Twenty years ago this week, Vin Diesel put pedal to the metal for the first time as Dominic Toretto, a.k.a. Dom, in “The Fast and the Furious,” a high-speed action-adventure about an undercover FBI agent (Paul Walker) monitoring illegal street racers suspected of hijacking truckloads of home electronics. Talk about your humble origins.
The movie initially was greeted by many critics (including yours truly) as a flashily entertaining but instantly forgettable recycling of characters and conventions from decades-old B-movies about hot rods and cool cats. (Even its title was cribbed from a 1954 Roger Corman opus.) Who could have imagined it would spawn no fewer than eight sequels and a stand-alone spin-off? Or that the increasingly faster and more furious franchise would evolve into a series of sci-fi-influenced capers involving a blue collar “Mission: Impossible” team?
With the arrival of “F9,” the latest entry in the ongoing saga, I thought it might be fun to once again rank all the “F&F” films from least to best. But be forewarned: Like the franchise itself, the list time-trips a bit. Also: While compiling the list this time, I couldn’t help noticing a few similarities — characters who won’t stay dead, steady increases in the lead lineup, etc. — to an earlier franchise, the Universal Monster Universe of the 1930s and ‘40s. Indeed, “F9” might be remembered as this franchise’s “House of Dracula” (1945) — a lesser follow up to a superior predecessor, “House of Frankenstein” (1944), that didn’t accomplish much by jumping the shark. (In the ’45 film, Lawrence Talbot was cured of lycanthropy.) It should be noted that, after “House of Dracula,” Universal felt there was nowhere left to go but “Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein” (1948). Consider the contemporary possibilities.
(Warning: Spoilers ahead for the latest installment, “F9.”)