The ship landed and transformed into an unnecessarily neon-coloured car with an over-sized engine poking out from a hole in the bonnet and Gort hopped out of the driver's door. In response to my quizzical stare, Gort explained that he had purchased the vehicle with his annual bonus as an investment. He planned to use the spacecar's nuclear fusion engine to win illegal drag races against unsuspecting human drivers down on Earth.
It was this moment when New Empress magazine's editor, Helen Cox climbed out of the passenger-side door wearing a bikini and carrying a large piece of card with "Lap 1" written on it. I slowly turned to Gort and said: "You've been watching The Fast and The Furious again, haven't you?"
The Fast and The Furious series is a huge money spinner and has a cult of fans, but they have been almost unanimously critically-panned, so are they any good? Let's take a look at each movie:
The Fast and The Furious
The film that started it all is clearly a movie designed to appeal to the lowest common denominator: fast cars, shoot outs, criminal endeavours, undercover cops, tough guys, hot girls, it has it all. but the quality still shines through. It's cheesy as hell, but the cast are top notch; we know Diesel, Rodriguez and Brewster can bring it, but Walker, despite being strictly B-list, fits the role perfectly. The plot twists and turns, and though clearly improbable, actually makes sense. This is one of those rare movies that elevates exploitation cinema to the level of artistry and it fully deserves its success.
2 Fast 2 Furious
On the one hand, the plot to this sequel makes bugger-all sense and it's nowhere near as good as the first one. Name and actor aside, it's hard to tell whether Walker is actually supposed to be the same character. He's gone from a conflicted undercover cop to a criminal renegade forced into undercover work to save his neck with the flimsiest of rationales. On the plus side, we've now got Eva Mendes and Devon Aoki in bikinis, grizzly and inventive rat torture, ejector seats, electric car harpoons, Italian Job-style heists and jumping cars onto boats. This is The Fast and The Furious does James Bond and it's a plethora of great setpieces with a good cast; you can't complain.
Verdict: Better than you remember
The Fast and The Furious: Tokyo Drift
This next movie, from the thereon mainstay series director Justin Lin, ditched the cast and the plot and started fresh, theming the new direction around "drifting" cars - extended skidding around corners. Taking advantage of the Tokyo setting, the film opens strongly and the first time we saw it, we were excited. However, we were interrupted by an attack from the dreaded Black Dog Armada. When we finally got chance to watch it again, we were disappointed to find the quality plummeted almost from where we stopped watching. The high-school-sports movie feel of the opening was replaced with Yakuza shenanigans. This was reflected in the takings, with this being the only film in the series to make a loss in the States and they stuck to the formula from here on in. A third watch, however, reveals that the movie still has entertaining points, especially since it's the only one of the films that actually ends with a race!
Verdict: Better than you remember
Fast & Furious
Going straight back to the tried and trusted formula, Fast and Furious brought back the entire cast of the original movie and the winning formula, though kept a few references to Tokyo Drift so it wasn't a complete whitewash. Good old Walker is back to being a cop again; he's become an FBI agent now, as you do. By the end, though, he's back to being a criminal; he really needs to take some career advice... Anyhow, this film is one big, silly action movie, with some fantastic setpieces, but it's actually very light on actual car racing. The first movie managed to squeeze in plenty of gearhead fun with the crime thrills; and it is that reason alone that the original is better, because this is one holy hell of a rollercoaster.
Taking up the plot from the exact minute where the fourth outing ends, this is yet more of the same. It's crime thriller-heavy and car chase-light, but who cares when it's this much fun! This is a big-budget heist movie full of gleeful hilarity. Lin's mission is to give you exactly what you want to see: big car chases, big stunts, big shootouts, tense heists, self-referential humour, endless BAMF posturing, all the characters you want to show up and Vin Diesel vs The Rock in a fist fight! This is just a big ball of dumb fun and we love it.
Torque, made by the same production team behind F&F, is basically just F&F with bikes instead of cars, only it's even better than all the F&F films combined. Check out our review from a few years back.