Imagining The Fast and the Furious without Dominic Toretto is like stripping the engine out of a V8 Chrysler: It ain’t a Hemi without a Hemi. And rightly so. If Brian O’Connor was the heart of the series’ first outing, Dom was its grease-stained soul. The son of a beloved stock car racer, Dom was a born gearhead whose fiery temper resulted in a stint at Lompoc and a lifetime ban from the professional racing circuit. As played by a young Vin Diesel, Dom elevated a by-the-numbers Point Break ripoff to a brawny blockbuster - the 14th biggest film of 2001.
Barring a minute cameo in Tokyo Drift, Dom wouldn’t fully return to the franchise until 2009, but in a sense, he never really came back. Gone was the vibrant, ambitious Dom of the original FF, replaced by a growling block of wood that mutters vague aphorisms about engines and "family" but fails to muster anything resembling real emotion. The audience must be told time and again that people trust and respect Dom… despite a growing list of the man’s questionable decisions.
There Is No Earthly Way He Could Beat Shaw In A FightPhoto: Furious 7 / Universal Pictures
Let’s break down the combat stats of Deckard Shaw and Dominic Toretto:
- Deckard Shaw: Member of the British military since age 20, major in the Special Air Service, recipient of the Victoria Cross Award, UK Special Forces assassin. In Mr. Nobody’s words, the man is a “legitimate English badass.”
- Dominic Toretto: Races cars real good, lifts weights.
At the end of Furious 7, Dom and Shaw engage in a head-to-head fight. As they run at each other, the film slows down and the music swells in a dramatic chorus. It’s very pretty, but even for the franchise, it’s absurd.
The Fast & Furious movies take place in a universe where most problems can be solved by driving faster and furiouser. That’s why Dom can ramp his car off a collapsing parking garage and hook a bag of grenades on a helicopter. That follows his universe’s rules. But winning a hand-to-hand fight against a trained assassin? No.3,696940Does this embarrass the family?
He Regularly Endangers Countless BystandersPhoto: The Fate of the Furious / Universal Pictures
This isn’t a shortcoming limited to Dom, but as the leader of his crew, he bears the greatest responsibility. Every installment of the Fast & Furious series features ridiculous levels of collateral damage to both property and people. Let’s tally up the most egregious examples:
- In The Fast and the Furious, Dom’s poorly planned heist nearly results in Vince's end.
- In Fast & Furious, he demolishes an oil tanker (and its driver’s livelihood) and causes accidents all along the route of his street race for Arturo Braga.
- In Fast Five, he almost certainly harms and possibly kills countless civilians while dragging a massive safe through the streets of Rio - and finally manages to bring about Vince's demise.
- In Fast & Furious 6, his antics on the bridge endanger several commuters (and break the laws of physics).
- In Furious 7, his sister and nephew are nearly blown to smithereens due to his personal beef with Deckard Shaw.
Finally, in The Fate of the Furious, there are few friends or civilians that are safe from Dom's wildly irresponsible driving and overall behavior. He commits international espionage, alienates his "family," lets his baby mama perish, then makes his wife raise their lovechild.1,509357Does this embarrass the family?
He Leaves His Girlfriend For His Ex As Soon As She's AvailablePhoto: Fast & Furious 6 / Universal Pictures
From 2009’s Fast & Furious to 2013’s Fast & Furious 6, Dom believes Letty, his former girlfriend, has died. In Fast Five, he strikes up a relationship with Elena Neves, a Rio police officer the series almost - but never really - takes seriously.
In FF6, Dom learns that Letty is still alive and immediately chases after her. The film largely ignores Elena until she pops up at the end to tell Dom everything’s cool and, hey, if her deceased husband came back to life, she’d kick Dom to the curb, too.
Elena is free to make her choices, but Dom is let completely off the hook with zero awkwardness from Elena or Letty. Maybe everyone in this series is just super mature about relationships.2,163624Does this embarrass the family?
His Emotions Disappear In The Later Films
In the early 2000s, Vin Diesel appeared in three films that would define him for the rest of his career: Pitch Black (2000), The Fast and the Furious (2001), and xXx (2002). Riddick, Dominic Toretto, and Xander Cage are basically the same character: outlaws who abide by a personal code and will not hesitate to deliver a meaty curb stomp to those that cross them. Yet what separates Toretto from the other two is a surprisingly emotional performance in the original Fast & Furious.
In 2001, Diesel’s star was on the rise, and he played Dom with the fiery spirit of a young, hungry actor. Dom’s ambition, joy, rage, and even fear are worn right on his cut-off sleeve. At the end of the film, Dom’s voice breaks when he tells Brian he has to find Jesse. After nearly getting Vince offed, he’s terrified of what will happen to the most vulnerable member of his crew - and even more terrified of what he will do in retaliation. As ever, Dom battles with the two halves of his personality: the cool, calculating outlaw, and the reckless, raging rider.
After refusing to return for an FF sequel and agreeing to the mildest of cameos in FF3, Diesel officially returned to the franchise with Fast & Furious, but by that point all nuance to the character was gone. Diesel was at a very different stage of his career, and the Dom in FF4 is almost a completely different person: laconic, emotionless, and dull. While this can be explained by saying the character is dealing with the apparent passing of his lover, Dom’s stoicism only intensifies in later films - well past the point that Letty returns to the franchise.
For the latter half of the Fast & Furious series, Dom is a caricature of toughness with little to no indication that he has any interior life at all. Maybe Diesel stopped caring, or maybe Dom's been constipated since 2009.1,479441Does this embarrass the family?