Welcome back to Worst to Best week….which is basically just me telling you the worst to best films of a film franchise.  These are just my personal opinions…so I understand if you vehemently disagree with me.  It is your right.  As it is my right to cast them in this order.  Have a different opinion?  Feel free to voice.

The Fast and the Furious franchise is one that gets bigger, louder, and dumber with each and every film.  And, for the most part, I love early single one of these films (with one exception).  It gave Vin Diesel and Paul Walker the roles they will always be remembered for and some amazing characters that come along for the ride.

I’m going to kick this bad boy off and see what happens.  If there is one bad film in this bunch it is truly #7…

#7 – FURIOUS 7

I love the Fast franchise and, up until 7, thought each film in the franchise was fantastic.  I was pretty sure (and hopeful) that there would never be a chapter of this saga that I would dislike.  When I sat in theaters watching Furious 7 I was pretty dumbfounded.  I couldn’t believe it.  There was finally a Fast film I really didn’t like.

It’s not the stupid action.  I expect each and every chapter to be bigger, louder, and dumber.  Once the franchise took a huge leap with the 5th chapter the production team seems satisfied in trying to out do the last film in every single way.  And why not?  If they want to keep the audiences coming in they need to.  This film grossed upteen kazillion dollars so it was way over successful.

It’s hard for me to really pinpoint what I dislike about this film.  I’m sure having one of the main stars die mid-film was hugely detrimental.  I’m sure after that point there was a massive black cloud over the production.  All the CGI and stand-ins in the world can’t replace a huge, well liked actor like Paul Walker.

The action sequences were there.  A huge chase through Los Angeles.  Cars crashing through a skyscraper, flying through the air, and crashing into another skyscraper so our heroes could outrun the baddie.  And how can we forget a bunch of cars coming off an airplane, flying through the air, parachutes being let loose, and all the cars (thanks to GPS?) all landing in the same place to pull off a mission!?!?!?

The plot made NO SENSE.  The team is out to get Deckard Shaw after the death of one of the teammates and a bombing.  The government (aided by a character called Mr. Nobody played by Kurt Russell) asks the team to retrieve the God’s Eye (a computer tracking program) and, in return, Nobody will help the team track down Deckard.

The problem is Deckard literally shows up trying to kill the team the ENTIRE FILM.  Why are they trying to track down this God’s Eye when literally their target continues to show up.  Even for a Fast film it makes zero sense.

I like how they finally tied the films back to Tokyo Drift – which up to this point had been the redheaded stepchild of the series.  It was just a shame that they brought back Lucas Black’s Sean Boswell only to have him in the movie for an entire three minutes.  A damn shame.

The Rock is also sidelined for most of this film.  From what I understand he had obligations for filming a different film but made time to be a part of this film.  It shows – and the viewer just really wishes he was in this more.

This is the one I actually don’t like.  No matter what the rest of the order is for the rest of these films…I still love the rest of these to death.

#6 – The Fast and The Furious: Tokyo Drift

This is such a weird film to have as part of the franchise.  With Vin Diesel opting out of the second film and Paul Walker not coming back for the third film the producers of the franchise certainly found themselves in a weird spot.  Discontinue the franchise?  Or start fresh with some new characters?

They decided on new characters.  When Sean Boswell (Lucas Black) gets in major trouble in Texas he is shipped off to live with his father in Japan.  He’s under strict instructions to stay away from cars – but this being a Fast movie we all know that’s not going to happen.

He’s introduced into the world of tokyo drifting but Twinkie (Bow Wow) and soon falls in with Han (Sung Kang).  Now the character of Han Lue is said to be ‘created by Fast and the Furious Chris Morgan’ – though in director Justin Lin’s film Better Luck Tomorrow Kang played a character named Han Hu.  I always thought they were the same character – and it would have been very cool if they HAD been the same guy.

The plot is pretty stupid.  Boswell ends up on the bad side of a local thug whose uncle is in the Yakuza.  He’s protected at first by Han until the character is killed.  Then there’s an end-all-be-all race for the final showdown.  Who will win?  The American kid?  Or the Yakuza nephew with the drifting skills?

Honestly…who cares.

The drifting in the movie was pretty cool – I will give them that.  Visually it is quite appealing especially when they are drifting through very busy Tokyo streets.  Beyond that?  It’s a bad movie.  It’s also the lowest grossing in the franchise – without its stars there wasn’t too big of a pull.  Still – it made some decent money based on the name alone.

The good?  The writer/producer/director is Justin Lin who would carry this franchise back to its glory.  He does a great job directing and just does better and better with each Fast film he’s a part of.  The film introduces Sung Kang as Han and even though the character dies in this movie the franchise pulls off the MOST AMAZING RET-CONS EVER when they bring him back for the sequels.  How?  It turns out that this film actually occurs somewhere in between the seventh film.  Everything made after this film is a “prequel” until you get to the seventh flick.  That is pretty sneaky.

Sonny Chiba also shows up in a small role.  Great to see the Street Fighter back on the big screen again.

#5 The Fast and the Furious

The first Fast movie is a somewhat classic though it can be cheesy as hell.  Paul Walker as an undercover agent sleeping at some dude’s garage trying to infiltrate Vin Diesel’s “gang” to find out if they were behind hijackings…???  I mean…that’s the plot.  I never bought Walker as a cop in this one.  I just didn’t.

But it was really Vin Diesel’s performance that made this film so memorable.  It made Vin a superstar.  The film was a surprise hit and really opened the eyes of many jerkoffs who suddenly thought they could race cars.  Coming out of the movie THERE WERE JERKOFFS RACING CARS OUTSIDE THE THEATER.  And suddenly everyone was trying to soup up their cars.  They saw this street racing film and suddenly every idiot was trying to be a street racer.

I like in this one that they try to throw suspicion off of Vin with a Japanese biker gang.  I just really like Rick Yune’s Johnny Tran character.

The one thing that stands out from this movie is there was ANOTHER MEMBER OF THE GANG.  There was Dom, Jesse (Chad Lindburg) who was killed, Letty (Michelle Rodriguez), Vince (Matt Schulze), and LEON (Johnny Strong).  Watch the later movies and you just ….forget about Leon.  Leon didn’t die.  He just never shows up again.  He’s part of Dom’s “family”…these movies are all about “family…but they never say what happens to Leon.  Vince shows up again and actually has an end to his overall arc.  But Leon?  Man he got dissed.  He got dissed even worse than Lucas Black.  There isn’t even a throwaway line like, ‘Where’s Leon?” “Oh he got a job at Wells Fargo as a mortgage lender.”  NOTHING.

One thing I loved is that at one point they walk into Dom’s house and Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story was playing on the TV.  Both were directed by Rob Cohen.  Easter eggs like that always crack me up.

What did I LOVE about this movie?  Jordana Brewster.  She was GORGEOUS.  No wonder Brian O’Conner was hanging around the house.  I would too.

Cheesy fun all around.  Still a buster.

#4 Fast and Furious

After Vin sat out on two and three (yes he made a cameo but, come on man, that was one minute) and Paul sat out on three everyone pretty much thought this franchise was dead.

How Justin Lin got everyone back is beyond me.  I’m sure Neal Moritz was kicking major ass trying to make it happen.  Having Vin on as a producer I’m sure certainly helped a ton.

Everyone sold this movie short and just expected it to come out and go away quickly.  It totally blew out the expectations, had a huge opening, and was a big hit.

This has Walker now working with the FBI which was puzzling taking into account how the second movie ended.  But whatever.  I never bought Walker as a cop in the first movie but I think he matured as an actor because I really did buy this time around that he could be some sort of law enforcement.

The plot is a bit better this time around.  O’Conner is helping to capture a drug trafficker named Braga.  The same drug trafficker may have killed Letty so Dom sneaks back into the States to investigate her death.  When a car race (!?!?!??!) comes up as an “interview” to work for the Braga both Dom and Brian are there to try to get inside.  Brian’s superiors want Dom – especially since they know O’Conner let him go in the first film.  But nothing is going to stop Dom from figuring out who killed Letty.

This movie had a good sub-villain: a bad ass who worked for Braga named Fenix (Laz Alonso).  Alonso was a great actor in this movie and I found him to be quite menacing.  As the main bad guy Braga wasn’t that menacing what this series was missing was a great bad guy.  Fenix was that bad guy.  You really wanted him to go down and Dom & Brian to be the ones to take him down.

This flick also introduced Gisele (Gal Gadot) but her role in this film working for Braga is quite small.

It also brought back Han in the beginning of the film.  Yup…Han died.  But he was back!  I’m sure once Lin got the job for this movie he was like, “Screw it.  I’m bringing Han back no matter what it takes.”  I’m glad he did.  Sung Kang plays a great character and I couldn’t imagine these movies without him.

The movie overall is decent enough but the big problem is the last five minutes of the movie sets up a better film that you want to see.  You watch these last five minutes, the credits roll, and you are sitting there going, “What!??!?  You can’t end it like that!!!!!!”  Thankfully you only had to wait two years to get that sequel.

#3 Fast & Furious 6

Continuing the team mentality that stemmed for part 5 – Fast & Furious 6 had the team coming together to try and stop Owen Shaw (Luke Evans).  After the events of the last film there was no need for any further adventures.  But when Letty mysteriously appears to be alive and working with Shaw it bring Dom and Brian back to find out what is going on.  Of course they then have to bring Han, Gisele, Roman, and Tej along.  And since he did such a great job they brought back Dwayne Johnson’s character as well.  This one introduced his assistant – a bad ass named Riley Hicks (Gina Carano).  Gina Carano in a Fast movie?  I was pretty much sold right there.

Part five really changed this franchise forever and since it made one zillion dollars it is no surprise that they kept the team going here.  Car racing is really second to the good team trying to hunt down the bad team to find Letty.  I liked that this one connected to part 4 by bringing back Braga and Shea Whigham’s FBI character.

The team makes a killer sweetheart deal to bring down Owen.  It’s just a shame that they don’t get to relax after they complete the mission.

This one did have some bad ass car chases.  This one also had an ending on a plane trying to take off that keeps getting weighed down by the team.  It keeps going down the runway.  The characters keep fighting.  The cars keep chasing the plane.  The plane keeps going down the runway.  More fighting.  More cars.  More runway.  It is the longest runway on the entire planet.  But hey – at least it was fun and suspenseful.  So I was willing to suspend disbelief that there is really this 50 mile runway that this plane can take off from.

At the end of the day this movie is really fun.  It’s a true sequel to Fast Five.  That film should get most of the credit on why this was such a good sequel.

#2 2 Fast 2 Furious

This comes down to personal choice and I know this.  There are MANY Fast fans who hate this movie.  ME?  I think it is pure genius.  For many years it was my favorite and it took a long time for it to come down to the #2 spot.

This movie had a ton going against it.  Rob Cohen didn’t come back to direct.  And then VIN DIESEL DIDN’T DO IT!  He was literally the best part of the first movie and you don’t bring back the charismatic guy who made that film great!?!?!!!

They hire John Singleton to direct the movie.  Boyz in the Hood, Higher Learning, Poetic Justice, Shaft… John Singleton!  John doing a car racing movie?  I’m in!

No Vin?  John’s like, “I got you.  Don’t worry.”  And he brings in Baby Boy’s Tyrese Gibson.

They have Paul Walker’s character on the run from the law after what happened in the first movie.  They change locals to Miami.  They introduce Tej (Ludacris), Jimmy (JIN!), Suki (Devon Aoki), and Monica Fuentes (Eva Mendes).  It’s a bold move.  Strip away everything and everyone you knew about the first movie except for the main character (and one ancillary character from the first flick) is so risky.

I loved it.  I thought it worked beautifully.  Again – I wasn’t a big fan of Paul Walker as a cop in the first flick.  But here, on the run, I totally bought this character.

Who didn’t I buy?  The film’s bad guy is Carter Verone played by Cole Hauser.  I like Cole and I think he’s a great actor.  He’s done many great flick – many favorites of mine – including Good Will Hunting and Dazed and Confused.  But Cole tries to play this menacing boss figure.  It doesn’t work.  He doesn’t feel like the bad guy.  It feels like Cole Hauser saying the lines of a bad guy.  I don’t buy it.

I did totally buy Eva Mendes as an undercover agent who may be in just a bit too deep.  It was a fun character.  I’m glad they brought her back in a cameo many years later to tie her back in.  The same can’t be said for Jimmy.  Man…Fast movies forgot about Jimmy and the rapping world just forgot about Jin.  Poor guy.

How do you replace Vin Diesel with Tyrese Gibson?  Well you make the character an arrogant loud-mouth who hates Brian O’Conner over some shit in the past.  I’m sure that is how it was just set up if Dom was the main character.  Either way Tyrese was awesome.  I still love his line, “We hungry.”  LOVE IT.

This flick has some awesome and even kinda stupid car chase scenes.  It makes the film really memorable.  The bridge in the beginning.  The hundreds of street cars at the end sequence.  It gives us the car races and chases while still feeding us the plot.  I dig it a ton.

It took awhile but it finally was replaced by…

#1 Fast Five

Chris Morgan took over writing duties on the Fast franchise with Tokyo Drift.  I have no clue what was going on in his head.  But when he thought, “Hey we should bring back Tej, Han, Giselle, Roman, and Vince.” it was pure, pure genius.

I LOVED that they brought all these characters back together and into one film.  And this wasn’t just a car racing film.  This was a heist film in Rio de Janeiro!

It’s great because Dom, Brian, and Mia are on the run after busting Dom off the prison bus.  They hook up with Vince in Rio and then the plan basically comes together to rip off a drug lord (Joaqim de Almeida – who I’ve loved since Desperado).  So what do they do?  They bring the whole gang back together (including Tego Calderon and Don Omar from part 4!) to plot this whole big elaborate plan.

When it doesn’t work?  They improvise and just go balls to the walls.

This one introduced Dwayne Johnson as Luke Hobbs.  Dwayne is a successful actor.  He is fun, he is charismatic, he is just a natural on-screen.  But in this movie?  He is a beast.  He’s a monster.  He looks like he injected enough steroids to kill an elephant and then lifted weights for seven months straight.  Hobbs is not a man you want to mess with.  And here him and his team come to Rio to take Dom and his crew down.

It’s suspenseful.  It’s exciting.  It all comes together BEAUTIFULLY.

Of course this also started the trend where in each movie this team will come back together to do something because someone did something or something.  Whatever.  Now when there is a problem the whole gang needs to come back together to fix it.  But Fast Five it wasn’t an expectation.  It was the first time.  And it was amazing.

AGREE?  DISAGREE?  LET ME KNOW!  We’ll be back tomorrow with more Worst to Best!!!