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The "Fast and Furious" Saga Thread
Double feature time! Big Grin

2 Fast 2 Furious (2003)

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The best part of this sophomore outing of the franchise, sadly, isn't actually in the movie, and that's the moment where the studio executive in charge first heard that someone genuinely wanted to call their $76m investment 2 Fast 2 Furious. It's a gloriously awful title that's kind of perfect, in that it embodies the movie's utter lack of pretension in search of a good time. I mean, just look at that garish red t-shirt on Walker in the above picture. That's his outfit for the movie's last act and last scene. It's all just lovably dopey. This is a movie set in Miami that doesn't even manage to have a gratuitous beach scene.

Okay, on to the movie. This is the main series' only entry without any Vin Diesel - not even a picture - but the script nicely references Dom in a surprisingly moving moment when Brian O'Conner (Paul Walker) tells his childhood friend Roman Pierce (Tyrese) that his guilt over Roman going to jail likely played a part in him letting Dom go. As for the plot, it's a goofy mishmash of street racing and pulp drug-lord flick. Ludacris enlivens things as a wildly successful garage owner and all-around bon vivant, and Eva Mendes is beautiful albeit underused as the not-quite love interest - this movie is ultimately about Brian and Roman's brotherly love. They are... dare I say... like fambly.

Grade: B+

Fast & Furious (2009)

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On to the fourth part, which, due to Tokyo Drift taking place out of sequence, is actually part three. (Where exactly Better Luck Tomorrow fits in, I don't know.) But, be sure to watch the 20-minute short Los Bandoleros, reuniting Dom and Letty Ortiz (Michelle Rodriguez), first, as Rodriguez gets almost as much screen time there as in the movie itself. As, for that matter, does Han Lue (Sung Kang).

Plot-wise, the movie is a bit of a 2 Fast rehash - a drug baron is hiring street race drivers to move his product/cash. Gal Gadot's Gisele Yashar appears (and how!) as a baddie who unsuccessfully throws herself at Dom, in what is clearly meant to illustrate his grief, but instead just fuels the ho yay between himself and Brian. Yes, just as the first movie was a tale of Brian briefly joining the Toretto family under false pretenses, and 2 Fast was about Brian and Roman renewing their brotherhood, this flick is about Brian renewing his commitment to Dom... I mean Dom's sister Mia (Jordana Brewster)... or maybe them both? The movie is intriguingly dark and somber, looking like a neo-noir much of the time, despite its LA setting. Truly, this a world that will not find peace or solace under the heroes' fambly is whole.

Grade: B
A Knight's Tale (2001)    (US Netflix until October)

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Yes, this is a Fast & Furious flick: Heath Ledger's William is an ancestor of Paul Walker's Brian O'Conner, and I won't have anyone say otherwise! Tongue

A Knight's Tale is bright, cheerful, and big-hearted. Ledger is charmingly dopey, Paul Bettany is magnetic as Chaucer, and the rest of the cast, including Alan Tudyk, Rufus Sewell, and James Purefoy are solid. Love interest Shannyn Sossamon is game and very pretty, but it was a serious error to cast the even more striking Bérénice Bejo as her lady-in-waiting, which undercuts the primary romantic dynamic in which William is constantly tongue-tied by Jocelyn's beauty. Then we're introduced to a female blacksmith who's also quite easy on the eyes, and start to wonder just what's in this medieval drinking water that's evidently turning nearly everyone into head-turners. (Did I mention James Purefoy is around, too? Or that Olivia Williams was cut?!) And while I couldn't confirm it, TV Tropes claims the second unit filmed the scene in which the crowd sings/claps "We Will Rock You" as a lark that was kept in, which might explain why the extras appear so disinterested and asynchronous. Since this scene opens the movie, it should have been reshot.

Over the course of 130 minutes, the jousting becomes a bit tiresome - it's the same gallop, crash, pained reaction shots montage again and again, with very little variation. (Where's some third-act dragons when you need them?) That said, the production value is great, and there's a late infusion of heart and emotion that closes things out quite nicely. The Galloping and the Testy is no classic, but it's good, wholesome fun that's well worth a spin. Shame on the Blu-ray team, however, for failing to carry over the 20 minutes of deleted scenes, commentary, and more from the DVD.

Grade: B
Fast Five (2011)

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Fast Five was the first of the franchise I watched, checking it out on Netflix DVD a few months after its release. Since then, I've seen all the other flicks (apart from TD), but had never revisited 5 until now. So, does its reputation as the series' finest entry hold up?

Honestly... not quite. Although Dom is freed in the opening sequence, it takes a while for the core trio of him, Brian, and Mia to actually join up. I guess this was a plot necessity in that the writers wanted the reunion to coincide with Mia's pregnancy announcement, and there hadn't been enough in-story time by the end of 4. As a result, however, getting to the start of the heist story is a bit of a slog. Much like The Avengers, one wants the big team-up story to hit the ground running, but, while the characters have had separate origin stories, the group now needs an origin story of its own before things can really take off.

This is of course also Luke "The Rock" Hobbs' debut, although he's far more glowering and quasi-villainous here than in subsequent entries (by 7, he's a teddy bear with an out-of-nowhere young daughter). As such, he's certainly an imposing presence, but he's not all that much fun. Indeed, the whole movie is more serious and not as much fun as I'd remembered - which isn't to say it's bad; I just prefer the outright goofiness of 2, 7, and the non-Dom parts of 8. When the crew finally assembles, there's a lot of fun interplay, and the climactic vault chase is solid, but completely lacking in fisticuffs, or even an imposing villain. Fast Five united lead characters from several previous flicks a year before The Avengers did, which made it notable at the time, but that novelty has worn off with subsequent entries. I'm right on the B/B+ line with this one, but, ultimately, I'll go with a...

Grade: B+

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