For the 4th entry into this series, I would like to cover an actor that is one of the biggest breakout stars of the 2000s and yet is perhaps one of the more widely mocked big-name movie stars that we have working today…
Vin Diesel (real name: Mark Sinclair)
Because another fast and furious movie is amongst us yet again, I find myself going into lawyer mode when it comes to Vin Diesel. I’ve stated my case as to why I’m a fan of his so often to so many of you haters that I might as well put all of this on record. For the sake of posterity, folks.
Whatever your opinion about the fast and furious franchise is, one thing is abundantly clear: twenty-three years later, these movies still have relevance. Sure, they’ve changed dramatically over the course of time, sure they’re comedically macho in their delivery, sure they’ve now abandoned the laws of physics, and sure, Diesel is the same age as Paul Giamatti and is still out here wearing cut-off t-shirts acting as if he’s 20 years younger– BUT IT DON’T MATTER. YOU’RE STILL SEEING THIS. YOU’RE STILL INVESTED. YOU’RE NOT ABOVE IT!
This is a list ranking the quality of his films first and foremost. But it needs to be stated that I won’t be including the stuff that doesn’t matter when it comes to assessing Diesel’s impact. For example…
1. I’m not including anything before Saving private ryan. I know he directed and starred in a short film called Multi-facial and a film called strays. Yes, I have seen these. But very few people have unless they’re true fans such as me.
2. I know Diesel has technically been in eight FAST AND FURIOUS movies, but I am not counting the half a paragraph he says in the final minute of FAST AND THE FURIOUS: TOKYO DRIFT as a performance that’s worth putting on this list when assessing his legacy as that character.
3. I’m ABSOLUTELY not counting any of the Groot performances he’s credited for. Any of them. He says three f****** words (outside of GOTG VOL. 3) throughout five movies, and he’s auto-tuned half of the time. It’s an impossible performance to judge unless I hear that he actually did mo-cap for the character, and even still, it’s not worth putting on this list.
Anywho, without further ado, here is…
THE MARK SINCLAIR TIER LIST!
CINEMATIC HALL OF FAME
|What the f*** is this garbage? 🤮|
🌟CINEMATIC HALL OF FAME🌟
SAVING PRIVATE RYAN
A new category. Sometimes I'm going to have to mention the movies that are very clearly above greatness. In my opinion, saving Private Ryan is not only the best film that Steven Spielberg has ever done, it is one of the 10 to 15 greatest movies ever made. Diesel's contribution to this film is not necessarily major, but he does enough to be considered a key supporting character. Therefore this qualifies.
Whether people want to admit it or not, this was the film where it took this franchise away from racing and into government spy stuff. People always want to argue that, and I think that's because they don't want to include this film in their ridicule of how the franchise has gone lately.
As time goes along, I find that that's because people openly acknowledge how great this particular film was. This is one of the three to five best action films of the 2010s if you're not counting superhero movies. Dwayne Johnson was a perfect addition to this franchise, even though this is not the best performance that he had in these Fast movies.
We all know about the touching Paul Walker tribute at the end of this film. That tribute seems to be the thing that people remember most, but what they tend to forget is that this was the film that had the best action sequences from beginning to end.
The plane drop, the building jump, the fight scenes that Shaw has with both Toretto and Hobbs, the Tony Jaa fight sequence in the warehouse with Walker. A lot of stuff was really done well here. Statham is a highlight, of course. His brand of macho fits with how the rest of this goes. Probably the most rewatchable film of the franchise, honestly.
THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS
Quite strange to look back on this film to see where the franchise used to be. What we tend to forget nowadays is just how much chemistry Walker and Diesel just naturally had. We also tend to forget the many iconic moments and quotables of this particular film. Because this is the character that Diesel is most known for, it's only natural that his most iconic cinematic moment came from this film. ( More on that later)
Of course, THIS was the film that had the best racing scenes from top to bottom. That actually has to be stated because some of y'all really believe that the subpar second chapter of this franchise could stake that claim. FOH.
Forgot about this one? Many people have. If you think Vin Diesel is incapable of giving good performances, then just watch him in this film. He is not the main character, but he steals every single scene that he is in with the absolute greatest of ease. The best scene in this entire film is Vin Diesel's character making a sale to a hapless investor as the office watches his technique. Diesel is very good here. However, it is not the best that he's ever been...but it's really close.
FAST AND FURIOUS
To me, the fourth entry of this franchise has the best SINGULAR racing sequence of any fast and furious movie to date. There's a lot of stuff that happens in this one (Letty being killed, O'Connor quitting the FBI, Toretto being incarcerated) but it doesn't feel overstuffed or too ridiculous.
A friend of mine pointed out recently that the fourth entry of this franchise kind of resembles death wish in this really weird way. I kind of agree, crazy as that may sound.
A MAN APART
Take this from a guy who knows his fair share of '90s action dramas, A MAN APART is definitely a solid entry to the 1990s style of drama/action cinematic storytelling. Yes, I know it was made in 2003. But that really doesn't matter. It's cheesy, of course, but not too much cheese. And a good brand of cheese at that.
This is Diesel trying as hard as he can to establish himself separate from the Hollywood tent pole life. Believe it or not, being a serious actor was a very high priority on Diesel's to-do list back in the day. It shows in this movie. He's actually pretty good.
PITCH BLACK & THE CHRONICLES OF RIDDICK
I'm going to go ahead and include both of these at once. Although we all know Dominic Toretto to be his signature character, Richard B. Riddick is, in fact, the character in which Diesel is the most charismatic. This was the role that proved that he could carry a movie by himself on this level.
Allegedly, the reason why Diesel wasn't in 2 FAST 2 FURIOUS was because of his dedication to this franchise over that of XXX and the fast and furious franchise. That decision made sense, given the fact that this one was really truly his star vehicle at the time.
FIND ME GUILTY
This is Diesel's best performance. In this movie, he plays real-life New Jersey mobster Jackie DiNorscio, and you can tell he is fully committed to the film, gaining a significant amount of weight in order to embody the character. The film itself is okay at face level, but his performance is really worth watching.
This is the film that I bring up every time to at least one person when these fast and furious movies come around, and folks get to talking about Vin Diesel not being able to act. If you truly think that's the case, watch this movie and pick your jaw up off the floor after you do.
FAST X (SEE REVIEW HERE)
FAST AND FURIOUS 6
The outlandish action stuff originated with fast five, as previously mentioned, but in this particular film, we were in full-blown cartoon land with the absolute defiance of physics and the redefinition of the constitution of the human body. I truly believe it led to some really nice action sequences.
Luke Evans WAS the greatest villain in the history of this franchise that actually stayed a villain, Gina Carano makes the most out of her moment, and this was the first of the fast and furious movies to actually have the balls to kill off a character and have her stay dead...........................
F9: THE FAST SAGA
Not a lot is being given credit to this movie because of the Ludacris & Tyrese in space thing, I get it. That's very jarring to some people considering where this franchise has been. I ignore that quite honestly because the rest of this movie does a diligent job of recovering from the bull**** that was the previous entry from this one. (I'll speak on that in a second)
The biggest issue with this film is the inclusion of John Cena. Not only is this his worst performance to date, but I never once believed that he was going to stay a bad guy. He is simply too big of a star to not use again, and it was the easiest thing to see coming for miles.
The action sequence involving the magnetic field is actually impressive and really fun. It's the kind of tent pole-level fun that was completely welcoming, in my opinion, after not being in theaters for over a year because of the pandemic. People are way too harsh on this movie.
Knockaround guys and Billy Lynn's long halftime walk.
I'm going to go ahead and month these two in with each other as well. As previously mentioned with the SAVING Private Ryan entry, these movies are also films that Diesel contributed enough to in order to qualify for this list, even though the characters that Diesel plays really aren't all that big.
These are two decent enough movies, though, for various reasons other than his contributions to them. It should be noted, though, that his contributions to Billy Lynn's long halftime walk should show you that he still does have a handle on this acting thing to a certain extent. He just doesn't show it anymore.
It was fine. This is the one live-action family film that he has on his resume, and over time people have really been harsh on it because it's such a soft family film. But see, that's the thing... It's a family film. It is a movie designed to be seen by kids. It wasn't designed to be edgy or more violent than normal or anything like that.
I don't know what people were expecting from this. Schwarzenegger had kindergarten cop, and over time, that's been seen as one of his classic films. Although that was very much better than this film. Even still, you guys are just being mean.
This is a movie that made perfect sense at the time that it was made. It is such a perfect role for who Diesel was at the time of its making. The action is very good and translates to a movie screen well. A particular highlight is the avalanche snowboarding scene which is one of the best-sounding action sequences I've seen in a movie theater ever in my life.
It was an egregious rip-off of James Bond from top to bottom that wasn't asked for, and the Xander Cage character isn't really all that fun to follow like Riddick or Toretto is. Plain and simple.
The third Riddick flick was a rated R film that turned up the violence a great deal. The movie star swag on Vin Diesel as Riddick is still as high as it can be. This movie does work on a number of levels, but the action is very subpar in comparison to the Chronicles of riddick. Had the action simply been more impressive, this would be ranked a little higher, honestly.
People always say this movie is so bad... but they end up rewatching it a couple of times over and over again. Strange huh?
WHAT THE F*** IS THIS GARBAGE 🤮
THE F8 OF THE FURIOUS
Easily the worst fast and furious movie to date. The worst climactic action sequence of any fast and furious movie. The worst singular race of any fast and furious movie. Then Diesel and The Rock's feud translating into no real scenes together hurt the movie quite a bit, and as a result of it, this is the movie that ended up being a prequel to Hobbs and Shaw.
Dominic Toretto turning villain under any circumstances, even for a little bit, is absolutely insane, given what we've seen these characters go through up until this point. Even if it is for Dom's baby, he would never try to kill any member of his crew or get them into danger. So many hateable aspects of this movie. So many.
The last witch hunter, Babylon A.D., bloodshot, & XXX part 3: the return of Xander cage.
I'm going to go ahead and lump these into a particular category as well. These are vanity projects.
These are movies that were made in between fast and furious installments to try and establish the movie star mystique that Vin Diesel once had in the early 2000s. Since his prime, Diesel has proven to be an actor that benefits a lot from having an actor of equal to greater level competence right next to him for him to feed off of. Though there are really good character actors in all of these films, in fact, Diesel is not sharing the spotlight by any means.
I'm not saying that these films would have become good or even decent films had Diesel had to share the spotlight with anyone. But they wouldn't be as absolutely schlocky and terrible as they all are.
DIESEL'S CINEMATIC APOGEE
In the third episode of my podcast entitled "the guy," I do go into detail about what I believe helps to make a movie star of the status that Vin Diesel was from 2001 to 2006.
- You need the movie star type of role that highlights you as a leading man (like Riddick was)
- You need the breakout role that comes before the movie star role put you on people's radar in a major way (like in the fast and furious)
- And in that same breakout role, you need a scene that puts you ahead of everybody in your cast when it comes to the charisma department.
That scene for Vin Diesel was, in fact, this scene here.
In closing, Vin Diesel is a lot better than you think. It's just that he's too busy cashing in paychecks for something that is a guaranteed money-making machine. Vin Diesel is 55 years old, and at that age, people tend to go into character actor territory given that they've made all of their money in their Hay Day.
Diesel's going to ride this fast and furious thing out as long as he can, understandably. But maybe, when he's done doing that... He can come back to more serious stuff and show people how good he actually can be.