Thursday, September 10, 2009

Fast and Furious

I rented the latest Fast and the Furious film the other day, and thought it was a pretty good movie and a worthy entry into the series. If you liked any of the other films -- and if you liked even one of them, I don't see how you couldn't like all of them, since they are all the same movie -- you'll like this one.

I don't really think there's a lot more I can say about this movie, so I'm going to give my overall opinions about every film in the series:

The Fast and the Furious
The first -- and maybe even the best -- film in the series. I missed this film when it first came out because it didn't get much hype, Vin Diesel wasn't famous yet, and I was a poor college student who didn't get out to the movies much. I finally rented it on DVD -- and I remember it in my memory as one of the very first DVDs I ever rented -- and thought it was awesome.

I mean, what's better than an awesome movie car chase? It was a no-brainer to make a movie about underground car racing. Throw in a lot of fighting, explosions, the Yakuza, and a star-making performance from Vin Diesel, and you've got a movie classic. This isn't my absolute favorite film in the series, but maybe that's because it's actually kind of a good movie. It has a story with a beginning, middle, and end, a decent script where the characters actually follow story arcs that change them for the better over the course of the story, and a director who actually attempts to tell a story with some amount of subtlety. The next few films are all cartoon versions of this film, but while that may make them dumber and derivative, it makes them a little more fun.

But Vin Diesel is awesome. And the rest of the cast are all a lot of fun too.

2 Fast 2 Furious
This movie is about 1,000 times better than it should've been. A sequel to the Fast and the Furious that doesn't have Vin Diesel? No offense to Paul Walker, but nobody watches these movies to see his attempts at acting. And I actually like Paul Walker. But somehow... this movie works. I give most of the credit to John Singleton's direction, who is a ridiculously talented director who deserves a much better career than the one he's stuck with. But Hollywood is fickle which benefits people who want to watch dumb racing movies with actual directors behind the camera.

Anyway, this movie is much more entertaining than Boyz N the Hood.

This movie is dumb to be sure, but it has better racing sequences than the first film and a story that better embraces the inherent stupidity of this genre. The only thing that keeps this film being the perfect FF movie is the lack of Vin Diesel. I like Tyrese a lot and think he did a great job, but come on. He's no Vin Diesel. This movie needed Vin Diesel.

But at least it had Ludacris.

Tokyo Drift
I think of this movie as "Fast and Furious Lite" or even "Fast and Furious Babies," since it is ostensibly set in the same "universe" as the other films, but details the lives of a bunch of high school kids living in Tokyo. This movie also has Yakuza and some shady bad guys, but at the end of the day, it's just a coming of age story about a guy who loves to race fast cars.

So... it's an odd fit for the rest of the series, but it's actually a really good film all things considered. The story almost makes sense, and the racing is actually integrated into the plot far better than it is in the other films. The characters in this movie race for the sake of racing, instead of the plot setting up some ridiculous situation where Paul Walker had to enter some race in order to capture a drug dealer. That got old real fast.

And this movie has some of the best racing I've ever seen, with the "drifting" style really setting itself apart from the pack. This is cool stuff. And while this movie still doesn't have Vin Diesel -- it doesn't even have Paul Walker! -- the cast is still really good. I think Lucas Black is a fantastic actor who should be more famous than he is, and Bow Wow isn't as annoying as you'd think as the obligatory black friend. Nathalie Kelley is probably the most beautiful woman in the entire series, and Sung Kang's performance as Han is probably the most engaging and likable character since the disappearance of Vin Diesel from the first movie. In fact, Han is even more likable and fun than Diesel's character.

I actually reviewed this movie when it first came out. You can read it here.

Fast and Furious
First of all, that's just a lazy title. They should've been braver and called it "The Fast and the FOURious."

Anyway all of that brings us to this film, about which I've already said all I can in that first paragraph above. It's a good Fast and the Furious movie that attempted to return the series back to its roots, which is both good and bad in my opinion. I can understand why they went back to the series roots, since Tokyo Drift was far and away the lowest grossing film in the series, but it was also one of my favorites. Also, Vin Diesel comes a lot cheaper these days than he did when 2 Fast 2 Furious went into production. And Paul Walker comes even cheaper.

Storywise, this is the weakest in the series, since I honestly didn't really know what was going on, what the characters intentions were, or who the villain really was for most of the movie. It was just a mess. But bringing back director Justin Lin (of Tokyo Drift fame) was a good decision, since his talent for directing amazing racing sequences pretty much makes him the best F&F director ever. He's also notable for being the only two-time F&F director, for whatever that's worth. He puts a a lot more CG into his films than the other directors, but considering how the films have been coming out for close to a full decade now, that's to be expected. Every film has a lot more CG now than they did in 2001.

This film definitely feels more like the completion of the true trilogy than Tokyo Drift did. I think of Tokyo Drift as more of a stand-alone side story than a real part of the series. It is interesting to note that this film actually took place before Tokyo Drift. We know this because of the cameo by Han, who talks about how he's going to move to Tokyo because he heard that the racers are doing a lot of "crazy" stuff over there. Also, Han died at the end of Tokyo Drift (spoiler!!!!) so it had to come last chronologically for obvious reasons. None of this is the least bit important, nor will most people even notice or think about it. I'm just a nerd who's seen too many Fast and Furious movies.

And while I may have seen too many of these movies, I hope they keep cranking them out. The next film in the series should come full circle and have Paul Walker and Vin Diesel travel to Japan to meet up with the cast of Tokyo Drift.

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