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.
Dom got married in a tank top.
Letty didn't get married in a tank top. Letty wore a full bridal dress, and Letty never wears dresses.
Dom and Letty weren't married in a garage. They were married in a church. By a priest. With candles and everything.
Dom wore a tank top. To his own wedding.
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.
The plot of 2009’s Fast & Furious is efficiently simple: Someone has offed Letty, Dom’s girlfriend, and he wants revenge. When Dom learns that Letty was secretly working for Brian in order to get Dom’s record expunged, he doesn't take it well. In his eyes, this means Brian is responsible for Letty's demise, but any mature adult knows the opposite is true.
The whole reason Dom has a record is because he and his crew were stealing DVD players out of the backs of trucks in The Fast and the Furious. Brian didn't make Dom do that. Then, in Fast & Furious, we see that Dom and Letty are living a content - if unlawful - life in the Dominican Republic, until Dom abandons her in the supposedly "noble" attempt to keep her safe. Had Dom just accepted Letty’s independent choice to stay with him, she never would have tried to clean his record. That makes Dom doubly responsible for her demise - at least until she's revealed to be alive at the end of Fast Five.
Dom is also responsible for the passing of Elena Neves, the Brazilian cop he begins dating in Fast Five. Though the two end their relationship on good terms, Elena is abducted by Cipher in The Fate of the Furious and used as leverage against Dom, the father of her child. This leverage works until it doesn’t, and Elena is taken out in front of him.
F8 may be the series’ worst entry, and ending Elena for the sake of drama is the most glaring example. Instead of being emotionally resonant, it just solidifies the fact that being associated with Dominic Toretto is a fast ticket to the grave.
In The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift, the passing of Han is a surprisingly trenchant commentary on the dangers of street racing. As it’s presented in the film, Han’s demise is not due to the careful plotting of the yakuza but an ordinary traffic accident. This was later retconned in Fast & Furious 6 to be the result of the careful plotting of Deckard Shaw, who seeks revenge on Dom for wounding (though not slaying) his brother.
This revelation sets Furious 7 in motion, and it sets up Shaw as a dangerous adversary for the crew to face. However, in just one installment, Shaw shifts from diabolical villain to bosom buddy, as he agrees to save Dom’s baby in exchange for squashing their beef.
Sure, Dom can be expected to play every card he has to save his child, but that doesn’t excuse the fact that Shaw ended his friend in cold blood. One of the many shortcomings of The Fate of the Furious is that this plot point is left completely unaddressed. He may have saved Dom’s son, but Shaw has no business attending his barbecue and standing in the presence of Han’s surviving friends.
As the leader of his crew, Dom had an obligation to tell Shaw the two were, at best, on even terms. Apparently, Dom's baby brain made him forget all the years he and Han ran jobs south of the border.