This article contains Fast and Furious franchise spoilers
It’s sort of amazing just how far The Fast and the Furious franchise has come—that it is even a franchise at all—when you consider where we started. The 2001 film could very easily have been a cheesy CW-esque drama fueled by biceps and bravado. But amid the roaring engines and nitrous-boosted action, there was the kernel of something special. The relationship between Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) and Brian O’Conner (Paul Walker) elevated the film above base melodrama, and even though many of the subsequent films struggled to recapture the magic, the fifth attempt finally realized the series’ great potential.
Fast Five remains the purest distillation of the series and its overall greatest installment. The drama is believable, the cast is large but not unwieldy, and the action scenes are some of the best Hollywood has yet to produce. Fast Five also unwittingly began an arms race, as successive franchise films strived to one-up their predecessors with uneven results. The film certainly casts a very long shadow.
The First Time With the Entire Crew
The Fast and the Furious franchise has become synonymous with two things: crazy car stunts and star-studded casts. While the cars are a perpetual staple, the casts were much smaller in earlier entries. We meet Roman Pearce (Tyrese Gibson), Tej (Ludacris), Han Lue (Sung Kang), and Gisele Yashar (Gal Gadot) at various points during the first four films, but Fast Five brings them all together with Dom and Brian. This would become the blueprint upon which all future films would be based, and it’s also the best use of the expanded cast.
The fifth iteration is a heist movie, full stop. It is reminiscent of Ocean’s Eleven in that a colorful crew of personalities coalesce around a shared goal: getting very rich, very fast. Much of the fun comes from watching these people solve problems in their own unique ways. Later films use the same basic setup—because it works—but the impact ends up watered down between the ever-larger casts and the evermore ridiculous stunts. But in Fast Five, the formula worked to perfection.
The Best Chase Scene Doesn’t Involve Cars
That might be borderline blasphemous—this is, after all, a series with oodles of car chases—but it is nonetheless true. After Dom and Brian are framed for the death of several DEA agents, the US government deploys Lucas Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) to Brazil to bring the fugitives to justice. Hobbs is a smoldering brick outhouse and the kind of agent who always gets his man. Thanos likes to brag about being inevitable but Hobbs got there first!
Hobbs tracks the fugitives to their friend Vince (Matt Schulze), but the minions for Hernan Reyes (Joaquim de Almeida) arrive first, kicking off a three-way race across the favela. The scene has strong Jason Bourne vibes as the characters race across rooftops and skirt through narrow alleys. A temporary alliance is formed when Dom saves Elena Neves (Elsa Pataky) from Reyes’ gunmen. But the highlight is the way Hobbs pursues Dom. He’s a freight train in combat fatigues, and though Dom gets away, you know it’s only a matter of time before these two clash. Speaking of which…
Dom vs Hobbs
For a franchise ostensibly about souped up cars, there are some incredible fight scenes. Hobbs vs Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham). Either of the prison fights. Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) vs Ronda Rousey (technically the character’s name is Kara but c’mon, she’s fighting Ronda Rousey!). But the clash between Dom and Hobbs reigns supreme.
Hobbs tracks the crew back to their hideout and practically ejects from his armored humvee in his eagerness to get after Dom. The men collide with the terrible weight of gravity. These are big men, and they fall like mountains. The fight is so sweaty you can practically smell the testosterone. Someone is tossed through two windows and two walls. A single wall would be enough to stop most fights, but these guys are cut from granite. Other fights are flashier or deadlier, but you can’t top this one for pure adrenaline-racing awe.
When You’re Here, You’re Family
Dom’s love of family—and his quasi-belief in it as a kind of higher power—has given rise to thousands of memes. It’s become the gift that keeps on giving, and it dovetails with the satirical trend of the series as a whole. But the family vibe was once pure, and it got its start here.
Dom has been a family man since the very first film. But something about Fast Five brought his paternal instincts to the surface, and they became a rallying cry around which all future installments return. We first see it in the scene where he finds out his sister Mia (Jordana Brewster) is pregnant. In his joy, he decides to stay with Mia and Brian despite the increased risk of being discovered. And he later adopts the entire crew into his extended family. As they discuss the heist, Dom remarks that money comes and goes but “the most important thing in life will always be the people in this room.” He then says in Italian, “cheers, my family.”
On one hand, this is a sign of admiration and respect, a signal that they are in this together. But it’s also Dom pledging his protection and support from that day forward. When he tells a dying Vince he’ll look after his son, we know it’s a promise Dom will never break because family is everything.
Balancing Insanity With Improbability
The last several Fast and Furious films have a rather loose association with reality. Cars skydive, make 100 foot jumps between skyscrapers, and even zip around outer space. The franchise has become a parody of itself. But Fast Five is just gonzo enough to be believable and yet still be awesome.
Probably the standout action sequence from the entire franchise comes at the end of Fast Five. Unable to surreptitiously crack the vault, the team elects to just steal the vault, ripping it from the basement with a pair of heavily modified Dodge Chargers. What ensues is a city-destroying chase as the vault becomes a ten-ton wrecking ball. The best part? The scene is almost entirely practical effects. They really dragged an enormous vault around the city and it shows!