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The Fast and the Furious: Explained

VO: Rebecca Brayton WRITTEN BY: Andrew Tejada

When it comes to epic stunts, fast cars, and high-octane action, The Fast and the Furious series totally takes first place. One of the top-grossing movie franchises of all times, it follows a “family” of street racers whose insane, death-defying driving skills have entertained audiences all over the world. Today, we’re looking at how a pulpy action movie about street racing evolved into a blockbuster juggernaut.

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Script written by Andrew Tejada

Film Franchise: The Fast and the Furious


When it comes to epic stunts, fast cars, and high-octane action, The Fast and the Furious series totally takes first place. Welcome to WatchMojo.com and today we’re Tokyo-drifting through the history of the action-packed “Fast and the Furious” franchise.

The NOS-injected “Fast and the Furious” universe chronicles a “family” of street racers who continue to find themselves in a variety of death-defying situations, relying on insane driving skills in order to make it out alive. The series has become one of the top-grossing movie franchises of all time, spawning video games, rides, and even a live stunt show. But how did a pulpy action movie about street racing evolve into a blockbuster franchise? Well, it all began with a magazine article.

After film director Rob Cohen read a 1998 Vibe Magazine article reporting on the experiences of underground racer Rafael Estevez, he was inspired to begin working on a script that took place within the world of underground street racing. Producer Neal Moritz tapped relative unknowns Paul Walker and Vin Diesel to star in the project. With the cast and script green-lit, Cohen acquired the rights to use the title “The Fast and the Furious", which was previously associated with a 1955 Roger Corman B-movie.

“The Fast and the Furious” opened with a brilliantly-choreographed truck robbery sequence. In order to catch the thieves, LAPD officer Brian O’Connor goes undercover to infiltrate the criminal crew, led by Dominic Toretto. After racing from the law and against each other, Brian decides to let him go free. While the plot shares similarities with the classic 90s action movie “Point Break”, "The Fast and the Furious" boasts elements that make it unique. The ensemble had fantastic chemistry. Each action sequence, from the failed truck heist to Dom and Brian’s climactic race are thrilling. And whether you prefer Dom’s iconic Dodge Charger or Brian’s Mitsubishi Eclipse, viewers are guaranteed to eye at least one car that they’d love to park in their garage. Critical reviews may have been mixed, but bold box-office numbers signified that audiences craved even more 200-mile-an-hour action. Unfortunately, Diesel wasn’t a fan of the sequel script and chose to star in “xXx” instead of returning to the series. With a super-sized budget, the questionably named “2 Fast, 2 Furious” went into production.

2 Fast 2 Furious” upped the ante with more characters and bigger stunts; however, critics and audiences alike were disappointed with the plot's lack of originality and the charismatic Diesel’s absence. Despite negative reception, the film's $236 million dollar box office haul was enough to keep gas in the series' tank.

After Walker and Diesel declined to return for a third entry, production studio Universal decided to redirect the franchise. A script that originally featured Dom traveling to Tokyo was altered to focus on a new character, an American high-school student named Sean, played by Lucas Black; however, Diesel's Dom does make a small cameo. In preparing for the production of The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift, director Justin Lin immersed himself within the world of Japanese drift racing. Despite Universal’s best efforts, the third film wasn’t well received. While the idea of a high-schooler learning to master drifting in order to take on the nephew of a Yakuza boss sounds cool, Lucas Black’s bland performance as Sean fell short. With a disappointing critical and box office reception, the franchise urgently needed to improve or was destined to be sold for parts.

In 2009, the confusingly titled “Fast & Furious” hit theaters. Marking a turning point in the franchise, "Fast & Furious" chose to emphasize high-stakes action over street racing. Tipping its cap to the original, the film opened with an exciting mountain-top gas truck heist, featured Walker's Brian going back undercover for the FBI, and Diesel's Dom found himself once again behind in the driver’s seat. While the critical reception dropped to a franchise low, the box office hit new heights.

Later that year, Diesel directed and starred in the short franchise film “Los Bandoleros”. The story focuses on Dom and his crew’s lives before the mountain heist. While it doesn’t contain much action, it did provide fans with insight into each character’s motivations.

“Fast Five” employed franchise all-stars and big-name new recruits in order to maximize the action. As Dom and Brian assemble a crew in order to steal from a criminal kingpin, the Rock’s Luke Hobbs attempts to capture them. Featuring awesome fights, shootouts, and tense chases, the movie kicked the series into high gear. Filled with jaw-dropping stunts, the film's most notable action set-piece features Dom and Brian towing a safe through Rio, proving to ridiculously entertaining. From a production standpoint, the fact that the sequence relied heavily on practical effects makes it all the more unbelievable. The combo of well-crafted storytelling and heart-pounding action helped make “Fast Five” a critical and box office juggernaut.

Two years later, “Fast and Furious 6” reached new franchise heights. When a driving crew is discovered to be stealing weapon parts, Hobbs recruits Dom and his crew to stop them. At one point, the heroes are chased by a tank, and yes: every car that was demolished on screen was entirely real. But this wasn't even the most inspired action in the movie! The most heart-pounding chase scene takes place on the longest airstrip... in the world. The film climaxes with Jason Statham making an explosive post-credits debut. While the box office and critical reception were higher than ever, a real tragedy would put the franchise's future into question.

On November 30th, 2014, Paul Walker died tragically in a car crash. Passing away before completing his scenes for the seventh film, the creative team were forced to make some big decisions. When shooting resumed in April 2015, Walker’s real-life siblings volunteered to stand in for their late brother, while CGI was used to recreate Walker’s face onto their bodies. This would be the final F&F film to feature the iconic character Brian Walker and the cast and crew truly came together to say goodbye and honor Walker’s memory. “Furious 7” marked the first film in the franchise since “Tokyo Drift” that wasn't helmed by Justin Lin, who went off to direct “Star Trek Beyond.” In his place stepped horror filmmaker James Wan, who delivered one of the most ambitious films in the franchise. The film received the highest critical and box office reception of any “Fast and Furious” film to date. The film focused on Deckard Shaw, played by Statham, who sought vengeance against Dom after his brother was brutally injured in the previous film. While the stakes were more personal than ever, the action scenes kept delivering. "Furious 7" features a number of amazing fight sequences, but it's an elaborate sequence in which Dom drives a car through three skyscrapers that truly steals the show.

Months following “Furious 7”'s release, Diesel announced that the eighth film would hit theatres in 2017. Although the globe-hopping locations were exciting, what made “F8 of the Furious” so intriguing was the drama, which focused on Dom turning on his family. As it turns out, Dom was being forced by Charlize Theron’s Cipher to help access nuclear weapons in order to save his newborn son. If the plot sounds ridiculous, just wait until you see the Rock redirecting a torpedo with his bare hands.

“Fast and Furious 9 and 10” will be released in April 2020 and 2021 respectively. While the plots are still unknown, it has been teased that “Tokyo Drift’s” Sean will return. Before those installments hit theaters, the very first franchise spinoff, “Hobbs and Shaw”, will debut in 2019 with Idris Elba making his F&F debut as a yet to be named villain. When the tenth “Fast and Furious” arrives in theaters, the franchise will celebrate its 20th year, and while the series may be far from Oscar bait, it totally deserves to be celebrated. In the race to be one of the best action-movie series of all time, The Fast and the Furious films shouldn’t be counted out.
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