The seventh Fast & the Furious movie is upon us. This is an exciting time.
Lest we forget how this cinematic opus got started, let’s take a quick look at some of its defining moments.
Remember how things got started, back in the very beginning? Paul Walker plays an undercover cop who’s working a case that has to do with truckers being robbed by some high-tech thieving street racers. He infiltrates known car driver and muscular person Dominic Toretto’s crew by showing up at the gang’s shop repeatedly, ordering tuna sandwiches, and staring intently at his sister Mia:
Once Brian’s finally in with Dom’s crew, he takes her out to dinner and once again stares at her intently:
He might be roughly as expressive as the cars he drives, but Mia couldn’t resist that steely gaze. Neither could Dom:
And neither could we:
Really, the only person in all of Fast and Furious history who could (sort of, at least) was the undercover cop lady from 2 Fast 2 Furious. And let’s be honest, he’s not really doing his best work here:
Aaaanyways, I think that’s enough stills of Paul Walker staring at things for the moment.
Ok, ok. Fine! I’ll do one more:
Alright, moving on.
Ok, technically this comes before the date scene since it provides the lead-in to Brian and Mia’s date (the two of them doing dishes as he continues to stare intently at her). But it was an easy episode to overlook, because we only realized how tear-jerkingly important it would be years later.
The final chase scene in the original movie established one of Fast and Furious’s most memorable tropes: Vin Diesel leaning precariously out of a car he’s driving insanely fast while somehow still managing to steer. More on this later.
When Brian tells Mia during their date that his goal in getting into Dom’s inner circle was actually to get to her, he’s staring so intently that you just know he really means it. But he clearly started to care about Dom a lot, too. Their half-brotherly, half-fatherly relationship comes to a head when Brian casts his undercover cop duties aside and lets Vin Diesel get away from the incoming fuzz.
Brian handing over his last pair of keys to Dom and the two parting ways was probably just something the original film’s masterminds came up with to make the ending seem dramatic and vaguely ambiguous—that is, ambiguous enough to leave it open for a sequel but not feel obligated to make on if it’d ended up totally tanking at the box office. But it actually ended up working really well. The two of them wouldn’t see each other again for quite some time.
2 Fast 2 Furious is more tonally in line with the original movie than the franchise’s most recent incarnation, but it’s still one of the oddballs of the series. It ditched Vin Diesel and Michelle Rodriguez, and added two key players: Ludacris, a guy who owns a garage for fancy cars and organizes street races, and Tyrese Gibson, Brian’s current frenemy but once and future bro.
I mostly remember 2 Fast 2 Furious for the awesomely tacky clothing its villain wore:
...and the final scene in which Brian defeated said tacky suit-wearing villain by driving a car off a crazy jump and landing it on the guy’s boat:
One other thing about 2 Fast 2 Furious I only began to appreciate after rewatching it recently: Paul Walker says “bro” a lot in this movie. He doesn’t really say “bro” in the other movies. I’m not sure he ever does, actually. Take the sudden, bro-loving Brian as a sign that Fast and Furious was going through some adolescent growing pains, I guess.
Ah, the black sheep of the Fast and Furious series. Tokyo Drift has almost nothing to do with the rest of the movies, and only features one of the series’s core characters...for like two seconds in the final scene. It’s fun to rewatch today, though, because casting the majority of Fast and Furious lore aside meant it could have fun by exaggerating the playful, often adorable rivalries that drive much of the tension in each movie’s plot. I mean, this one is literally a high school drama. Look at how the hero squares off against the jerky captain of the football team in its first scene:
What was his name again? Eh, don’t worry about it.
I’m not gonna lie, 2009’s Fast & Furious is one of my least favorite movies in the series. Maybe my least favorite. Looking back at it now, it seems like its main value is that it a) reunited the main four cast members for a Fast & Furious movie for the first time in a 8 years, and b) let us all know it was indeed ok to call it Fast & Furious instead of The Fast And The Furious.
Fast Five is where things really got going again. The original four weren’t the only ones who showed up for the party. Ludacris and Tyrese came back, too. Also, perhaps most importantly of all, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson stepped boldly into the series. Just look at that strut:
Johnson established his now integral role in the Fast and Furious canon as Luke Hobbs, the cop in its ongoing cops-and-robbers shenanigans who has a comical, half-antagonistic, half-friendly relationship with The Family. Only, since this is Fast and Furious, he’s not as much a cop as a towering ogre made up of muscle and military hardware.
The Rock’s debut highlights a funny aspect of Fast Five, Fast And Furious 6, and now Furious 7: how the series switched gears and started adding more and more standard blockbuster action movie motifs. The camera is given far less time to pan around parties and zoom in on butts, and focuses more and more on big explosions and tank-sized weaponized vehicles. Brian, Dom, and co. aren’t just local criminals anymore. They’re international super thieves. The best crew in the world—i.e., one only The Rock can hope to stop.
Fast & Furious doesn’t bother trying to explain the way its characters and storylines keep changing. “How did Ludacris go from owning a garage in Miami to being the dude who sits behind a screen and talks to Vin Diesel and Paul Walker on the radio during chase scenes?” you might find yourself asking. Don’t think about it too hard, the movie responds. Just come along for the ride.
Probably the craziest single chase scene in Fast & Furious history, except for maybe the one that concludes Fast & Furious 6 in which a car bursts out of the front of a plane. It’s hard to call anything involving a tank and half a dozen cars chasing each other across a bridge “subtle.” But it actually is, and artfully so.
Think about Dom’s motivation in this scene with the tank. Remember that first final chase scene, from so many years ago? Since he’s able to drive so crazily without ever losing control of his car, he’s probably letting his mind wander its way back to that other fateful moment of car-on-car combat. The one that went down so many years ago:
When he reached as far as he could, but just couldn’t get a hold of Vince:
The moment Dom the Patriarch let down Vince the Prodigal Son. The moment he failed one of the members of The Family.
He must be thinking about how that failure played its part in encouraging Vince’s departure from The Family and his ultimate betrayal in Fast Five. He won’t let that happen to Letty, the only woman he’s ever truly loved.
And that’s why he doesn’t just reach out of the car window this time. He climbs halfway out of the thing:
...and then leaps out just as it crashes, so he can rocket himself over a bridge:
...catch Letty while they’re both flying through the air:
...and then crash into another car on the opposite of the bridge:
That’s “I love you” in Fast & Furious-speak.
No wonder, then, that Dom’s epic stunt is the thing that finally does the trick and kicks Letty’s memory back into gear:
Well over a decade after Vin Diesel first slapped someone on the wrist and told them to say grace as punishment for being the first one to reach in for food, the team finally makes it all the way back home at the end of Fast & Furious 6. Who else teared up during this scene? I started bawling, personally.
The Family had changed a lot over the course of the years, Fast & Furious 6’s conclusion showed us.
It lost some members.
It gained some new ones, too. The Rock even shows up for the reunion meal, so he and Dom could do this weird stand-off thing:
(Why can’t they just look at one another?)
More important than any of its changes, though, is this one essential truth: it’s never stopped being The Family.
As Vin Diesel said during his landmark speech in Fast Five: “Salute Mi Familia.”
Fast & Furious (The Fast and the Furious? Fast and the Furious? I have no idea...) has been so successful for so long (14 years!) that it’s had to perform a number of clever, strategic pivots already. Say, when a star character drops out for a time, or The Rock decides to come in. Looking at the all-star cast and grand spectacle of Furious 7, it’s easy to forget where it all started. Or how old this series is. I mean, the token tech guy in the first one used floppy disks:
Floppy disks! This is what constituted “high-tech” for the original movie:
Man, that makes me feel old. At least it’s been a wild ride.
Given lead actor Paul Walker’s tragic passing, the Fast & Furious series once again finds itself at a crossroads. Where, exactly, will it go next? Who knows. But regardless of which direction they head in, it’s a safe bet that Dom and the rest of The Family will head there very, very fast.