Justin Lin has made a mark on the entertainment industry over the years by directing more entries in the Fast and Furious franchise than anyone else. He’s committed to the untitled two-part entry in the franchise due out in 2023 and 2024, but he first made his mark on smaller independent films. While he’s only directed ten feature films with more than half of them being in one franchise, his action sequences have always been a cut above.
Rotten Tomatoes takes reviews from all over the internet and assigns a movie a percentage based on how many critics liked or disliked a film. For Justin Lin, some critics have not been crazy about his Fast and Furious entries while others enjoyed his work in the series more.
10 Annapolis (2006) – 10%
Justin Lin’s third film, Annapolis follows Jake Huard, James Franco, as a young man who dreams of one day attending the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, one of the most famous military academies in the United States. The cast is rounded out by Tyrese Gibson and Jordana Brewster.
Critics were not happy with Justin Lin’s third outing as director, giving this film an all-time low of 10%. Most critics found the plot to be boring and a far inferior version of other military dramas. The likable cast wasn’t enough to save the film.
9 Fast & Furious (2009) – 28%
Fast & Furious was the fourth film in the Fast franchise and saw Justin Lin back in the director’s chair. This time the film reunites Vin Diesel’s Dom and Paul Walker’s Brian. The two are connected by a drug runner in Mexico who killed Letty, Dom’s girlfriend. The film also introduced Gal Gadot’s Gisele to the franchise.
After the last two installments of the Fast franchise didn’t include Vin Diesel, fans were no doubt excited to see him return. Critics were not quite as impressed. While the stunts and directing all seem to come out of the film unscathed, the story and characters failed to meet critics’ expectations.
8 Finishing The Game (2007) – 34%
Finishing the Game is the story of Bruce Lee’s final film. After his death, producers tried to search for a body double to finish the movie. This mockumentary-style film satirizes that whole story while also commenting on racial stereotypes in America.
While Justin Lin’s Finishing the Game may be a comedy on paper, the 34% on Rotten Tomatoes shows that the majority of the critics who did see didn’t think it was very funny. While the directing was stylish enough the consensus makes note that “the sight gags and comic timing are tired.”
7 The Fast And The Furious: Tokyo Drift (2006) – 38%
The third entry in the Fast franchise saw it go in a completely different direction. The film sees Lucas Black’s Sean go to Tokyo after getting in trouble in an illegal street race. There he gets roped in with Han, who would go on to be a franchise staple and the criminal underworld. He also learns how to drift, which was meant to bring some new excitement to the franchise.
Even though Justin Lin’s first Fast and Furious was meant to revitalize the franchise, The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift failed to resonate with critics. While many points to “eye-popping” action, the dull characters really bring the movie down. Sung Kang’s Han is the only character that critics seemed to gravitate towards.
6 Shopping For Fangs (1997) – 50%
For Justin Lin’s first film, Shopping for Fangs, he teamed up with Quentin Lee. This film follows a few characters, such as Phil who thinks he’s a werewolf, Katherine who keeps losing her phone and things, and Trinh who is trying to seduce Katherine away from her husband. Much like Lin’s future independent films, the film features an entirely Asian cast including John Cho.
With only six reviews, the film has received no critical consensus on Rotten Tomatoes. Like many directors’ first films, this is one that slipped under the radar apparently. With three Rotten reviews and three fresh reviews, those who did see seem split down the middle. One called it a film filled with energy and laughs while another compared it to a plastic fork.
5 F9: The Fast Saga (2021) – 59%
The latest entry in the Fast franchise saw Justin Lin return to the directors’ chair for the first time since this sixth one. F9: The Fast Saga introduces audiences to Dom’s long-lost brother Jackob, played by John Cena, who’s an international superspy who seeks revenge on Dom. Since Justin Lin returned to direct, the character of Han returned to the franchise as well.
While Justin Lin was missed from the franchise, his return wasn’t met with as much critical fanfare as was expected. Even though F9: The Fast Saga was one of the biggest movies of 2021, critics noted that the franchise has grown more over the top than ever and Lin’s eye for action is unparalleled but sadly the character work in the film failed to grab critics in the same way it did audiences.
4 Fast & Furious 6 (2013) – 71%
Fast and Furious 6 sees the fast gang take on evil versions of themselves as they go after Luke Evan’s Owen Shaw who’s teamed up with an amnesiac Letty. Dom attempts to reach Letty in the hopes that she’ll come back to their side, while the others focus on taking down the international thieves.
While not seen as the major success that the film before it would be, Fast & Furious 6 builds off its predecessor and delivers more high-octane action scenes. The character work was seen as stronger than other entries in the film which allowed Justin Lin to play with audiences’ emotions in an organic way.
3 Fast Five (2011) – 77%
The much-loved Fast Five sees the major and popular characters from the previous films unite to take down the crime boss of Brazil. While that’s happening, Dwayne Johnson’s Luke Hobbs arrives with his own team to try and take Dom and his family down.
Most critics often point to Fast Five as the film that truly revitalized the franchise. Bringing together the different characters from the film before them brings new and fresh chemistry that sings on screen. This is the film that critics point to when they say the franchise finally embraced its over-the-top nature and delivered on its potential.
2 Better Luck Tomorrow (2002) – 81%
While Shopping for Fangs was Justin Lin’s first directing work, Better Luck Tomorrow was his first solo work, and the one where he served as producer and editor. The story is of a group of Asian-American overachievers who get bored with school and turn to a life of petty crime. The film acts as a high school gangster film with John Cho as one of the antagonists.
At 81%, this film certainly got Justin Lin noticed by critics. Most considered a promising start to his career. The consensus sites the film as “disturbing and thought-provoking.” Better Luck Tomorrow may not be what Justin Lin would be known for, but it clearly showed a range that he was capable of.
1 Star Trek Beyond (2016) – 86%
For the third Star Trek reboot film, Paramount replaced J.J. Abrams with Justin Lin. Star Trek Beyond sees the crew of the Enterprise tasked with going through a dangerous nebula and when they arrive on the other side the ship is destroyed and they’re stranded. In order to stop Krall from destroying the new Federation starbase, they have to work together to get off the planet on a centuries-old starship.
Star Trek Beyond was looked at favorably by critics and audiences alike. At 86% the film is currently Justin Lin’s highest-rated film on Rotten Tomatoes. Critics loved how the film brought back the franchise to its sci-fi roots by attempting to tell a more classic Star Trek story while not sacrificing the blockbuster action Lin or the franchise had become known for.
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