I had my say about the “Fast & Furious” franchise earlier this month, before the latest installment, “Furious 7” bowed in theaters. (I saw it on opening weekend and it was as over-the-top and enjoyable as I had hoped.) I thought that was about as much “Fast & Furious” as this blog would ever really need, but yesterday I ran across this excellent critical appraisal of the full series (so far) by Jesse Hassenger at The A.V. Club. Hassenger traces the series’ evolution from a small scale street racing flick into an outsized omnibus for continually escalating action film tropes. He delivers some fascinating observations, including the franchise’s preoccupation with automobiles as aircraft, and the often homoerotic undercurrents that anchor it throughout. I found these passages in particular to make for a very canny assessment of the unique nature of the franchise’s entertainment value:
But beyond succeeding as robust action entertainment in their own right, one of the most amazing aspects of latter-day ‘Fast & Furious’ movies is the way they manage to work omni-directionally. Watching, say, ‘Fast Five’ doesn’t just goad excitement for future sequels; it actually manages to improve the movies that precede it, too…
In a way, the existence of the lesser Fast movies (which is to say, parts two through four) has become crucial to the franchise’s mystique. It’s easier to appreciate the way the later movies abandon the mission of the first when ‘2 Fast 2 Furious’ and ‘Tokyo Drift’ are there to show off the potential pitfalls of sticking to that formula. The less essential sequels also ease the backstory burden from the later films. Movies five, six, and seven have plenty of dopey scenes where characters stand around discussing family, loyalty, family, riding and/or dying for one last/totally not last time, and family, but there’s also a degree of trust that the audience knows these characters and their history—or doesn’t care and will get the gist anyway. The relentless march of the sequels, then, manages to sell aspects of the earlier movies that didn’t work that well at the time.
Read the full essay at avclub.com. And I promise not to write about these movies again.