It’s Time For The “Fast” Franchise To Accept Its Fate and Let Brian Die
My relationship with The Fast franchise began back in 2001 when the first of many hit the big screen — and introduced us to a world of muscle cars and a gang of hotties that couldn’t get enough of the thrill that comes with the open road and the race to nowhere.
It’s that neverending destination that helped fuel the other movies that kept the franchise thriving despite the threat that it had possibly lost its compass for good with the ushering of the third installment — Tokyo Drift.
Vin Diesel who plays the iconic Dom Torreto — the enforcer and head of the family — was quite instrumental in reviving the glory of a somewhat sickly institution — that had the potential to surpass even the most ambitious expectations. Diesel drafted his vision for the upcoming films into an extended saga that could only be initiated if he was granted the responsibility and title of — producer.
Prolific director, Justin Lin — who had already been in the driver’s seat with Tokyo Drift seemed to have found his way back to the winning lane — as he helped propel the Fast films into a more dynamically-inclined aesthetic that only got more sophisticated and robustly entertaining with each entry.
There is no doubt that 2011’s Fast Five — set in the effervescent climate of Rio de Janeiro is by far the best of the lot. Aside from the complexly indulgent kick ass sequences that began with a train heist — and ended with our heroes (Dom and Brian) hauling a very large vault that had been ripped from a bank — through the streets of Rio while evading the cops on their trail — the fundamental reason for the success of the film was embedded in the code and loyalty of family.
Fast Five was really the ultimate reunion (sans Letty) and it felt so good to witness how well each of the members got along — without any hint of awkwardness. Their past associations had brought them together — and all they wanted to do was win — and win big!
The franchise became a global juggernaut after the fifth installment grazed the worldwide box office and proved beyond a doubt that there was still more than enough gas to energize the irresistible combo of an appealing diverse cast — racing for their lives with the assistance of a dope soundtrack and exotic locations.
But, when the going gets good — there is always the threat that the “ride or die” mantra might hit a little too close to home.
That happened during the filming of Furious 7 in 2013, when Paul Walker, who played former cop, Brian O’Connor — was tragically killed when the car being driven by his friend and fellow racer, Roger Rodas — skidded out of control and crashed.
Walker’s shocking death expectedly shut down production indefinitely. Director James Wan who was new to the intimidating schedule of helming something that had evolved into a systematic beast of burden— was now tasked with the unthinkable.
Completing the seventh film was a formidable undertaking that required all hands on deck — and then some. It became a quest to honor Walker’s legacy at all costs and that included hiring his two younger brother’s to help complete the scenes that their older sibling hadn’t yet filmed.
It was a very expensive venture— not to mention the physical toll it took on everyone involved, but the end result was more than worth the sacrifice. When Furious 7 premiered in the spring of 2015 — there was no doubt that Paul Walker had been exacted the very best send off anyone could’ve imagined.
Shortly after the revolutionary reception of the seventh installment — Vin Diesel wasted no time in announcing that despite the loss of his on-screen/off-screen brother — The Fast franchise intended to move full speed ahead with the pending last three films.
The hunt for the next director was a tumultous exercise that was documented by the industry trades — as they detailed the behind-scenes strife between Diesel and director James Wan during the filming of Furious 7. Needless to say, Wan definitely didn’t vacate his wearied position unscathed.
Finally — it was confirmed via Diesel’s Instagram and Facebook — that Straight Outta Compton helmer — who had previously worked with Diesel in 2003’s A Man Apart was stepping into the ring of chaos and vehicular mayhem. The pieces came together quickly after that — with the addition of Charlize Theron as the cybervillain — Cipher and Helen Mirren — dropping by to fulfill her longtime dream of being in a Fast and Furious movie.
The Fate of the Furious opened in the spring of 2017 — and conquered each of its territories with profitable fury. What it didn’t do — was capture the seamless rhythm of a family that has spent over a decade effortlessly juggling the key qualities that have kept them united for this long.
Dom — under the influence of Cipher becomes the enemy that has to be stopped — and the gang under the direction of the most annoying dude on the planet (played boringly by Kurt Russell) with the aid of his even more annoying sidekick (played by the useless Scott Eastwood) have to contend with the drastic loss of the two leaders that up till now — have powered their existence.
It’s absolutely ludicrous for us to buy the fact that the crew would reject the idea of reaching out to Brian (his exit was explained as his need to focus on his growing family with Mia (Jordana Brewster), without the distraction of life in the “fast lane) at a time when they need him the most — and instead rely on the spotty navigation of two random men they literally don’t even know at all.
The eighth film is by far the worst film of the franchise, but even more importantly it signals the dire need to release the character of Brian O’Connor from the chains of association — by allowing him a very fast and furious demise.
This should have happened in Furious 7, but the emotional and violent loss of Walker couldn’t have inspired bequeathing Brian a similar fate.
But, after barely tolerating the latest offering — I have to conclude that money isn’t everything. Yes, Hollywood operates on the principle of endless zeroes and hefty receipts — but in this case — the slot machines are beeping at the expense of integrity and consideration.
The Fate of the Furious showcased familial tensions that didn’t have much to do with Dom’s temporary insanity. It was mostly attributed to how lost and lethargic the family seemed — not to mention the disconnect — especially with Letty. Michelle Rodriguez was out of her element and seemed pissed at the role she was embodying.
The rest of the team, tried and failed to reprise their signature moves. Roman (Tyrese Gibson) was unfunny as fuck, Tej (Chris “Ludacris” Bridges) lamely got through his lines, and Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel) basically wasted all her time being driven around with very little to contribute.
The absence of Brian and Mia was almost too hard to bear and in an oddly constructed scene — where the gang voices their adherence not to reach out to them for help — it immediately became apparent — that these films won’t survive this charade for much longer.
There’s no plausible way that Brian would avoid the opportunity to rumble with his peeps if it meant rescuing the one person in the world that he would give his life to save. And there is no legit way to downplay that brotherhood — even with Dom naming his newly discovered son after Brian — at the end of Fate of the Furious.
The Fast franchise needs to accept its fate and let Brian die — furiously.
If cars can be tossed out of an airplane in midair or fall like rain from skyscrapers onto the streets of Manhattan — then surely there is an even more dramatic plan that can be instituted to ensure that Brian O’Connor meets his end in a blaze of glory.
Obviously the franchise’s commitment to evoke the spirit of Paul Walker/Brian O’Connor is a tool intended to assuage fans or even provide respite to the late actor’s family. But, in actuality — it’s a super weird compromise that is both distracting and disheartening — and I’m willing to bet that those that love and miss Walker — aren’t that psyched whenever the ads for the next film pops up in all of the regulated places.
There is no way — a real family can realistically bounce back from the brutality of losing a beloved member without warning — especially when he was the glue that held them all together. And they shouldn’t have to be able to function as normal because that’s a feat that echoes dysfunction.
The Fast Family needs to properly mourn and the only way to do that is to give Brian the sendoff he was supposed to have — now that we’re ready for it. And honestly, he wouldn’t have it any other way.