One of my favorite podcasts is “How Did This Get Made,” where Paul Scheer, Jason Mantzoukas (I spelled that right without checking!) and June Diane Raphael discuss bad movies. Generally, they rip them apart, but sometimes they express genuine admiration for these films. Such is the case with the “Fast & Furious” franchise, starting with the fifth film, “Fast Five.” Whenever there’s a new “Fast” or “Furious” film, they bring in Adam Scott to gush all over it.
Film 12: “Fast Five.”
My excuse for not seeing it: When I saw first saw the preview for “The Fast & The Furious” back in 2001, I wrote it off as the stupidest looking movie ever. I don’t think I ever watched the film to confirm my assumption, but I did see “Fast and Furious,” the film preceding “Fast Five,” and it was completely unmemorable, other than it reunited the four main characters for the first time since the original film.
Like I cared.
But the discussion on “How Did This Get Made” seem to acknowledge that the first four films were pure garbage, but that director Justin Lin’s move to reinvent the franchise with the fifth film by shifting the focus from street racing to automobile-focused heist films and inserting The Rock into the films had reinvigorated the franchise. The box office seemed to reflect that, with the grosses going from $363 million for “Fast and Furious” to $625 million for “Fast Five,” with the franchise peaking at $1.5 billion for “Furious 7” in 2015.
Clearly, something was working. It was time to sit down and judge for myself.
Thoughts after watching it: “Fast Five” is not a good movie, but it’s infinitely more entertaining than I had thought possible. Giving the series a more international setting certainly helped with the worldwide box office, but it greatly expanded the scope and stakes of the film. Instead of racing with a bit of crime, it became something more akin to a B-movie “Ocean’s 11 meets Bond with muscle cars,” with the charisma of the cast and exotic locales outshining low stakes races and the theft of TV/VCR combos.
But if there’s something I’d like to think really turned things around for the franchise, it was the appearance of Jay Jackson, Perd Hapley himself, early in the film. No wonder Adam Scott likes the films.
The need to find characters to replace Vin Diesel and Paul Walker in the second and third resulted in some accidental world building with the introduction of Tyrese Gibson, Ludacris and Sung Kang to the franchise.
The film also features Gal Gadot, years before Wonder Woman, and it was not a star-making role. I remember people expressing skepticism at her casting for WW, and if I had seen this I probably would have agreed. Whatever DC saw in her worked, because she’s the only home run in that franchise.
Random thoughts: This movie has more endings than “Return of the King.” I suppose that’s the downside of needing to give closure to 47 characters. Also, there’s no way the Fast and/or Furious crew didn’t kill like a million civilians while dragging a safe through buildings in Rio de Janeiro. Speaking of Rio, how many shots of the Christ the Redeemer statue does one film need? The location has been established, Justin Lin.
Movies it inspired me to check out: I’m not really interested in checking out Fast 6-infinity, but I should probably check out Justin Lin’s “Better Luck Tomorrow” at some point.