Shaun Munro ranks and reviews all ten Fast and Furious movies from worst to best…
There isn’t a person living today who watched Rob Cohen’s The Fast and the Furious back in 2001 and could’ve foreseen the places – the cars, the casts, the budgets, and the literal places – it would go.
Despite some struggles in the early going, over the last decade the racer-heist-spy franchise has cemented itself as one of Hollywood’s premiere tentpole IP, with more recent entries commanding colossal budgets upwards of $225 million, reflecting the series’ phenomenal global appeal per its hugely diverse ensemble cast.
And yet the Fast Saga, as it’s now known, has been all over the map where quality is concerned. Though not a single film has lurched into true awfulness, the output has nevertheless ranged all the way from bad to great, only finding true consistency in the mid-to-late era as shepherded by the series’ most prolific director, Justin Lin.
But with F9 recently hitting screens, there’s no better time to revisit the entire ten-movie celebration of vehicular destruction and separate the clunkers from the bangers.
Note: this article contains no major spoilers for F9…
10. Fast and Furious
Aptly, the most confusingly-titled movie in the series is also by far the worst. From the opening set-piece that concludes with Dom (Vin Diesel) and Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) playing vehicular limbo with a flaming tanker truck – which is still one of the series’ daftest moments, incredibly – Fast and Furious marks the point at which the franchise went from dopey to weapons-grade stupid. Sadly unlike most of its successors, it’s just not that fun.
For starters there’s all the timeline-shifting nonsense, setting the movie before Tokyo Drift with a still very much alive Han (Sung Kang), though far more troubling is the joyless absurdity of everything on offer. Brian (Paul Walker) being an FBI agent after everything he’s been through might be the single most implausible aspect of the whole franchise, but save for the legendary gag where he breaks Agent Stasiak’s (Shea Whigham) nose, it’s played depressingly straight.
Despite this fourth movie reuniting the original cast members after an eight-year absence, the palpable sense of family from the back-end of the series feels oddly benign here; there’s a strange lack of the fist-pumping fanfare you think any Hollywood producer would insist upon.
What really sinks Fast and Furious, though, is the off-screen “murder” of Letty, with many at the time assuming Michelle Rodriguez was simply jumping off a sinking ship (ha!). The film wastes so much time mourning her, which in addition to killing the rewatch value of the movie with our superior knowledge of her fate, imposes a bummer vibe that clashes harshly with the silliness of the action.
Chris Morgan clearly wanted to deliver a ’70s-style revenge joint soaked in NOS but he totally whiffs it. The villains are absolute white noise – despite boasting one of the coolest bad guy deaths in the series – and though this is one of the shortest F&F films it somehow feels orders of magnitude longer. And even the action disappoints, for while Justin Lin returns for his second go-around, the car chases are more often than not haphazardly edited or visually muddy, feeling like a huge step back from Tokyo Drift‘s butter-smooth action.
In an ironic turnaround, the movie’s bizarre inclusion of a CGI GPS gimmick feels cribbed from the very racing games that the Fast and the Furious series itself inspired years earlier. Both in 2009 and especially today, it ages the film horribly.
A thin, oddly miserable draft of the formula that Fast Five would ultimately refine, Fast and Furious squanders its obvious potential with a dour tone and visually sloppy car chases.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★
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