FAST & FURIOUS – Bro-conciliation

Why the Most Dour Film of the F&F Franchise is also the Most Important

Dom forgives Brian

The open road slips beneath us, asphalt baking and cracking under the hot Dominican 1 sun. Then, moments later, we are overtaken by a tanker truck. It is soon revealed to be no more than prey for none other than Dom, Letty, and a non-dead Han2, plus a few fresh faces. This is a mission statement: the real Fast & Furious is back, and it’s bigger and better than before. But this fourth film is not so much a return to the sun-soaked bromance of the first film – rather it is a broken reflection of it.

If you look at the franchise purely as a vehicle for Dom and Brian’s bromance, the second and third films could be comfortably excised from the series allowing us to jump straight to F&F to find Dom broken & betrayed, full of fear for his family after the death of Jesse in #1, and clinging to the only home he has left – the open road.

It isn’t long before his fear, combined with his patriarchal desire to protect, causes him to leave after word comes that the cops are closing in. If he’s going to go down, he’s going to go down alone. What Dom doesn’t realize is that the lone wolf lifestyle doesn’t suit him, and that running away from those you care about doesn’t protect anyone.

The Brian we meet in downtown LA is neither the sun-soaked, wide-smiling Brian of The Fast and the Furious, nor the Miami “brah” of 2Fast 2Furious. There are glimpses, but this is a man who wears a suit to chase down a suspect and has a respectable haircut and smiles only fleetingly. He is no more happy than the self-exiled Dom 3. For each of them, it is their moral code that has led them to this place. A desire to protect; to do the right thing by family, or by society. But each of them follows that code down the wrong road.

And each of them is pushed toward the other, and toward his true self, when Letty is murdered.

Whereas Brian does old-fashioned regular police work to find his way toward the killers 4, Dom taps into his inner Sherlock Holmes when visiting the site of Letty’s murder. He pieces together what happened by sniffing some residue on the road and staring off into the darkness.5.

detective Dom

Sherlock Dom is on the case – nothing escapes his keen senses.

Each of them follows his own set of clues to the first stop on the Plot Train where they cross paths for the first time in five years. It’s kind of a tense meeting.

Bad Bros

The coldest shoulder.

It isn’t long before Brian & Dom meet their target(s) at Plot Stop #2, earning their way into his employ after a street race that is an inversion of their first – instead of happily spouting “I almost had you!” after his loss Brian intones that he could have beaten Dom in a fair race.

This plot is secondary to Brian and Dom’s reconciliation, though. It is pure mechanics. Every challenge is easily beaten, but serves its purpose of pushing them together, forcing them to confront not only their mutual past, but the men it turned them into, the choices they made along the way, and the consequences of those choices.

The reveal that Letty was working for Braga because she was working for Brian is those consequences writ large. Not for Brian, who has already been dealing with this guilt (though unbeknownst to us), but for Dom, who up until this point couldn’t see his own role in her death. They both must shoulder the blame, and they both have to make it right.

And in order to make it right they have to fulfill the roles they committed to at the beginning of the film. That of lawman, and that of vengeful vigilante. And once those debts have been paid, they are free to move forward.

For Dom that means to stop running. Not from The Law, but from himself. From his fear. He faces it by facing prison, and before long, accepting what he could not at the start of the film: his fambly putting themselves on the line for him.

For Brian it is about actively putting his code above his duty. At the end of the film, as they race to free Dom from the prison bus, Brian is no longer passive, but an engaged and committed member of the fambly. And he is smiling.

It is an often dour film, but an essential one. Both for the characters as they must confront and reconcile the events of the past, but also for the audience. We too need to understand the depths of their pain, and how hard they fought through the darkness to come out the other side, into the sun.

Dom forgives Brian

This is the face of forgiveness.

  1. I like to believe it is very intentional that we come back to Dom in a country sharing his name
  2. in a loose payoff to Dom’s delivered-by-Bow Wow declaration of Han being family at the end of Tokyo Drift
  3. on the lam, yes, but also self-exiled from his family
  4. finding Letty’s killers is not really his main mission, but he is after the same people
  5. This is the only use in the series of this super power, but each subsequent film tends to see him gain a new one to replace the one he lost
  • The Dwayne Allen

    This article is so good it almost makes me want to see FF4 again.

    • Same – and I think I actually will

    • jeves23

      Thanks!
      It’s not as fun as the others, but I think if you watch it as a character piece first it is more satisfying.

  • Sherlock Dom is the best thing.

    Lovely piece, helps me see this film in a more positive light. It was on tv a bit last night, I caught a few minutes and realized that I am eager to rewatch it, having now been through the series 1.5 times. I can safely ignore the plot mechanics (plot-stops!) and just let the characters shine – and I think they still do even from under this ponderous bummer of a film.

    • jeves23

      As a standalone film it doesn’t work all that great, but as part of the larger franchise, and as a bridge to 5 and beyond I think it works a lot better than people give it credit for.
      It is also more watchable than people give it credit for – I watched it 3 times in 3 days for this piece (the first just as part of my F&F rewatch, the other two in the background as I wrote the article), and still managed to get sucked in each time.
      Still, I’m glad I can now move onto Fast 5 tonight 🙂

  • Andrew Clark

    This is such a great article that expresses all of my feelings (and more) about not only why FAST & FURIOUS is less worthy of the derision handed its way, but that it’s a necessary step in the emotional lives of Fast & Furious’ Two Dads, Brian and Dom.

    Not mentioned here is that Brian and Mia ALSO reconcile in the movie. I know its not as sweaty and sultry as Brian and Dom’s romance, but Brian and Mia are actually one of my favorite on-screen couples.

    They’re flirting is SO cute in the first one, and here we seem as adults, coming to terms with their mutual attraction but wary because they can now view it through the jaded lens of adulthood. Brian betrayed Mia and Dom. Or more accurately, he lied to them. And it isn’t even a case of Brian needing to explain himself so much as Mia deciding to forgive him. It’s why in the diner scene Brian can’t explain why he snuck Mia out of interrogation or why he let Dom go at the end of TFATF. It’s clear he still loves her, but he doesn’t feel like he deserves her. So it’s up to Mia to to make the decision to welcome him back into the family and have some great kitchen sex.

    • jeves23

      I agree that there is some important stuff about Brian and Mia reconciling, as well as the fact that it is really her who causes Brian to begin to accept the path his code is leading him down. She asks him outright if he is not a good guy pretending to be bad, but a bad guy pretending to be good. It’s not very subtle, but subtlety isn’t what Brian needs, nor what these films deal in.

  • ryanrochnroll

    I dog the shit out of this one but you captured my fambly-weakened inner thoughts. It’s important in that it sets the stage for where the story needs to move. It needs to tell this story so that Brian and Don can finally be where they need to be to cement the triumphant unification. It’s sloggy and it’s dour but it gave us our fambly back and added Gisele to the mix so it’s important.

  • I watched this right after the first one when I had my first go round. It really does the work required to solidify the Dom/Brian/(and Mia) core of the Fambly. Also closing with the beginning of breaking out Dom is not only the best link to the next installment in FF, it’s the indicator that they knew F&F was the bridge in a vital course correction