When last we saw the über-suave, street-racing thief Dominic Toretto, he was speeding off into the Mexican sunset. His nemesis-turned-compadre, undercover L.A. police officer Brian O'Conner, didn't have the heart to bring him to justice.
Eight years later, little has changed.
Dom and his crew of hot rod pirates, including girlfriend Letty, have holed up in the Dominican Republic, on the run from authorities everywhere. And they've recalibrated their patented high-speed heist tactics. Their new quarry: gasoline carried in slow-moving tanker trucks. "Liquid gold," Letty calls it.
But Dom knows it's only a matter of time before Bonnie and Clyde go down—somewhere, somehow. And so he leaves Letty in the middle of the night ... for her own good.
Meanwhile, back in L.A., O'Conner (now an FBI agent) is drawing a bead on a Mexican drug lord known as Braga who employs street racers to ferry heroin across—or more accurately, under—the border via an intricate system of tunnels. Assuming the role of an street racer yet again, O'Conner is set to compete for a spot on Braga's elite drug-running squad in order to bust the cartel from the inside out.
Dom's path inevitably collides with O'Conner's when the thief learns that his beloved Letty has been killed by the lead driver in the cartel's posse. And so he, too, turns up to earn a spot on the varsity heroin-delivery squad. His intent? To exact vengeance for Letty's murder.
Once again, rivalry and camaraderie flow like high-octane fuel as Dom and O'Conner team up to shut down Braga's operation. Their chosen steeds this time around? Dom's fire-breathing, old-school Chevelle SS and O'Conner's turbocharged, new-school Skyline GT-R.
Dom and Letty may be thieves, but there's nothing they wouldn't do to protect their own. Likewise, Dom and O'Conner repeatedly have each other's backs—or bumpers, as the case may be. Dom's sister Mia tries (to no avail) to convince him that Letty wouldn't want him risking his life to avenge her death. She also tells her brother that she loves him.
Elsewhere, Dom saves a female ringleader in Braga's group. In return, she reveals the location of the drug lord's stronghold. O'Conner's superior warns him that a single bad judgment call is all that separates him from the criminals he pursues (though, admittedly, he delivers this positive message after O'Conner inappropriately roughs up a fellow agent).
[Spoiler Warning] Prior to her murder, Letty was actually working with O'Conner to infiltrate Braga's gang and bring him to justice in exchange for clearing Dom's name and record. O'Conner believes that Dom's service in helping nab a notorious kingpin is worthy of a commuted sentence. But a judge rejects that argument and sends Dom to prison. That kind of socially responsible message is unusual in this genre. So unusual, in fact, that the story doesn't end there. (I'll say more about that in "Other Negative Elements.")
Fast & Furious includes references, both visual and verbal, to characters' Catholic faith. At Letty's funeral, we hear a priest quoting from Psalm 23. Letty and Mia wear crucifixes, and Dom keeps Letty's hanging on his car's mirror. Before a meal, Mia scolds her brother for not saying grace first (likely a nod to a similar scene in The Fast and the Furious). Dom begins, "Thank you, Lord, for blessing this table ..." When he falters, Mia finishes, "... and for food, family and friendship."
A lingering camera shot pictures Jesus on the cross. Braga gives a Catholic priest a bag of money. The priest hesitates but eventually accepts it. He also offers a blessing for Braga, after which the criminal genuflects, kneels and prays. Dom and O'Conner capture him as he does so (Dom quips, "You ain't forgiven"), but Braga suggests that killing him in the church would be bad form. (They don't kill him.)
Part and parcel with the street racing scene are huge throngs of female hangers-on who wear next to nothing. Over and over again, the camera ogles women's chests and backsides—most of which are just barely covered by tight, revealing tops and super-short miniskirts.
A well-known racer has a party in which two groups of women (one pair, one threesome) passionately kiss and caress one another. Another set of three women are shown making out at a club. A woman wearing a tight tank top (sans bra) tries to seduce Dom.
After a passionate kiss, Letty climbs onto Dom's lap. It's implied that they normally bed down together. A sensual make-out session between O'Conner and Mia suggests that they then have sex.
Letty and Mia both wear cleavage-baring shirts. A reclining nude woman is visible in a large painting.
Races, chases, explosions and bullets. Fast & Furious offers all of them in roughly equal measure. And as is generally the case with this franchise, the street racing looks quite glamorous. It's portrayed almost like a video game at times thanks to a virtual reality map that tells racers where to go.
An illegal street race through downtown Los Angeles causes myriad accidents and results in huge collisions that presumably kill two racers. One gets T-boned by a truck. The other hurtles off a bridge. A long chase involves Braga's goons pursuing Dom and O'Conner across the Mexican desert and through the treacherous maze of tunnels beneath the border. Several chases also include automatic weapon shootouts that mow down perhaps a dozen or so unnamed bad guys.
Dom and Letty's attempt to steal gas from a tanker truck results in a huge explosion. Characters jump in and out—and off—of moving vehicles. Dom takes a bullet to the shoulder, and we watch as Mia later patches up the bloody wound.
The most viscerally violent image in the film involves Dom ramming the man who killed Letty, pinning his torso between two cars. Also painful to watch is the accident that almost kills Letty. A flashback shows her car flipping multiple times, and she's battered and bloodied at the end. A henchman finishes her off with a gun. (We see him point the pistol but don't witness the bullet's impact.)
A fight between O'Conner and Dom involves broken furniture and seven or eight fierce blows to O'Conner's head. Pursuing a criminal suspect, O'Conner jumps through a window, grabs the man, and falls several stories. Their downward plunge is stopped by a car roof. In a moment of uncontrolled rage at a fellow FBI agent, O'Conner rams the man's face repeatedly into a wall, resulting in a smashed nose and a long, bloody facial gash. Dom threatens to drop an engine on a mechanic if he won't reveal a bad guy's name. He also holds a man out a window and threatens to drop him. (He follows through on his threat; his would-be victim manages somehow to cling to the window ledge.)
Crude or Profane Language
One f-word and at least 20 s-words. God's name is abused a few times (twice it is paired with "d--n"). Dom calls the man who killed Letty a "p---y." And we hear a couple of crude comments that evoke masturbation and the male anatomy. Other vulgarities, used two or three times each, include "a--," "p---," "b--ch" and "h---."
Drug and Alcohol Content
Numerous scenes depict people at clubs and parties drinking all manner of alcohol—beer, shots, martinis. In one scene, a lieutenant of Braga's raises a toast, along with Dom and O'Conner, to the women they've loved and lost. Several times we see plastic-encased bricks of heroin.
Other Negative Elements
It momentarily seems as if Dom's crimes are going to be taken seriously when he's sentenced to prison. But as the film winds down, it's implied that O'Conner, Mia and some of Dom's old crew "rescue" him from his prison bus. O'Conner refuses to arrest Dom at the end of The Fast and the Furious—call it an act of sympathetic negligence. Here he goes out of his way to hijack a government vehicle and forcibly free Dom after the wily racer has been caught, convicted and sentenced. I call that an act of deliberate defiance.
Other not-so-virtuous moments involving O'Conner include him hanging on to $60 million in heroin to use as bait for Braga, stealing a Subaru from impound, and planting meth on another racer as a prelude to arresting him (in order to open up a second slot on Braga's drug-running team).
I'm hard put to offer a better summary of Fast & Furious than the one Paul Walker (who plays Brian O'Conner) provided for USA Today: "The cars are the stars. And who doesn't want to see fast cars and hot women?"
That quote just about gets the job done all by itself.
But let me say a bit more.
With Fast & Furious, like its predecessors, what you see is what you get—a relentless, adrenaline-inducing thriller that invites us to root for a bad guy trying to do good (Dom) and a supposedly good guy who often does bad (O'Conner).
Still, the main characters' muddy morals do invite further reflection. In a quiet conversation between O'Conner and Mia, he says he let Dom go in the first film because "I respected him more than I did myself." O'Conner recognized that Dom lived by his own, self-defined code of honor—something he realizes he doesn't have.
The message here—one that the film absolutely illustrates—is that constructing your own moral framework is more important than submitting to anyone else's. Thus, Dom can steal thousands of gallons of gas and O'Conner can bend (no, break) the rules, and there's little consequence. That point is rammed home when O'Conner apparently frees Dom right before the credits.
In addition to that problematic (and, for the record, postmodern) perspective on ethics, there are several other concrete content concerns: As we've reviewed the other movies in this franchise, we've noted that the film exalts reckless and illegal street racing. That's still true here. The film's lone f-word and liberal footage of sexy trophy girls are pretty much in keeping with what we've seen with previous Furious movies, too. As are scenes that feature women kissing women—an unfortunate nod to our Girls Gone Wild culture that's increasingly showing up even in PG-13 films such as these.
All in all, then, what Dom's and O'Conner's nitrous oxide-aided antics really represent is little more than a testosterone-saturated crime fantasy. And audiences are invited to strap in for the ride.
Maybe wait for the bus instead.