The “Fast & Furious” Movies Are a Wild Ride


There are 10 “Fast & Furious” movies in the franchise. (Courtesy of Facebook)

I’m tempted to call the “Fast & Furious” movies a guilty pleasure of mine. However, the truth is I feel no guilt for taking pleasure in them.

If you’re unfamiliar with the premise of “Fast & Furious,” I’ve got you covered. The first movie, “The Fast and the Furious,” begins with FBI agent Brian O’Conner (Paul Walker) investigating a group of hijackers who keep stealing valuables from trucks. (By valuables, I mean Panasonic TV consoles — this movie is from 2001.) Those hijackers end up being Dom Toretto (Vin Diesel) and his group of street racers. The movie centers on fast cars, scantily-clad women and family.

The next movies stay on the street racing theme. “2 Fast 2 Furious” follows O’Conner into a new street racing adventure, and “The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift” features a completely different set of street racers in Tokyo, Japan.

And in the next film, “Fast & Furious,” the series breaks away from its roots and becomes what it is today: a wonderfully over-the-top, self-indulgent action series that features heists, insane stunts, faked deaths, drug cartels and master hackers. The fast cars and scantily-clad women still play important roles, but family takes center stage.

Every movie since has gotten a little crazier. To give you an idea, “Furious 7” features cars skydiving out of an airplane, and the most recent film, “F9,” sees characters travel into outer space in a modded-out car.

I’ll repeat that: They go to space in a car.

It sounds dumb. Hell, it probably is dumb. But it’s so much fun.

Before I get into the meat of “Fast & Furious,” I want to clarify that I’m not praising this series ironically. I’m sure many of you remember the deluge of “nothing is more important than family” memes from this summer. However, I consider myself a legitimate fan of this series. I binged most of the movies in the course of a week, and I went to see “F9” in theatres in August. I was the only person in the theatre, and I spent the 2 hours and 15 minutes demolishing a medium-size popcorn and having the time of my life.

I also want to clarify that I’m not a car person. I know nothing about cars. And, because the “Fast & Furious” series is oriented toward the male gaze, the movies assumed I knew about cars and did not teach me. My dad had to explain to me what nitrous oxide was because Dom Toretto wouldn’t.

It’s neither the memes nor the cars that drew me to these movies. It is the sheer absurdity of an action series that refuses to take itself seriously. It is the cheesiness and campiness that underscores every scene. It is the running gags and jokes that inject comedy into the tensest action scenes. It is the decision that Vin Diesel apparently didn’t have enough muscle, since later movies introduced characters played by Dwayne Johnson and John Cena.

Furthermore, I admire the commitment to each movie outdoing its prequel. I would’ve said the series jumped the shark when the characters went skydiving in cars; then, two movies later, they drove to space. Maybe they’ve done it now, but there are still two more movies planned, and I cannot wait to see what they do next. The “Fast & Furious” series is not content pushing the envelope; it’s pushing the entire U.S. Postal Service.

Then there are the goofy stylistic choices. Every time a character speaks in a language other than English, the movies provide subtitles — but they’re never normal subtitles. The words zip in and out of frame like PowerPoint transitions or pop up one word at a time like TikTok captions.

I love how this series has embraced its own ridiculousness. I love its death-defying stunts, its cheesy one-liners and its dramatic plot twists. The “Fast & Furious” movies don’t pretend to be Oscar bait. Why should they? Sometimes being fun, fast and crazy is enough.

Despite their silliness, the “Fast & Furious” movies have a surprisingly careful and delicate side to them. Paul Walker, who portrayed Brian O’Conner, died tragically while “Furious 7” was still filming. “Furious 7” does a fantastic job of finishing out his final role with help from his brothers and some CGI. The movie ends with an emotional send-off scene where O’Conner and Toretto race on an empty mountain road. It’s unclear if the voiceover is Toretto lamenting O’Conner’s departure or Vin Diesel mourning Paul Walker’s death. It’s a touching moment that you might not expect from an action movie.

Here’s the kicker: In the “Fast & Furious” universe, O’Conner isn’t dead. He decides to retire from his high-speed, action-packed lifestyle and become a full-time father to his two children with Mia Toretto, Dom’s sister. While we never see him on screen again, the other characters refer to him often. This might seem tacky, but I think the series executes it well. “Fast & Furious” secured a happy ending for a beloved character while honoring Walker’s memory.

I encourage you to give the “Fast & Furious” movies a chance. Even if your exposure to this series is through memes and you know nothing about cars, there’s a good chance you’ll enjoy it anyway. So embrace your inner child, forget the laws of physics and enjoy a fun action movie. It’ll be a wild ride.