Here’s the thing: I have never seen a Fast & Furious movie. I’m not much of a car or racing guy, so that didn’t help. However, I have nothing against mindless action movies, or Vin Diesel, or Paul Walker (I even saw him in The Skulls in the theatre, and that was about as mindless as anything). So, why did I never get into it?

Probably just timing. I was starting to do grown-up stuff (like working) and I wasn’t watching as many movies with my friends, where we would regularly have Van Damme fests and the like. I was getting into screenwriting myself, so I was also facing a huge list of recommended movies and Fast & Furious probably slipped through the cracks.

Ah, there’s one exception: I did see Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw as part of a movie fest spanning global locations, and there aren’t many options for films with scenes set in Samoa (although they were filmed in Hawaii).

Eventually, I knew I was going to have to check in on the franchise for Slam Wrestling’s Hollywood Headlock archives. I mean, this is the movie franchise that comedian John Oliver neatly split into two parts: “Before The Rock,” and “After The Rock.” During a piece on then-White House Senior Policy Advisor Stephen Miller and some controversial statements he had made about the inscriptions on The Statue of Liberty, Oliver made his point using this analogy:

“Some of the best things ever made were changed part way through. For instance, did you know there was a time when Fast & Furious movies didn’t have The Rock in them? It’s true, and they sucked. That’s why they added The f*cking Rock.”

As I tuned in to all the Fast & Furious movies, just added to Netflix Canada in the summer, I wanted to find out three things:

  1. What have I been missing out on all of these years?
  2. Is Oliver right about Dwayne Johnson being the difference maker?
  3. Are they really fast, and are they really furious?

So, I present to you my collected thoughts during an absurd day of watching eight Fast & Furious movies in one sitting. There are established rules for movie fests in my house: the movies keep playing whether you go to make something to eat, doze off, or take a walk to keep the blood flowing. No trailers, no credits.

Now, these are all old movies, but I still feel obligated to point out that this article will be full of spoilers. At the same time, you won’t be getting comprehensive plot summaries here.  Just my thoughts throughout a long day filled with many, many chase scenes.

I begin at 7:00 a.m.

The Fast and The Furious (2001)

So, right away I find myself not caring about the cars. Or the racing. That’s probably not a good start. People start talking about specs and parts in their cars and I zone out. It’s not for me. I like driving, I just don’t care about cars. I never liked Days of Thunder. Cars is my least favourite Pixar movie.

I liked Speed Racer, though.

What I never knew before today was that there was a movie in 1954 also called The Fast and The Furious. It was a Roger Corman production (legendary for churning out B-Movies) and features this plot from IMDB:

A trucker framed for murder breaks out of jail, takes a young woman hostage, and enters her sports car in cross-border road race hoping to get to Mexico before the police catch him.

So, no spiritual connection, I don’t think, to the 2001 movie.

I should also say that I’m not usually fond of looking things up during a movie, but today I’ll be following some ideas and reading through the previous movie’s trivia section on IMDB as the next movie starts.

The graphics are all right during the opening race, though you can still spot that early-days CGI. Hey, Ja Rule! He’d better have a song on the soundtrack later on.

I like the line by Dom (Diesel) bragging about how he already knows about Brian’s (Walker) history. “You can find anything on the web, man.” In 2001, was that still impressive?

By 7:40 a.m., Brian’s car blows up. Right before it blew up (because it was shot to blazes by an American-Asian biker gang led by a dude named Johnny Tran, played by Rick Yune), Brian asks Dom about the biker gang. Specifically, he says “What the hell was that all about?” Dom’s response is “Long story.”

After the car blows up, Brian asks “So what the hell was that all about?” Dom’s response is “Long story.”

Kind of seems like Dom just doesn’t want to tell the story. I really hope Brian asks him for a third time.

Vin Diesel has always struck me as a stiff actor, naturally, but this role seems comfortable for him. It’s like when Keanu Reeves found Neo in The Matrix – it just suits him.

Dom tells Brian that he owes him a ten-second car, which is funny. To them, not to me. I don’t get what a ten-second car is. I suppose I’ll learn.

Wait: someone is using 3.5” floppy disk? I’m trying to remember now if I was still using those in 2001.

Speaking of Keanu Reeves, as Brian goes into meet with his police superiors (because he’s working undercover – always good to see Ted Levine) it comes back to me that the first film is a street racing re-retelling of Point Break.

In Point Break, Reeves goes undercover and joins a thrill-seeking surfing-gang. Just swap surfboards for engines.

Brian takes his first step into getting too deep and goes on a date with Dom’s sister Mia (Jordana Brewster). When he picks her up, there’s a movie on at Dom’s house. What is it? Brian is snooping around for clues, and so am I to find out what movie they’re watching. I miss a little of bit of the plot because I want to know. Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story! I probably should have recognized that.

Anyway, Brian is caught and Vince, Dom’s right hand-man, calls it, saying that Brian’s a cop. Dom isn’t so sure. They drive to Tran’s garage and get caught in the act of espionage. Who’s the actor that plays Lance? I recognize him. I find that it’s Reggie Lee, and I know him from a few things – but mostly from Tropic Thunder.

I don’t get what’s so awesome about winning a race due to having a better car. Letty (Michelle Rodriguez), Dom’s girlfriend, wins a race because she has a button that the dude she’s racing doesn’t have. I mean, that’s the simplistic version, but it’s true. Isn’t that the kind of “pay-to-win” model that got EA’s Star Wars: Battlefront II in so much trouble?

The ending of the film is really the best part, and that’s not always the case. There is truly great stunt work in the final truck heist, and the driving aspects of the movie are so much better when they mean something. What I mean is that for me, character is the beginning and end of a movie. A plot twist, a stunt, an explosion will all be cool, but will be great if you’d made me care about the people it affects.

The reveal of Brian as a cop in front of Dom is also very well done. The actual ending is a little abrupt, but all-in-all the movie is a fine action flick. Still, I don’t think I’d look at it, even after all these years, and say “Oh yeah, there are going to be eight more of these.”

And I was happy to hear Ja Rule on the soundtrack.

Tag Line: If you have what it takes… you can have it ALL!
Directed By: Rob Cohen
Written By: Ken Li, Gary Scott Thompson, Erik Bergquist, David Ayer
Cast: Paul Walker, Vin Diesel, Michelle Rodriguez, Jordana Brewster
Runtime: 1 hour and 46 minutes.


Slam Wrestling’s Hollywood Headlock Rating Scale: 3.5
1: Unsafe Worker (Avoid!)
2: Pre-Show Performer
3: Mid-Card Material
4: Main Eventer
5: World Title Winner

2 Fast 2 Furious (2003)

Oh, I like the title. It’s up there with Teen Wolf, Too and Hot Shots: Part Deux for playing around with sequel numbers.

Ludacris is here. I think I remembered that he’d be in it. They mean business with the Universal logo this time; the graphics are improved, and more money has obviously been poured into this film.

Why is Suki’s (Devon Aoki) car sooooo pink? It’s a bit overdone, like Arcee from the 1980s Transformers cartoon.

Okay, I’m checking out the trivia for this movie now because I want to know why Vin Diesel didn’t do it. I mean, I know he had big things planned with XXX movies and The Chronicles of Riddick, but was that all? I found this excellent quote: he says that “Universal Studios didn’t take a Francis Ford Coppola approach to it,” referring to The Godfather Part II. I don’t know if that’s bravado, hubris, or pie-eyed optimism, but I love the idea that Diesel declined to continue with the franchise because it wasn’t being given the careful consideration that was given to The Godfather. I also read that it could have been money, but I prefer the artistic disagreement story.

It’s almost 9:00 a.m. – and I’m taking my dog outside. I’m barely paying attention to the start of the movie. Brian is no longer a cop, and he’s a full-on street racer. Why hasn’t he been arrested? He’s not hiding.

It’s now 9:22 a.m. and I’m going to get really tired of extended meandering driving scenes. I can see this movie falling in line with other “Number 2” movies trying to find its footing, Like Mission: Impossible II. Trying to build a world is hard, especially if you don’t have a main co-star returning.

I’m enjoying Tyrese Gibson in the movie; the only other thing I’d seen him as was a rather humourless soldier in one of The Transformers movies. Now Brian and Roman (Tyrese) are trying to win better cars. I’m going to go have breakfast.

Here comes a little nightclub torture scene, and I’m pretty impressed that I recognized Mark Boone Junior just by seeing his hair from behind.

That’s twice the camera has focused close-up on the cigar cutter held by the villain Carter (Cole Hauser). I’ve seen enough movies from the 1980s to know that someone’s losing a finger. If not, it’s breaking a famous dramatic writing rule put forth by Russian playwright Anton Chekhov. It goes like this: “If in the first act you have hung a pistol on the wall, then in the following one it should be fired. Otherwise don’t put it there.”

So, we’ll see.

The ending is a little flatter in this one. The whole movie feels like it could be a re-write for the first film. It doesn’t feel like it’s furthering Brian’s story all that much (other than getting him back to policing), and, I hate to harp on it, but without Dom in the story it just feels like a placeholder.

I did love the Dukes of Hazzard-style stunt of launching a car off the road and landing on a boat. And Tyrese wins the one-liner contest with “Ejecto seato, cuz.”

I hope that Carter returns later in the franchise, if only to fulfill the promise of the cigar cutter. Maybe it was in a deleted scene?

Moving on.

Tag Line: How fast do you like it?
Directed By: John Singleton
Written By: Gary Scott Thompson, Michael Brandt, Derek Haas
Cast: Paul Walker, Tyrese Gibson, Eva Mendes, Cole Hauser, Ludacris
Runtime: 1 hour and 47 minutes.


Slam Wrestling’s Hollywood Headlock Rating Scale: 2.5
1: Unsafe Worker (Avoid!)
2: Pre-Show Performer
3: Mid-Card Material
4: Main Eventer
5: World Title Winner

The Fast & The Furious: Tokyo Drift (2006)

I remember when this came out I figured it was the end of any chance at a franchise. Diesel was already gone, off aiming for bigger and better things, and now all of the other cast are gone? And it’s a spin-off? It felt like a straight-to-DVD special.

I wasn’t even a fan, but when I saw the trailer in the theatre I felt sorry for them.

Okay, so we begin with an implausible trip to Tokyo. I’m, um, not convinced that this guy Sean (Lucas Black) is the dude that can step in and carry this movie, let alone a franchise. He’s another person that I recognize but can’t place from where. So, yeah, I’m looking up a lot more info than I usually do during these movies thus far.

OK, hold on, I know him from, among other things, Sling Blade, which is amazing because he was just a kid but I recognized him. More importantly, I just stumbled upon the sacred viewing order of Fast & Furious movies. Apparently, Tokyo Drift has been retconned into the number 6 position. So, I have to stop it now, start the next one, and come back to it.

That’s okay, not much has happened yet. I’m only 13 minutes in.

Fast & Furious (2009)

So, is this where The Rock shows up and makes John Oliver’s day?  I don’t even know. I think it must be this one or the next one. However, I’m going to try harder to not look stuff up during the movies.

Immediately it’s Dom & Letty in the opening scene to set the tone. The stars are back, the storyline from the first movie continues and … wow, where is that road?? The downhill they’re about to embark on while trying to pull off another truck heist is an astounding location.

Again, I’m not a car guy – but I’d love to drive this road. It’s the Templin Highway near Los Angeles.

I can honestly say that the visuals and cinematography of the opening ten minutes puts this movie above the entire first two installments already. Add to that Walker’s running chase that has all the hallmarks of a modern James Bond / Jason Bourne sequence and it’s clear that these movies are entering new territory.

I can already see, though, where this tone and storytelling is going to splinter fans of the franchise. People that love the first movies for the street racing are not going to be happy.

Wait, Letty is murdered? Off-screen, after she survived the hair-raising truck sequence? Not even an on-screen death for Michelle Rodriguez? I don’t buy it. She’ll be back later this movie.

At Letty’s funeral, there is an unintentionally hilarious image of street racing cars lined up in a row. I guess when you’re about that life, you don’t have a beige Ford Focus for just doing groceries and attending funerals.


I surprise myself by how excited I am for the impending scene with Brian and Dom about to meet up again as they both chase down the same lead to his apartment.

It’s now 11:20 a.m. and we’re finally getting to a race. I don’t mean like I’ve been anxiously awaiting it; I’m just surprised that it’s taken this long when the previous movies all started with one.

Brian picks a car. Win and you get in. Yadda yadda. This is the part where I tune out, kind of like when Anakin Skywalker had to win the podrace for the plot to continue. Again, I like stunts and action, I just like them more when there’s more than a hint of purpose.

Hey, Wonder Woman is here. I didn’t know Gal Gadot was in this movie. Or movies? I’ll find out soon. At least the race was a bit cooler, if still perfunctory.

I’ll just say that I’m not going to be comfortable with Dom having a new romantic interest in this film, as they’re hinting at something with Gadot. Has anyone even mentioned her name? Not having a name would surely indicate that she’s not a serious character.

Now there’s a party, and it’s starting to feel much more like one of the first two movies with a lot of clips for dudes. I should’ve been counting the number of dancing butts and breasts shots that don’t even show the actors’ faces. That must be an awkward thing to list on your résumé.

Yeah, Dom is missing Letty too much. No romance for him.

The movie moves through some exposition so we can catch everyone up, now that the gang is (mostly) back together. Dom and Brian have tracked down the dude that killed Letty, and Dom goes for sizzle and not steak as he blows up a car (which blows up other cars). It looked great but it let the bad guy get away.

Whoa, Vin Diesel just shrugged off a bullet.

We get the story on Letty joining up on the undercover scene with Brian – it’s a pretty good twist. Wait a minute: someone is getting a fax in 2009? Now I’m trying to remember when I stopped using faxes, like when I stopped using 3.5” floppies. These Fast & Furious flicks aren’t exactly top-of-the-line technology-wise.

Brian gets in trouble after the botched operation to go after a drug lord. But it wasn’t his fault! It was the guy from Agent Carter (Shea Whigham) who didn’t wait for the fax with a positive ID! I guess that’s why e-mail is superior.

Coming to the end, it’s cool to see the nature of the film changing. The first and second films were told with very functional imagery. Number four has much more style. The desert chase was fun. The tunnel drive was cool too, but maybe there should have only been one of them.

It’s 12:20. I see Vin Diesel is a co-producer, I’m having lunch while the next one starts, and I’m reading more about “fridging” since Letty never showed up again. I was really surprised by that.

And no Rock yet. That has to be next one.

I urge you to read more about the “fridging” philosophy. It has to do with characters in fiction whose main purpose is to die and act as inspiration for other characters. It is primarily focused on female characters fulfilling this role for the development of male characters. Once you think about it, it’s hard to not see it in other shows and movies.

Tag Line: New Model. Original Parts.
Directed By: Justin Lin
Written By: Chris Morgan,  Gary Scott Thompson (characters)
Cast: Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Michelle Rodriguez, Jordana Brewster
Runtime: 1 hour and 47minutes.


Slam Wrestling’s Hollywood Headlock Rating Scale: 3.5
1: Unsafe Worker (Avoid!)
2: Pre-Show Performer
3: Mid-Card Material
4: Main Eventer
5: World Title Winner

Fast Five (2011)

I enjoy how it picks up right where things left off in the previous movie. It’s got a touch of the Rocky movies in how it re-visits the previous ending to launch the new story.

As I’m watching a good fight scene on the train, I realize now that I picked the wrong horse many years ago. I’ve seen every Transformers movie despite their bad storytelling – always hoping that the next one would be better – and these Fast & Furious films are better so far. I mean, again, numbers one and two were decent at best, but after number four and the first few minutes of Fast Five, I can see that the franchise is heading in the same direction of big spectacle action sequences that Transformers went for and I think F & F is doing a better job so far.

Actually, the one Transformers movie I haven’t seen is Bumblebee with John Cena, and I suppose someday I’ll be seeing him in F9. So, there’s some poetry there. Also, I’m referencing The Transformers an awful lot.

What a crash into the lake. Great sequence. I’m so buying into this.

Aaaaand here’s The Rock as Hobbs. He arrives and is essentially given an entrance just short of using his theme music, and he has the good lines in the early going.

Let me explain my position on Dwayne Johnson, just for some context. I never liked Rocky Maivia or The Rock. I remember his underwhelming arrival at Survivor Series as he broke Goldust down with that Shoulderbreaker of Doom, and I actually liked him less once he came into his own as The Rock. He’s far too fond of routine and predictable juvenile antics to win me over.

As an actor, though? I think he’s a true superstar. I’ve been impressed by just about everything I’ve seen him do. I don’t know how much range he really has, but what he does, he does really, really well.

1:10 p.m.: Everyone’s in for “one last job”. Again, I’ve seen enough movies to know that “one last job” means that either it’s not the last job, or someone is dying. Or both.

Which leads me, inevitably, to start thinking about Paul Walker. Again, you have to remember my perspective here: I have no idea when it is in the franchise’s production that Walker dies. I’m starting to watch these later movies with that in the back of my mind, though. It’s sad watching him knowing what lies ahead.

Back to the movie. “We need a team” – which means everybody is back. I’m watching these for the first time and seeing the entire gang together (minus Letty) is such a fun experience. I can only imagine what it was like as a lifelong fan of the series, after it probably seemed doomed, come back to this point where it all ties in together.

Ah, there’s a street racing scene coming up featuring more butts and boobs. Dom says it’s like being back home and gets a laugh from Brian. However, and I gotta say I’m all for this, the race itself is cut because it doesn’t matter. All that matters is that they won the car they needed.

Once more, let me try to make sure I’m explaining myself properly. Give me a great chase/race scene – just save it for a moment in the movie when there’s a lot at stake, and don’t throw away your best bits on a scene that doesn’t carry much weight. What it means is that when you get to the really important car chase at the end, you haven’t used up a lot of the enthusiasm for it.

Hobbs and Dom have a good scrap. That’s to be expected. Seeing Vince (oh yeah, he’s also back!) and Dom sporting weapons like pros is a little jarring. Why wouldn’t one of them drive while Brian, the actual cop, gets out there with the gun?

I think there’s a face turn at the end by Hobbs. Or is it a heel turn? The lines are so blurred. A federal agent shooting at cops? Even corrupt ones? I don’t know about that. Though, a big deal is made of Elena (Elsa Pataky) being one of the only incorruptible cops. I don’t know, give her enough time with these bad dudes and she’ll come around.

Remember how “one last job” meant a good chance someone would die?  I wouldn’t have picked Vince. Oddly, even though he was just added to the plan the night before, when he’s dead a lot of the team figures they have to quit because they can’t do the job a man short. Well, they were ready to do it without him one night previously, so …

Probably best not to pull on the plot threads.

Pretty cool driving scene towing a giant safe around town. The former street racers take down a kingpin, all get immensely rich, and Brian and Mia are expecting a child. Life is pretty darn good. The very end goes for full Rocky III, and Brian and Dom race like they’re Stallone and Weathers on the beach in short shorts.

First impressions on the addition of Dwayne Johnson? He’s a scene-stealer and a game-changer, and immediately looks like he belongs in this franchise.

Tag Line: Feel the Speed. Feel the Rush.
Directed By: Justin Lin
Written By: Chris Morgan, Gary Scott Thompson (characters)
Cast: Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Jordana Brewster, Tyrese Gibson, Dwayne Johnson
Runtime: 2 hours and 10 minutes.


Slam Wrestling’s Hollywood Headlock Rating Scale: 3.5
1: Unsafe Worker (Avoid!)
2: Pre-Show Performer
3: Mid-Card Material
4: Main Eventer
5: World Title Winner

Fast & Furious 6 (2013)

We get a retrospective opening credits. I guess, to be fair, we are looking back at over ten years of movies at this point so it’s helpful. Hobbs has trimmed his goatee (looking like he did when he was in that year of taking on Cena and CM Punk) and he needs Dom and the team for a mission.

“The team” has fully transformed into an elite special unit. They are no longer street racers and mechanics. Roman agrees with me that “this is not what we do.” Well, it is now, so there.

I notice, I think, what John Oliver was talking about. Although the movies without The Rock didn’t suck, Johnson is such a commanding presence that he dominates a lot of scenes – even as a newcomer to the franchise. The other big thing that I know is coming, but don’t know when, is Johnson and Diesel having a spat and a fall-out. I don’t know if it’s after this movie, the 7th, or 8th, but once more I’ll say that with the heavyweight presence that Johnson brings to the screen, I wonder if seeds of competitiveness weren’t destined to grow into some in-fighting.  I’ll find out more later, I’m sure.

I was hesitant to buy into a love interest for Dom before, but his character being with Elena, who has also lost the man presumed to be her true love, makes some sense.

Well, it doesn’t matter because Letty’s back! Amnesia is such a great retcon device, but amazingly they did have the foresight in Fast & Furious to not actually show her death on screen. I’ll pat myself on the back for not trusting that. Then again, it was probably luck on their part. They couldn’t have been planning this the whole time, could they?

There’s a new kind of race between Dom and Letty: I think the stakes are her memory. Sort of. You win and you can remember what you’ve blocked out. Something like that.

Shaw’s team includes a big beefy guy named Klaus (Kim Kold) who is destined to fight Hobbs. Gina Carano is on Hobbs’ team as Riley. After watching her in The Mandalorian, I feel like I’m seeing her everywhere now.

I’m a little surprised to see Shaw in here played by Luke Evans. Again, having jumped ahead and watched Hobbs & Shaw already, I’m guessing that Shaw was re-cast as Jason Statham? Perhaps Evans wasn’t returning due to working on Beauty & The Beast or something. I’ll have to check how the timelines might have conflicted. Later.

It’s 3:00 p.m. and I go on a break to do some house chores, including dishes. I’ll miss some exciting chase stuff, no doubt, but I’m honouring Brian’s rule from the first movie that the cook doesn’t clean.

It’s not long after I’m back that Letty is kinda sorta back on the hero squad and cars are chasing the plane down the runway. The big beefy Klaus is facing off against Brian, which is not the fight I expected to see. He trades up for Dom, which makes more sense. Then Hobbs gets involved, so you have Vin Diesel, The Rock, Kim Kold, and Luke Evans staring each other down. Evans is like that Sesame Street song where one of these things is not like the others.

Oh, and there’s this Doomsday Device, for the Hollywood Headlock history books:

Once again, the car battle stuff means more in these final scenes, ridiculous though they are, because I find it’s adding to the story and not just thrown in. Although, let’s be honest: airplanes beat cars. There, I said it. There goes Gal Gadot, sacrificing herself for Han (Sung Kang). Seriously, did she have a name? I learn that it’s Gisele. I must have missed that earlier, but I don’t think it was spoken a lot. A funny role for her – seemed like she should have earned a bigger send-off than to be tied up with Dom’s survival.

I’ll call something else here at the very end: Dom surviving a fiery explosion and slow-mo walking out through the smoke and flames is the top manly moment in the whole series. They have two more movies to prove me wrong.

Tag Line: All roads lead to this
Directed By: Justin Lin
Written By: Chris Morgan, Gary Scott Thompson (characters)
Cast: Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Dwayne Johnson, Michelle Rodriguez, Luke Evans
Runtime: 2 hour and 10 minutes.


Slam Wrestling’s Hollywood Headlock Rating Scale: 3.5
1: Unsafe Worker (Avoid!)
2: Pre-Show Performer
3: Mid-Card Material
4: Main Eventer
5: World Title Winner


Now …. Back to Tokyo Drift

I can definitely say that while backing up to Tokyo Drift might make the timeline work, it’s a jarring return to the earlier T&A of F&F and street racing style of the first movies.

My son, 16, joins me for parts of the fest, but not much. He says these must be the “dude-iest” movies of all time. I reply with probably not the absolute dude-iest, but then I can’t offer up any other candidates. So, maybe they are.

We’re supposed to get behind this lead guy, Sean? He’s not an anti-hero, he actually strikes me as a jerk. I wish they didn’t pin the hopes of the movie on him. Even back then, before the retcon, maybe Han should have been the lead.

Now, the other thing about Han in this movie is that while the point of this viewing order is to help explain his place in the story, it’s equally jarring to see him go back to a life of street racing after he had evolved into the world-saving hero that he became in the fourth to sixth movies. Or, does it makes sense that he’s lost his will and is kind of slumming it? I suppose it does.

5:30. Dinner break. Burgers. The movie plays on.

Ah, Han. How strange that he has such a big role in the later movies, which were actually the earlier movies, and doesn’t survive this one.

The night-time race down the mountain was visually very cool. Very sparky. But what a lame trick of the camera to show Sean’s POV, then cut to the camera POV going over the edge and falling, only to cut back to show (I guess) that it’s what would have happened if Sean had lost control. That was cheating.

I don’t know if this will make sense to anyone, but it’s like a Cobra soldier sneaking up on a G.I. Joe right before the commercial break, and there’s no way that Joe is going to get out of this one … then when they come back from commercial it’s like they rewound time and now the Joe has turned around in time to see the Cobra guy coming.

Oh, I love the Tokyo Drift theme song by Teriyaki Boyz. I just do.

All right, so a Vin Diesel cameo appears at the end to start tying things back together; but at the time it was tying things forward? I have a hard believing that Tokyo Drift was part of a grand plan, but the cameo makes me question things.

Anyway, the timeline is restored. This one was fine.

Tag Line: On the streets of Tokyo, speed needs no translation…
Directed By: Justin Lin
Written By: Chris Morgan
Cast: Lucas Black, Zachery Ty Bryan, Shad Moss, Nathalie Kelley
Runtime: 1 hour and 44 minutes.


Slam Wrestling’s Hollywood Headlock Rating Scale: 2
1: Unsafe Worker (Avoid!)
2: Pre-Show Performer
3: Mid-Card Material
4: Main Eventer
5: World Title Winner

Furious 7 (2015)

Oh, okay.  Statham is Shaw’s brother. I presume that Luke Evans’ Shaw isn’t dead. Nor, for that matter, do I believe that Gisele is dead. Basically, unless I see a death on screen, I don’t count it. It’s why I still think Mace Windu is alive in Star Wars somewhere.

Why in the world is Letty’s grave still there? Dom is with me on that one. I kind of get it when Letty says it’s a philosophical message about the old her being gone … but come on. It’s weird.

There’s great camerawork in the fight scene between Hobbs and Shaw in the office. It includes a Rock Bottom, because why not? Has anyone done a tally of Rock Bottoms delivered in Johnson’s filmography? I remember one in The Rundown.

It’s cute watching Dom and Hobbs finish each other’s sentences. How could they not get along in real life? Not long into the film, though, Johnson is evidently out of this movie with Hobbs laid up in hospital. Was that part of the conflict resolution? Again, I don’t know when the real-life blow-up happened (yet). Maybe Johnson was busy on another movie. I’ll find out later.

So who else is gonna be in this movie? Kurt Russell. Huh. And now Djimon Hounsou. As is always possible, there are a lot of Marvel Universe folks working together or at least in close proximity. Russell, Hounsou, Diesel, Idris Elba (he counts from Hobbs & Shaw), Shea Whigham. That’s all I’ve got, but I’d bet there’s at least one more.

The skydiving car sequence is right up there on the awesome/ridiculous scale with The A-Team skydiving tank sequence. That whole thing was incredible. The running up the bus to catch hold of the bumper of the skidding car? Awesome.

And I’m one hundred percent in on taking things to an all-time ludicrous level as Dom jumps from building to building in Abu Dhabi. In the car with Brian, crashing through windows and soaring with the greatest of ease, mocking physics.

I guess I’m from the school of thought that figures ridiculous stuff that borders ever so perilously on the tip of being believable can be nitpicked. Once you cross into ludicrous territory, though, then what’s the point of arguing about it?

That being said, the plots in these films are mattering less and less. Don’t get me wrong, the plots weren’t the most important things to begin with, but by film number seven it’s just the same kind of running after this person to stop that person and bring the other person in. The same thing happened to the Die Hard movies where John McClane, very much like the characters here, also went from a resilient and clever guy to, well, unkillable.

Well, I guess Ronda Rousey now counts, in hindsight, as a wrestling/actor, although she wasn’t at the time. This was also her WrestleMania cameo year with The Rock, so that’s an interesting connection.

Oh, poor Vin Diesel. You held the crown of ridiculous manly movie moments for exactly one film. Now, I know that I’m a few years late to this party, but let me gush about how it doesn’t matter that Hobbs probably needed more time to heal, that he would have lost a little muscle mass, that he might not have received a plaster cast in the first place (although, this is the franchise that lauds 3.5” floppies and fax machines as cutting edge technology) – this is as sublime a moment as that handshake/arm-wrestling bit between Carl Weathers and Arnold Schwarzenegger from Predator.

Not much else to say until the ending. Here are my thoughts immediately after finding out that this was the movie that Paul Walker hadn’t finished.

Bear with me as you have to put yourself in my shoes, and remember that I had no idea at what point in the franchise he died. Obviously, I knew by the time I’d come to this film that it was down to two movies. I knew they had used some body double stuff and CGI to complete his performance, but I didn’t know when it would all happen. I thought it was maybe Fast & Furious 6, but it nope. So, I thought Furious 7, but even towards the end I still thought, honestly: nope. I mean, I was looking for it, but the work they did was so well done. On first viewing, at least, it was seamless and very impressive. If I watch it again, I’ll be fascinated to watch for it.

Plus, that was a superb storyline send-off for both Brian and Walker. I was so impressed and surprised with how they sent his character into a new life instead of killing him off, which is more standard procedure for this kind of situation.

I remember when Walker died I certainly thought that it was very sad, but after a day of watching these movies I found it very emotional. I can only imagine the feeling for someone who grew up with these films.

Tag Line: Vengeance hits home
Directed By: James Wan
Written By: Chris Morgan, Gary Scott Thompson (characters)
Cast: Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Dwayne Johnson, Michelle Rodriguez, Jason Statham
Runtime: 2 hours and 17 minutes.


Slam Wrestling’s Hollywood Headlock Rating Scale: 4
1: Unsafe Worker (Avoid!)
2: Pre-Show Performer
3: Mid-Card Material
4: Main Eventer
5: World Title Winner

Now, the finish line awaits me:

The Fate of the Furious (2017)

It’s just after 8:00 p.m. The opening feels very much like it belongs in the early movies. In fact, it could honestly have been the beginning of 2 Fast 2 Furious had they had decided to follow Dom’s story instead of Brian’s.

Hey! The redhead wildling from Game of Thrones (Kristofer Hivju)! He’s popular in our household.

Once again, I can see this becoming a Dwayne Johnson movie. He owns the beginning with the Haka dance scene with his daughter’s soccer team. His escape from prison (alongside Statham) is legendary. He rips apart handcuffs like it’s a cast on his arm or something! His banter with Statham is what makes a whole spin-off movie with them possible. So, again, I wonder, is this the reason there was such trouble between him and Diesel? Professional jealousy?

I haven’t seen anything yet on my post-movie IMDB trivia check about the feud, so it must have occurred during this one. I even wonder, and not in a trite way, if the loss of Walker played a part in everyone’s emotions during the filming of this one. I’ll bet lots of people were on edge about their roles in the film.

Tyrese Gibson still holds the crown for my most pleasant surprise of actors in this run of movies. Just wanted to say one more time what a treat he’s been.

Huh – New York as a main setting. I’ve seen enough episodes of The Bachelor or The Bachelorette to know that there’s a big difference between being told you’re headed to Bali or Spain and being told you’re headed to New York. Great city – not exactly exotic.

That being said, it does afford some cool visuals. I like Dom being turned false-villain, though I seem to recall reading (or maybe seeing from a trailer?) that it would be less obvious that he really wasn’t bad. I wonder if they figured that it was just impossible to pull that off after all these movies.

Charlize Theron makes for a fine actual villain, and I liked her remote control of vehicles. The cars cascading out of the parking garage and crashing around corners were great visuals, a little over-the-top, and only somewhat believable. In other words: it’s the perfect recipe for a Fast & Furious sequence.

Dom escaping after being trapped by four (or five?) cars driven by his team just keeps on pushing the edge of plausibility. But then, the fact that this guy is even carrying around a nuclear football makes sensible storytelling a secondary factor.

I’m getting really hazy during this one. My wife has joined me for the only full movie she’ll watch all day, and I think she’s enjoying it more than me because my attention is wavering. I’ve had a lot of popcorn and soda, and by the time the Shaw brothers show up (see! He wasn’t dead! Where’s Gisele?) and Statham performs an absolutely adorable fight sequence while cooing to Dom’s son (a surprise son that he had with Elena, who doesn’t survive the film: bringing us back to fridging), which allows Dom to rejoin the good guy fight as they battle a nuclear submarine that crashes up through the ice to try and destroy them … well, let’s just say that the second half of this movie just kind of washes over me.

Plus, after what was a surprisingly emotional ending for Furious 7, I suppose Fate of the Furious was bound to be hard-pressed to follow. It was just kind of … there.

Tag Lines: New roads ahead; Family no more.
Directed By: F. Gary Gray
Written By: Chris Morgan, Gary Scott Thompson (characters)
Cast: Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Dwayne Johnson, Kurt Russell, Michelle Rodriguez,
Jason Statham, Charlize Theron
Runtime: 2 hours and 16 minutes.


Slam Wrestling’s Hollywood Headlock Rating Scale: 3
1: Unsafe Worker (Avoid!)
2: Pre-Show Performer
3: Mid-Card Material
4: Main Eventer
5: World Title Winner

So … that’s it! An admittedly anti-climactic ending to a just over 15-hour day. There’s no question that Furious 7 was my favourite of the “After The Rock” set, and I don’t think you can go against the original for the best of the “Before The Rock” films. I surprised myself with how much I enjoyed it all. I am certain that there are fans of the earlier movies that are dismayed with what the franchise has turned into, but I’m all for the super-human type adventures over the street racing shenanigans.

I also finally get into the beef between Diesel and Johnson and it’s a bit of a non-thing, actually. It just sounded like two alpha-males (which Diesel himself has said) having spent too long together. I’ve experienced it – we all have – and I’m not even an alpha-male so that must be extra tough when you are. I’ll bet with some time apart, like any good wrestling promoter, Diesel will eventually welcome Johnson back for FF-14 or something like that and there will be a bro hug to shatter the spirit of villains everywhere.

To finally answer for myself whether John Oliver was right: no, he wasn’t. I agree that the movies improved over time (although I will absolutely understand anyone who prefers the first three as strictly “street racing” movies rather than global spy adventures), but that wasn’t because of The Rock. In my opinion, that was because of Vin Diesel, director Justin Lin, and writer Chris Morgan. They turned these movies into something else entirely and cranked up the action sequences to 10, then broke the dial.

I also know for sure, and goodness knows I would not have thought this before today, that when the ninth film finally arrives, I’ll eagerly see it. After today, this series has earned me going to check out at least one new Fast & Furious film. Hopefully, in the cinema.