The Lone Ranger wanted to be the next Pirates of the Caribbean, but instead it wound up being the next John Carter. Pirates of the Caribbean because both star Johnny Depp and try to breath new life into a forgotten genre. John Carter because both take a decades old story and bloat them to ridiculous lengths. The other thing they all have in common is Disney. Why they decided to invest so much money into a 30’s-50’s era character is beyond me. Sure other movies were made, but this was the first big budget attempt. The Lone Ranger can in a lot of ways be considered an early version of a superhero. He wore a mask, had an alter ego, and even had a sidekick. The movie was plagued with problems from the start. While they got the Lone Ranger’s white hat, black mask, and white horse right, his Native American ke-mo sah-bee Tonto was a different story. Johnny Depp’s casting drew controversy since he lacks any Native ancestry. That didn’t bother me as much as how much of a spotlight he’s given. Armie Hammer is practically a supporting player. You’d almost confuse it for a Tim Burton project considering Depp is a weirdo in crazy makeup and acting alongside Helena Bonham Carter. On top of hugely over-the-top train crashes and shoot outs, The Lone Ranger is 30 minutes short of being 3 hours long. They pad the runtime so needlessly with an elderly Tonto telling the story to a kid, animals acting strange, and poop jokes. For me the action didn’t really start to get good until the very end. The climax is the best part, because it uses the classic theme and feels fun. He even says his iconic catchphrase “Hi-Yo Silver, away!” The rest of The Lone Ranger is just one big western whimper.
U.S. Marshals is the spin-off to The Fugitive no one knows exists. Probably because it’s not titled The Fugitive 2. Even though it practically follows the same exact story. Only with slightly more focus on Sam Gerard and his colorful crew of U.S. Marshals. Really a spin-off was most likely only made to squeeze more out of Tommy Lee Jones’ Oscar winning character. They lost their credibility the second they put Jones in a chicken suit. From there nearly every beat is the same as The Fugitive. Another wrongfully convicted individual goes on the run after a crash and attempts to avoid being arrested while uncovering the truth. Wesley Snipes is that fugitive, but the difference between him and Kimble is that we don’t know if he’s really innocent. Making it really difficult to care if he makes it or not. The crash this time occurs on a plane. It’s bigger, not better. There’s even another cornering scene that’s not as good. Really the only difference is that Gerard is joined by a DSS agent played by Robert Downey Jr. So basically Iron Man assists Two-Face in trying to capture Blade. All of it ends with another twist that sort of comes out of nowhere. Without an already great story to stand on, U.S. Marshals is just a less satisfying chase with no one to sympathise with.
Spin-Off of: The Fugitive
The Fugitive is one of the most acclaimed movie adaptations of a TV show ever made. So much so that it was nominated for 7 Academy Awards including Best Picture. The Fugitive was a very popular show back in the day. Viewers couldn’t look away from Dr. Richard Kimble and his search for the “one-armed man” who killed his wife. Normally movie versions of a TV series are unable to capture the same feel as the latter. Yet The Fugitive was somehow able to condense a 4 season long chase into an equally engaging 2 hours. Harrison Ford is at his best as the wrongfully convicted doctor. He’s able to escape death row when his bus crashes and is hit by a train. While on the run from the law, Kimble can’t help but lend his medical expertise to whomever he crosses. All while searching Chicago for the identity of the “one-armed man.” The most standout performance however, is by Tommy Lee Jones. Who plays a U.S. Marshal with a sense of humor and purpose that hunts down Kimble at any cost. It was this role that won Jones an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor. Their most iconic moment comes when U.S. Marshal Sam Gerard has Kimble cornered in a storm drain. Kimble pleads “I didn’t kill my wife,” as Gerard simple replies “I don’t care.” Showing that it isn’t personal between them. Kimble escapes by doing a Peter Pan right off of the dam. He escapes several more times, but eventually uncovers the truth behind why his wife was murdered. Bringing this game of cat and mouse to a thrilling close. The Fugitive is how you make the small screen perfect for the big screen.
Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw is the first spin-off in the ridiculously popular Fast & Furious franchise. Since they stole the show in The Fate of the Furious, it only made sense to give them their own movie. It also succeeded in keeping Dwayne Johnson and Vin Diesel as far away from each other as possible. But the real rivalry is between Luke Hobbs and Deckard Shaw. They’ve fought, shared a prison cell, and had to work together in the past. In Hobbs & Shaw, the fate of the world is in jeopardy. So they have to set aside their differences once more to save it. While at the same time having more hilarious arguments. Really Hobbs and Shaw couldn’t be more different. One’s a jacked federal agent and the other’s a limber British mercenary. Together they have to stop a literal supervillain from retrieving a world ending virus. Idris Elba plays Brixton, a cybernetically enhanced superhuman. Sure the series has reached superhero levels, but this is over-the-top even for Fast & Furious. I know what your thinking, what about the cars and butts? Well they manage to sneak a couple in there. While at the same time incorporating crazy car stunts in with the well choreographed action. It’s here John Wick director David Leitch’s style shines through. Fast cars are best used in intense car chases involving motorcycles and tow cables. The primary beautiful woman is Deckard’s younger sister Hattie Shaw. Vanessa Kirby holds her own alongside Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham. Just like the rest of the franchise, family is very important to both men. From Shaw’s relationship with his mother and sister to Hobbs’ Samoan heritage. Hobbs & Shaw is full of illogical action and unexpected cameos to hold us over until #9.
Spin-off: The Fate of the Furious
The Fate of the Furious is running on star power, massive action set pieces, fast cars, and beautiful women alone. After 8 freaking installments, what more could they do? The cast is barely getting along at this point. Almost like Paul Walker was the glue that held them together. Dwayne Johnson called out Vin Diesel, Tyrese Gibson needs a paycheck, and Michelle Rodriguez is uncomfortable with her role in the franchise. The Fate of the Furious deals with the fall out of Dom’s family. After Dom seemingly betrays his crew after a routine mission. 2017 seemed to be the year of heroic betrayals. It temporarily leaves his team consisting of: Letty, Rome, Tej, and Ramsey. Along with an obvious Brian substitute. Luke Hobbs is caught and sent to prison where he runs into Deckard Shaw. After a superhuman prison fight, Mr. Nobody forces them to work together to take Dom down. He’s working for a cyberterrorist named Cypher. Played by Charlize Theron with dreadlocks (for some reason). Dom’s reason for going bad does make sense though. Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham practically hijack the movie. As they’re responsible for every awesome action scene. Even Helen Mirren steals the show as Shaw’s mother. Making the spin-off Hobbs & Shaw a must. Between the cars and butts are scenes of them evading remote controlled cars, driving on the ice while being chased by a submarine, and protecting a baby on a moving plane. Wasn’t this franchise once about street racing? Although it’s hard to say what Straight Outta Compton director F. Gary Gray’s style is supposed to be. The Fate of the Furious offers enough over-the-top nonsense to satisfy fans of the long running franchise.
Preceded by: Furious 7
Furious 7 brought everything full circle. By finally connecting the out of place The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift and giving Paul Walker a heartfelt send-off. Walker sadly past away in a tragic car accident before filming was complete. Rather than kill off Brian O’Conner, he and Mia were simply retired. Furious 7 picks up with everyone trying to live a normal life. Unfortunately, the sins of their past come back to haunt them. Jason Statham plays Deckard Shaw, brother of Owen Shaw. He takes revenge on the team by killing Han and blowing up the Toretto family house. So despite the very 2006 feel of Tokyo Drift, the movie now takes place in the far future. Only now does Vin Diesel’s cameo make sense. Sean doesn’t join the team though since he’s just a street racer. Something that’s officially left behind in favor of crazier stunts. In exchange for finding Shaw, Kurt Russell’s Mr. Nobody tasks Dom’s crew with rescuing a hacker named Ramsey who’s invented a high tech surveillance system. Fast cars and beautiful women guarantee the hacker will be a gorgeous young lady. Dom’s team now consists of: Brian, Letty, Rome, Tej, and Ramsey. Luke Hobbs is left out of commission after an epic fight with Shaw. The only time Dwayne Johnson is underused. Leaving room for more cars and butts than ever before. The team drive out a plane, Dom and Brian drive through 3 separate skyscrapers, and Dom launches his car into a helicopter. Completely illogical, but awesome. Makes me glad this was the installment I saw in theaters. Brian and Dom going down separate roads brought grown men to tears. “See You Again” should have been Oscar nominated. Since Horror director James Wan managed to make Furious 7 the heart of the franchise.
Fast & Furious 6 evolved the franchise even further. This time street racing is ditched in favor of a spy adventure. Fast cars and beautiful women are on both sides of the latest conflict. After their “last job,” Dom is enjoying retirement with Elena. It’s not long before Luke Hobbs finds him and brings him in for another mission. This time it’s personal. As a mid-credits scene revealed Dom’s sweetheart Letty to still be alive. It would have been a mistake not to bring Michelle Rodriguez back to the growing franchise. Dom’s team now consists of: Brian, Rome, Tej, Han, and Giselle. All of whom leave their luxurious lives to help out. Mia stays home with her son and Leo & Santos couldn’t be bothered. Hobbs is also unofficially part of the team along with his new partner Riley. Vin Diesel and Dwayne Johnson put their brawn to good use. They all work to bring down an evil version of their heist crew. Owen Shaw is the first villain worth mentioning as he’s the one keeping the amnesia stricken Letty on his team. This revelation leads to Dom desperately trying to get her back. Cars and butts are still on full display and the humor just gets better. But it’s really the action that’s gotten crazier. The laws of physics simply don’t exist in this universe. Characters are flung onto vehicles and walk away from explosions unschatted. Fast & Furious 6 has two seperate climaxes. It was apparently supposed to be a 2 parter. The first climax features the team evading a tank on a highway. The second climax features the team trying to bring down a plane on the longest runway in history. Fast & Furious 6 fully embraces it’s ridiculous set up.
Fast Five was the much needed boost this street racing franchise needed. As it ditched the street racing in favor of a massive ensemble action heist flick. It was a decision that more than payed off. Making Fast Five the first film in The Fast and the Furious franchise to get genuinely positive reviews. Dom, Brian, and Mia are now fugitives living in Rio after breaking the former out of police custody. In order to start a new life, the three of them plan a heist to steal over $100,000,000 from a corrupt businessman. This puts them in direct conflict with Diplomatic Security Service agent Luke Hobbs. Casting Dwayne Johnson in the part was just what this franchise needed. He’s jacked, covered in baby oil, and ready to go toe to toe with Vin Diesel. Their testosterone filled fight is one to behold. Another clever decision was bringing characters from every previous movie together. Dom’s heist team consists of: Brian, Mia, Rome, Tej, Han, Gieselle, and Leo & Santos. Each of whom helped the main characters in some capacity in the past. Their comedic banter has gotten a lot better. Of course Hobbs couldn’t stay an enemy forever. He and fellow officer Elena join Dom’s team and become part of the family he loves so much. Fast Five officially throws all logic out the window. With big action set pieces that define the laws of physics. Like jumping out of a moving car and into the ocean or driving with a giant safe attached. Of course the shift to more action doesn’t eliminate the fast cars and beautiful women. There’s still plenty of cars and butts to ogle. Fast Five just became a serious blockbuster in the process.
Fast & Furious brought the franchise back to its roots. After two loosely connected sequels, they simply decided to drop the the’s from the title. That’s not confusing at all. Dominic Toretto and Brian O’Conner finally reunite after 8 years. The chemistry between Vin Diesel and Paul Walker is the biggest highlight of one of the weakest installments in the series. While not as dumb as the second or as out of place as the third, Fast & Furious is just too self-serious. Films about fast cars and beautiful women should know how to have fun. After an impressive rig hijacking sequence, Dom’s girlfriend Letty is seemingly killed by a drug lord. Brian somehow got his job back and it puts he and Dom into direct contact. The two work to repair their shattered friendship while at the same time trying to find Letty’s killer. There’s still cars and butts, but they take a back seat to more character drama. Like Brian and Mia falling for eachother all over again. Dom gets a sort of love interest in liaison Gisele. Played by a pre-Wonder Woman Gal Gadot. Fast & Furious is technically a prequel because Han is still alive. A decision that seemed to spell interesting things for the future. Fast & Furious is a serviceable detour before we get to the good stuff.
The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift has next to nothing to do with The Fast and the Furious. Aside from the fast cars and beautiful women, none of the original characters star in the “sequel.” The only connection is Vin Diesel’s cameo at the very end. Let’s just say his appearance wasn’t cheap. The lead this time is Lucas Black. He plays a random southern teenager named Sean Boswell. His performance leaves a lot to be desired. Sean’s obsession with street racing gets him shipped off to Tokyo. Where there’s plenty of Japanese cars and butts. Long time series director Justin Lin injects his own Asian flare into the movie. Along with the location, Lin made connections to his film Better Luck Tomorrow. Specifically having Sung Kang play his character Han. He’ll be very important down the line. Despite the terrible acting, questionable series placement, or choice to use another dated rapper with Lil’ Bow Wow, The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift actually has more focus on street racing then any of the other films. The art of drifting plays a key role in almost every race in the movie. So if any of that excites you, The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift might be less out of place then initially thought.