I love a good challenge. If you push beyond your usual comfort zone, you’d be amazed at what you discover you are capable of. To be human is to forever seek out experiences that we think are beyond our limits, in order to realize who we truly are. I mean, I would never run a marathon because that would be stupid. However, I recently completed a much longer, perhaps more grueling marathon than running 26.2 miles, and that is watching all 8 Fast & Furious movies in a single day.
Was I out of my mind to think I could do this? Probably! But hey, if I’m crazy, so are Usain Bolt, Amelia Earhart, and MOST DEFINITELY Dominic Toretto, the alpha male antihero played by Vin Diesel that is the heart of the Fast & Furious franchise. I’d seen most of the films before, either on purpose or accidentally. I’m not a car person (I consider myself car blind, as I can’t distinguish most makes and models from each other and usually refer to vehicles with descriptions like “that blue-ish one that looks like it might be a Transformer”), and I don’t get the appeal of car racing. Despite all of this, I effing adore these movies. They make for easy watching—a pastiche of car chases, one-liners, and explosions. In the Fast & Furious universe, people say things like “He’s got nitrous oxide in his blood and a gas tank for a brain.” It’s ideal for when you want to wash away the memory of your soul-crushing week with the ease of tossing back a Corona. I love this franchise like Vin Diesel loves white tank tops.
In order to get through the first seven movies and still be able to squeeze in the newest release The Fate of the Furious at a theater all in one day, my brave friend and I kicked off the marathon at an ungodly 6:30 a.m. Also, we decided that to accompany the binge-watching, we’d add two additional on-brand challenges: 1) to plan of our meals for the day based on what The Rock eats as told to People magazine, and 2) do a 10-minute workout between movies to work on our glamour muscles. If you’ve never seen any of these movies, don’t sweat it. I’m not going to summarize the plots of each film (spoiler alert: they have no plots!) but I will fill you in on everything you need to know.
The Fast and the Furious (2001) started it all. Back in the original movie, we meet our main cast: Dom Toretto the small-time criminal with a penchant for street racing, his feisty high school sweetheart Letty, patient sister Mia, and undercover cop Brian O’Connor. There’s lots of scenes of illegal street racing, which is downright precious and adorable compared to the far-fetched action set pieces that occur later in the series. The action scenes still hold up 16 years later, and I am easily impressed by any stunt driving as I am someone who gets anxious behind the wheel if I happen upon a roundabout.
RATING: 4 out of 5 terrified pedestrians
The first sequel is called 2 Fast 2 Furious (I adore what this franchise does with its titles) and moves the action to Miami. Vin Diesel sat this one out but we gained Tyrese Gibson as a motor-mouthed sidekick to Paul Walker. This movie is mostly forgettable and is typically considered one of the weakest links in the franchise, but I can always find something to enjoy, and in this case it was the early Aughts fashion. This movie was released in 2003, a time before we wore our t-shirts fitted. Paul Walker spends much of the movie in oversized West Coast Chopper t-shirts. The gaggle of scantily clad women who are always hanging around the starting line sport low-riding pleather pants and backless halter tops. Also, I will take this moment to tell you that Tyrese Gibson built a fully-functioning Benihana restaurant in his backyard, which is my favorite thing I have ever read on the internet.
RATING: 2.5 out of 5 low rise thongs
Next, we put on 2009’s Fast & Furious. You may be asking me “Wait a second—that’s the fourth movie. Did you skip the third one?” We sure did! Our marathon was based on chronological order instead of by release date. Explanation: the fourth movie features a character, the amazingly named Han Seoul-Oh, who DIES IN THE THIRD MOVIE. Was this toying with the timeline an intentional move by the writers? I did a thorough internet search for all of 5 minutes and couldn’t find a solid answer, but I am rolling with the fact that this franchise has a nonlinear storyline just like freakin’ Citizen Kane. As for the fourth film, it marks the return of several characters we haven’t seen since the first movie (Dom, Letty, Mia), immediately kills one of them off (Letty), and introduces us to Gisele, played by future Wonder Woman Gal Gadot. This movie marks the point when the franchise starts moving away from its quaint beginnings in street racing and towards Michael-Bay-level set pieces (thinking flaming gas trucks tumbling down a hill, and our intrepid hero eyeballing its trajectory in order to expertly time it so that it bounces over the top of his car).
RATING: 2.5 out of 5 muscle tees
Before Fast Five, we did a 10-minute pilates set, because if you want to join the world’s baddest crew, you gotta have a strong core. Fast Five is a full-on heist movie and is one of the funnest installments, in my now-expert opinion. And if you start to think the film is getting too clever on you with its twists and reveals, you remember exactly what type of movie you are watching during a scene in which Gisele obtains the bad guy’s fingerprints off of her bikini bottoms (as a side note, there are SO many butt cheeks in this series). Fast Five is also noteworthy because it introduces Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson as Diplomatic Security Agent Luke Hobbs, who is on the hunt for our heroes. Oh yeah, I should mention that our good guys are actually sorta bad guys. This franchise is awash in moral ambiguity, just the way I like it.
RATING: My rating: 4.5 out 5 tribal tattoos
2013’s Fast and Furious 6: the return of Letty! Turns out she didn’t die, despite the coffin and funeral. Don’t worry about the reason why; I watched this movie 2 days ago and I already forgot. Here’s what you need to know: mixed martial artist Gina Carano comes aboard and has an incredible fight scene with Michelle Rodriguez. I love the female leads in these movies. There are definitely gratuitous booty shots and unnamed barely-dressed groupie extras throughout, but it also features some really amazing, strong, tough, skilled and impressive woman who get to do awesome stuff. Oh, and Dom drives a car through the nose of a plane to escape a flaming crash. Also, this movie takes place mostly in London, and as my friend pointed out, with their extensive criminal records and flagged FBI files, how are any of these characters able to fly internationally? I’m not even going to talk about this blatant act of pretending that physics don’t exist.
RATING: 4 out of 5 Coronas
Next up: Fast & Furious: Tokyo Drift (2006), the third movie released. It’s pretty forgettable, though I like the Tokyo setting and the race at the end is kinda cool. None of the original actors are in this one. Lucas Black (a poor replacement for Paul Walker) is not a likeable or interesting protagonist. Fan favorite Han is killed in an intended collision with Jason Statham (as revealed in the coda of Fast and Furious 6—the writers were either geniuses coming up with ideas 7 years out, or messing with shit as they go—I’ll let you be the judge!). By this point in the marathon, I felt like a runner going on fumes, but the final turn is in sight. From this point on, it’s a mental game.
RATING: 2 out of 5 culturally appropriated sake bombsHome stretch!
Furious 7 (2015): This movie vaults over the high bar set by the sixth movie’s asinine action shots by including—I kid you not—a scene in which the crew skydives cars out of an airplane.
And in possibly my favorite cinematic moment of all time, The Rock gets up from his hospital bed where he’s recovering from multiple serious injuries and decides to join his friends in a giant battle in the streets of Los Angeles by saying “Daddy’s gotta go to work” and FLEXES HIS CAST OFF. On a sober note, there’s a tear-jerking coda in which the gang says goodbye to Brian and Mia, who retire from high-octane shenanigans in order to raise their kids. This is because in real life, Paul Walker tragically died in a car accident. The film’s producers showed tasteful restraint by sending him off with a montage of flashbacks from previous movies. In the last frame, Brian O’Connor drives off into the sunset in a white Toyota Supra. BRB, got something in my eye.
RATING: 4.5 out of 5 Pitbull remixes
We stayed on schedule throughout our marathon, leaving the house just in time to get the movie theater for the just-released The Fate of the Furious. Finally, we reached the culmination of 15 hours spent watching movies, eating lean protein, and doing quick exercise circuits. I was so excited for rest and refined carbs. But first, one final cinematic experience to enjoy. There’s some fun surprises that I won’t ruin here since the movie is out right now. I will say that you get everything you expect: super expensive cars getting smashed to pieces, an escalation in ridiculousness of giant action set pieces, and of course there’s butt cheeks. Our heroes wreak havoc on the streets in Cuba, race a submarine across a frozen inlet, and try to save the world yet again.
RATING: 4 out of 5 Russian torpedoes
It was a long, looooong day, but we hit our goal and reached a new PR: 16 hours of screen time. And when the next marathon training season starts, go ahead and lace up your trainers and hit the pavement. I’ll be over here on the couch; these Step Up movies aren’t gonna watch themselves.