And we’re back! When we last left those who are fast, but in a furious persuasion, they had, in their fourth instalment, finally managed to make a proper second movie.
Now, we rejoin Dom and crew/family as they hide from the law somewhere more exotic than ghetto Los Angeles…
As the poet said…
Let there be light…
Let there be Rock!
We pick up exactly where we left off… Dom’s being sent to prison for 25 years, despite his help with the super illegal extradition of Mexican drug lord Braga. I guess eight years of literal highway robbery aren’t swept under the rug because of one mission against a worse bad guy. Probably takes, like, three missions against worse bad guys. Anyhoo, former cop, sometimes drag racer, about-to-be-former FBI agent, and two-time winner of World’s Worst Undercover Operative Brian O’Connor throws away his law-enforcement career (again) to stage a bold prison break mid-transfer, because of course it’s mid-transfer, these people don’t get out of bed for a heist if customized racing cars aren’t involved.
But while the high-speed prison break was only implied in the end credits of Fast & Furious, here it’s presented in its entirety… they stop the prison bus by making it veer around Mia’s car, then crash into Brian’s, so that it flips so many times you just have to assume everyone inside is dead. Just super dead. This is what happens when Dom’s out of the action… the quality of their car-heists just goes way downhill. However, a news report featuring the man I am incapable of seeing as anything but Pawnee Indiana’s Perd Hapley informs us that there were no casualties (somehow) and that nobody escaped but Dom. Because I guess the old A-Team writers snuck onto the set.
Still, nice that Dom’s sister/Brian’s somehow still girlfriend Mia gets to play too. Mia is often reduced to “Brian’s love interest,” or “Method of making his career-ending attachment to Dom less gay.”
From there, we cut to Brian and Mia on the lam way, way south of the border (since Mexico would also like to round up the whole crew), in Brazil.
They take shelter with an old friend, for given values of the word “friend:” Vince, the biggest asshole form Dom’s crew in the first movie. He still has a soft spot for Mia, still doesn’t seem to like Brian, but I guess Brian saving his life that time he nearly got killed by a trucker with a shotgun has soothed his “Look at Mia and I’ll murder you out of jealousy” demeanour. Or maybe having shacked up with a Brazilian woman sometime after escaping the hospital did that.
Anyway, he soon asks Brian and Mia to help him steal some high-end cars (because of course) from a train. Brian reluctantly agrees, because he is already a wanted fugitive, and hey, in for a penny, in for a pound. Also there’s not a lot of legitimate work for twice-disgraced ex-cops.
Dom arrives just in time for Brian to notice that the cars they’re stealing were seized by the DEA, and that Vince’s… associates have their eyes on one car in particular. Dom and Mia swiftly decide to betray said associates and steal that one car, the job goes wrong in a hurry, and the DEA cotton on to what’s happening.
After some train-and-car based fighting, and an improbably survivable fall off a cliff into a distant river, Dom and Brian are briefly captured by Brazilian crime kingpin Reyes. They escape super fast, but it all has Dom wanting to know what’s in the car that’s so valuable.
Since one of Reyes’ men (who IMDB tells me is named “Zizi”) killed three DEA agents, and then let Dom and Brian take the fall, they end up being hunted by the US government’s best man… Special Agent Hobbs, played by none other than Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, who struts into this franchise like he owns the joint and damn near does own it from his first lines.
Vince the Asshole returns, and quickly proves himself untrustworthy (because of course), as he knows exactly what Reyes’ men want: a memory card hidden in the car’s computer. Vince is banished, but doesn’t leave without giving a tirade about how everything that’s happened is because Dom never listened to Vince, proving that he still hasn’t 100% learned that being an asshole 100% of the time makes people not consider you a trusted friend.
Hobbs and his team are joined by Rio PD officer Elena, who he figures is the one cop in Rio that can’t be bought. After exchanging some delightfully ridiculous cop lingo, they’re on Dom’s trail. Sadly, so is Reyes. While Dom and crew figure out that the chip contains all the information on how Reyez moves his money around, Hobbs and Reyes’ thugs descend on their hideout, resulting in a chase over the favela rooftops (because of course) that can be somewhat hard to track if you’ve already had several adult beverages to get you through the last two movies. In short, Reyes’ men (led by that pesky Zizi) attack; Dom, Brian, and Mia make a run for it; Hobbs intervenes, managing to kill several bad guys but not catch Dom; and in the process, Dom saves Elena’s life, making this the second consecutive movie in which a woman reconsiders which side she’s on thanks to Vin Diesel’s smouldering gaze.
Dom wants to split up for safety, but Mia’s sick of the family splitting up, especially when she finally reveals she’s pregnant (something we’d known since six minutes into the movie). So instead of splitting up… they do something much cooler.
After a talk about fatherhood, Dom and Brian decide they can’t run anymore, so they’re going to use Reyes’ memory card to steal all of his money and use it to buy new lives somewhere with no extradition. But for that, they’ll need a team… and so they assemble a Fast and Furious supergroup of supporting cast members from the last four movies. Roman and Tej (Tyrese Gibson and Ludacris) from 2 Fast; Han, who still hasn’t managed to make it to Japan for his death in Tokyo Drift; Gisele (the previous woman to reconsider her side thanks to smouldering looks from Dom) and the two Mexicans who I swear didn’t have names from Fast & Furious. It’s the Oceans’ 11 of people who like custom racing cars. Or the Fast and Furious Avengers. One of those.
The gang hits one of Reyes’ money houses in order to make him move all of his money to a central location. Sadly, it’s a police station, proving that Hobbs had a point about there not being a lot of cops in Rio who can’t be bought. Hey man, it’s their stereotype, don’t be blaming me. Pulling some straight-up Oceans’ 11 moves, they get the lay of the land, a copy of Reyes’ safe (which of course Tej the mechanic knows how to crack), and thanks to Gisele knowing how to work her good looks, Reyes’ hand-print.
Also Dom and Brian score some fast, nimble cars by hitting street races filled with hot girls hanging around the cars because of course they do. Streak unbroken.
Just one problem… while they’ve been prepping to hit Reyes, the perpetually sweaty Hobbs has been hunting them, and now the whole team has been flagged, leading to a tense standoff in which Dom reminds Hobbs that he isn’t in the US anymore. Where is he?
It’s impossible to think of this movie and not think of this moment. I have a hard time seeing Rio’s Christ the Redeemer statue and not think of it yelling “BRAZIL!”
Okay, let’s skim forward. Dom continues to work his rugged “I sure did love my dead girlfriend Letty” charms on Elena, Vince returns long enough to save Mia from Zizi and have one last Toretto family dinner, Tej announces that he’s using his share to open a garage back home, despite the fact that he already owns a garage in Miami, that’s why he’s in these movies…
Hobbs successfully tracks down Dom, Mia, Brian, and Vince, leading to the best fist fight in the series to date…
…but when Reyes’ men kill Hobbs’ entire team (minus Elena) while trying to get at Dom and Brian, Hobbs decides to join the heist after Dom saves his life. Because. Of. Course. This was a sweat-soaked bromance waiting to happen.
Seriously, it’s like they sprayed The “Dwayne Johnson” Rock down with a hose before every scene he’s in. The man is damp.
Zizi manages to be the only Reyes thug not to get shot for the third time, Vince dies more tragically than you’d expect, given that I spent the entire first movie hoping someone would kill him, but with all other obstacles cleared, it’s time for the big heist: stealing the safe itself from the police station, and using their race cars to drag it through the streets of Rio. The nicer streets, though. It’s nice to see a high-class neighbourhood get torn up in the car chase instead of a favela.
It’s like in the Final Destination movies, when the victim survives the elaborate Rube Goldberg death but then something heavy crushes them three second later. They drop their more elaborate heist and just smash into the building with Hobbs’ bulletproof SUV, then run off dragging the safe behind them.
After a certain amount of car chase shenanigans, Dom cuts Brian loose, then takes out their remaining pursuers by firing his nitrous (BECAUSE OF COURSE) and whipping the safe around like a morning star.
Brian returns just in time to break his streak of bringing the main villains alive by killing Zizi (finally) to save Dom. Hobbs then arrives in order to straight-up murder Reyes, before giving Dom and company a 24-hour head start, provided they leave the safe behind. He swiftly realizes that, during a “ten second window” in the chase, they managed to switch the money safe for their training safe, leaving them with $100 million and him with an empty safe surrounded by crushed cops cars.
Everyone gets away clean (except Vince, but fuck that guy): Tej opens his garage (which is worse than the one he had in Miami), Gisele and Han hit the road together, and when Gisele asks Han if he wants to go to Tokyo, he says “We’ll get there… eventually,” (translation: the producers are in no hurry to catch up to his death from two movies back) Elena leaves Brazil to be with Dom, and Dom and Brian have a Rocky III-style unfilmed rematch as we go to credits.
But wait! There’s more! One last returning player! Partway through the credits, Eva Mendes returns as customs agent Monica Fuentes (the inside woman from 2 Fast), with news for Hobbs… Letty isn’t as dead as everyone thinks.
Dun dun DUUUUNNNN. (Don’t get comfy, Elena)
This is where the switch flicks. We’re still in “high-speed thefts” territory, to be sure, but the franchise has crossed a line that will leave “Point Break knock-off” in its rear-view… mirror… god damn it, now they have me doing it…
One would be forgiven for thinking that there is no way they’ve spent the last four movies world-building. That they made one “undercover cop loses his way” crime movie, then spent seven years flailing around trying to make a decent sequel. And you’re right, you’re entirely right. But while flailing, they accidentally created a somewhat likable ensemble that manages to be the most ethnically diverse cast of any American action franchise in living memory. Han remains cool, Gisele has become impressively badass, the Mexicans make a passable comic duo, and 2 Fast’s Roman comes into his own. With Vin Diesel also in the movie, Roman didn’t need to be “replacement Dom” anymore, and was free to become the comic relief and the second most quotable character. Tej… is whatever the franchise needs Tej to be from movie to movie. Mia got to participate in a few action beats before revealing she was pregnant, at which point she just ran comms and tactics from HQ, because no way Dom and Brian let her back into the field at that point. She did some super dangerous things when they didn’t know.
Paul Walker had either settled into the role, or they started writing it to suit his abilities, because he feels far less awkward here than the first two. He hasn’t said “bro” since 2 Fast, which is for the best.
And I cannot overstate what a valuable addition Dwayne “The Johnson” Rock is to this franchise. He steps off the plane, knowing he’s in a dumb, aggressively macho action flick, and by god he swings into it. Hobbs is instantly the missing ingredient we never knew we always wanted in these movies. His badass cop lingo scenes are a damned delight.
Now, I do like a good heist movie, and half the fun is seeing the heist carried out, so in theory I should be disappointed that they switched the plan to a smash-and-grab. But it’s hard to be. The mashy-smashy final act is just too hard to dislike, even with its merciless assault on the laws of physics.
They also do frequently pause the action to hit on themes of family, honour, and all that… and one largely pointless drag race between Brain, Dom, Han, and Roman, but it drags the film down less than you’d expect. Soon enough Hobbs will swagger his sweaty self back into frame, and we’re in ridiculous fun territory again.
Up until Fast 5, these movies were a bit of a slog. Especially in the dark, Vin-less times. Maybe you had to be into street racing. I hear that helps. But with this entry, I finally began to see the appeal.
Next time, they realize they have a good thing, and keep running with it. Which is less common than you’d like.