rebellious good ole boy Sean Boswell as he is forced to move to Japan to live with his Navy dad after getting arrested following a race through a development under construction.  Upon arriving in Tokyo, Sean makes friends with fellow military kid Twinkie and learns about the Japanese style of racing called Drifting.  After a completely disastrous first drift race, Sean is taken under the wing of drifter Han Lue and starts learning the sport.  He also starts romancing one of his classmates, Neela, but she is the girlfriend of DK, currently the best drifter in Tokyo.  DK’s uncle is also a Yakuza member and DK and Han are business partners, giving a percentage of their take to DK’s uncle.  Uncle Kamata reveals that he has learned that Han is stealing from them and DK goes to confront him.  Han attempts to flee and Han, DK, DK’s sidekick Morimoto and Sean and Neela get involved in a deadly drift race through Tokyo which ends in Han getting killed and Sean’s father and DK getting into an armed stand off.  DK demands that Sean leave Tokyo but Sean manages to get money from Twinkie to pay off Kamata and proposes that he and his nephew have a final drift race, where the loser must leave Tokyo.  Racing down a deadly mountain road, Sean is able to win when DK crashes off a cliff.  Now the new “Drift King”, Sean is challenged by the newly arrived in Tokyo, Dom Toretto.

Fast & Furious (2009): After two movies, the original Fast and Furious crew all reunited for Fast & Furious.  Completely embracing over the top action, Fast & Furious was an extremely fun, if dumb, action movie that reignited interest in the franchise and brought Vin Diesel back from the brink of family movie hell that he had fallen into.  Dom and his new crew of girlfriend Letty, Tego, Rico and Cara are hijacking gasoline tankers in the Dominican Republic.  After their latest job ends badly, Dom suspects that the heat might be too much and leaves Letty her share of the money and disappears.  A few months later, Dom’s sister Mia calls him and tells him Letty has been murdered in Los Angeles.  Meanwhile, Brian, somehow in the FBI, is investigating drug dealer Arturo Braga and finds out that he is holding a street race where the winner will be placed on a team that will be smuggling heroin from Mexico to the US.  Dom, finding out about the race from the same informer Brian did, beats Brian and gets the last slot but Brian arrests one of other members of the team and takes his slot.  The team of drivers learns that Braga has found a series of tunnels that run under the US Border, allowing them to travel undetected between the countries.  Dom, Brian and the team get their shipment and head back to the US but they learn that Braga is in the habit of killing his drivers when the job is done.  Dom blows up his car’s nitrous tanks and he and Brian escape in a Hummer with the load of heroin in the back.  Brian and the FBI come up with a plan to lure Braga to the US by arranging a deal where Brian and Dom will sell back the heroin, but only if Braga arrives in person.  Braga agrees but the Braga that shows up is a double and the real Braga manages to escape.  Dom and Brian head back to Mexico to capture Braga and find him in a church.  Braga’s henchmen give chase and Dom and Brian head into the smuggling tunnels.  One of Braga’s henchmen, Fenix, crashes Brian on the other side of the tunnels and leaves his car to finish him off, in the same way he killed Letty, but Dom manages to crush him with his Camaro.  Brian gives Dom the opportunity to run again but Dom claims he’s tired of running and allows the FBI to capture him.  He’s given 25 years to life and is transported by bus to a maximum security prison.  On the way however;  Brian, Mia and Dom’s crew from the Dominican Republic arrive to hijack the bus and free Dom.

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