In 2001 I went to see a movie directed by Rob Cohen (most famous in movie nerd circles for directing Miami Vice episodes, producing Shane Black’s Monster Squad and xXx). The movie was called The Fast and the Furious and it was apparently inspired by this article in Vibe: Racer X. At the time I went to see it mainly because it had fast cars ( I like fast cars) and starred the voice of the Iron Giant and a bunch of actors I’d never really heard of. So I figured with the lack of famous faces, emphasis would be on the fast cars and the fast cars doing fast car stuff. It delivered. It was Fast, Furious, Loud, and kinda silly fun. It made me wish I’d kept my 1989 Civic CRX.
The film had a sort of lame undercover cop turns “bad,” discovering true love and what loyalty really means. It also had terrible dialog, “I smell skank….” and plenty of tuner/car talk: blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah and NOS. It also had engine “Matrix” cam, cars jumping into light speed, great high pitched sound effects and RACEWARS (the best real/fake car event around). It was fresh, fun and never really took itself seriously.
I saw it a few times that summer (it was a lame summer except for F&F and seeing Jurassic Park III in L.A.) and that was it, kinda forgot about it and then every few years another one in the “series” came along. I saw 2 Fast 2 Furious (ugh) in the theater and skipped Tokyo Drift. The series had slightly tweaked creative teams until 2009 when Justin Lin (director of Better Luck Tomorrow where F&F’s Han character is born) got his hands on it and BOOM there goes the dynamite. [Justin Lin also directed Tokyo Drift. I’m just saying’. -cbuck. Thanks~I think I really need to research more for these posts – SB]
His flick, Fast and Furious sort of gelled the first truly global franchise of the 21st century. By taking elements of a global subcultures (car-tuning, hip hop and bikinis) and populating the lead roles with mostly non anglo actors, Lin played tight to his Taiwanese/OC/UCLA background and set up a platform for a franchise that mocks everyone (except the car guys) and is loved by all. The things are an easy sell to everyone everywhere. Crazy. Not to mention that you can watch Fast and Furious, Fast 5 and Furious 6 without understanding a word of English and still get it.
For me though the best thing bout Fast and Furious is that it lead to Fast Five (2011)… the greatest Car-Kata action movie EVER. Which also gave us 6 & 7 and the need to sort out a timeline as evidenced at this MTV article and this really involved Polygon Article. My head hurts. Frankly I only ever cared about two things as far as F&F goes: car stunts and Paul Walker and Vin Diesel’s abilities to sell manly schmaltz. No one will win any awards for screenplays or dialogues with F&F flicks (how many times can one man say, it’s about family living a quarter mile at a time I mean sheesh… ) but dammit the F&F movies remind of me of my closest friends and how loyal they are. How a 2 billion dollar, silly movie franchise makes bank by promoting the strengths of building “family of choice” is crazy bonkers. But I’m glad they do and the pop culture world is better for it.
First off, I love this franchise; and yes that includes Tokyo Drift. I’ve seen all of the F&Fs in theaters (on the opening weekend) and had a good time with most of them. 2 and 3 were a little rough at the time, but later viewings on DVD or cable were more entertaining than the theatrical experiences and I realized I like them as well. Maybe it had something to do with chilling in my own space and just enjoying the ride. I don’t get embarrassed about the movies I like and for me there’s no such thing as a guilty pleasure. Either I like it or I don’t. I like this franchise and the movies, such as they are, are fun and entertaining. Dumb and silly; yes! But never ever boring! Cardinal rule for any movie; Don’t be boring. Check! And these movies go all the way. Even there names are not boring. Allow me a moment to list the movies and expose the conundrum that is the naming convention for the franchise.
- The Fast and the Furious (Rob Cohen, 2001)
- 2 Fast 2 Furious (John Singleton, 2003)
- The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift (Justin Lin, 2006)
- Fast & Furious (Justin Lin, 2009)
- Fast Five (Justin Lin, 2011)
- Fast & Furious 6 (Justin Lin, 2013) or Fast 6, maybe Furious 6? Who knows?
- Furious 7 (James Wan, 2015) or it could be Fast & Furious 7, but it said Furious Seven on screen so go figure!
This confusing sequence of titles could NOT have been by design. Hell, the whole franchise was an accident, at best! For number 2, one star came back. For number 3, a ‘spin-off’ with aspirations of heading straight to DVD, no star came back. But $236 million box office for 2Fast and $158.5 mil on a $85 mil budget for Tokyo Drift was enough to say that the franchise had potential. Stars Paul Walker, Vin Diesel, Michelle Rodriguez and Jordana Brewster all returned for what I call the first true sequel to The Fast and the Furious; and it was titled, as stated above, Fast & Furious. (See, it’s different because no definite articles, and it uses an ampersand! Cool!) Fast & Furious also saw the return of Sung Kang, whose character Han had died in the previous film! But there he was in number 4 after dying in number 3 and nobody batted an eyelash. Because after some quick retconning, Fast & Furious turned into a prequel to Tokyo Drift; as were Fast Five and F&F 6! Fast & Furious did bofo b.o. in the U.S. $155 million with an $85 mil budget. $363 million worldwide!
So, for those keeping score, it goes: The Fast and the Furious, 2 Fast 2 Furious, Fast & Furious, Fast Five, Fast & Furious 6, The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift, and then Furious Seven. Got it? The next one should be called Furi8 just because. Fast & Furious worked so well that making a sequel to it was a no-brainer. Universal got Justin Lin to put the original band back together, put up a $125 million budget, added Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson to the cast, and Fast 5 was born. Though Fast & Furious (#4) was a reset, the franchise of F&F spinoffs still wasn’t a series, yet. That happened with Fast Five, where Lin and Co brought in everyone that had rolled with Dom & crew in the previous films and tied all the films and characters together. Universal had struck gold.
One of the dumbest things I’ve ever seen on a theater screen was the runway chase between the giant cargo plane and our heroes that capped off the last movie, Fast & Furious 6. Some internet nerd types who are good at mathing calculated that the runway needed to be just shy of 28 miles long to accommodate that chase. I think that pretty much sums up where we are with this franchise. NOTHING about it is serious, and they don’t care. And neither do I. They’ve embraced the silliness, and I willingly throw my money at them so I can watch things explode marvel at the ridiculous fight scenes. What started as a cops and robbers flick about underground racing has morphed into an international action movie franchise that is equal parts Mission Impossible and James Bond, albeit with more dub step and booty shots.
The newest installment, Fast and Furious VII: Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Embrace Bro Hugs, doesn’t even try to make sense. The gang is on the run after the brother of the bad guy from the last movie is out for revenge. Jason Statham is the big bad here. He gets a great intro that relies on a long shot of the aftermath of a visit to his comatose brother in a heavily fortified hospital. It didn’t go well for the soldiers on guard duty. Kurt Russel shows up as Colonel Exposition, explaining to our intrepid heroes that Da Stafe is after a piece of tech called the God’s Eye. It uses EVERY CAMERA IN THE WORLD to track you. If Dom and his family retrieve the spy gadget, Russel will let them use it to track Lock Stock and Two Smoking Fists. They needn’t have bothered, everywhere they go, Da Stafe is already there. We have no idea how or why this happens, it just does. There’s some goofy shit with an African warlord who sells the spy gizmo to a sultan who intalss it in his car that he keeps parked in the penthouse of his giant Abu Dhabi skyscraper (don’t ask). That entire plot point exists for 2 reason: 1). Dom and Brian can drive a car from tower to tower and 2). The distributors can count on a big Middle Eastern box office number.
And that’s the thing about this franchise. It is a cynical, market-driven studio exercise that on the books, is no different than any other big budget, blockbuster franchise. But either through a trick of marketing or mass hypnosis, we’ve bought into the idea that these movies have heart. And I think there’s no denying that a big part of that is due to the leads, Vin Diesel and Paul Walker. Diesel has always come off as a genuine goofball. He’s a big old nerd in real life, and I can imagine him actually saying those cheesy lines about family in his every day conversations. And if you believe the reports, Walker’s untimely death really affected his cast mates because they were truly friends.
As problematic as this movie is – I like the last two more – I was really impressed with the way they handled Walker’s exit. It wasn’t high art, but it was touching and original. I think the next movie should be called F8. And it should be set 25 years in the future, with Dom, Jr. and Brian, Jr. in their respective careers that have nothing to do with cars. But they get pulled back in because Dom needs rescuing from his South Beach retirement home. It’s all about family, guys.
Thank you, gentlemen, now that F7 has made a billion dollars worldwide faster than any other flick in history, we can just stop throwing money at it for awhile.
I agree with Om, F7 is the weakest of the trio of FF5, F6 and F7. It is the Return of the Jedi of the “trilogy.” Right down to the climatic fights at the end and the musical tribute to Walker. I also agree with Om about the manufactured “heart” of these movies. The stoic/cheesy dialog when things are”serious” drives me nuts, But then again, I buy into them since the friendship between the actors seems to carry over onto the screen. It’s a multi billion dollar ultra violent franchise that’s sort of pre-teen family friendly (and somehow less violent than Twilight or Hunger Games). I’m sure they will keep churning them out for another few years… and I really hope Helen Mirren gets on board.