Revisited: The Fast and the Furious

As The Fast Saga gears up for the release of F9, we decided to take a look back at the film that started it all all the way back in 2001. Released in September 2001 here in the UK, The Fast and the Furious seemingly took the world by storm from the outset with it’s unique blend of high octane action set against the backdrop of the L.A street racing circuit. The original film was quickly followed by a sequel 2 Fast 2 Furious and quasi sequel / spinoff film The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift before staying dormant for a few years and making a triumphant return to screens with 2009’s confusingly titled Fast & Furious.

While the film itself is far from original, coming across as a combination of Point Break (1991) and No Man’s Land (1987), The Fast and the Furious is still a really fun and enjoyable watch even by today’s standards and to my surprise it hasn’t aged all that badly either.

Just in case you don’t know, the film sees a rookie undercover cop Brian O’Connor (played by Paul Walker) infiltrate the L.A. street racing circuit in an attempt to foil a group of unknown street racers who have been hi-jacking truckloads of DVD players and other electronics. During his investigation, Brian befriends the groups leader, Dominic Toretto (played by Vin Diesel) and falls for his sister at the same time putting his loyalty as a police officer in doubt. I mean, it’s hardly original stuff but it still makes for a good film.

In the early 2000’s, Vin Diesel was the epitome of cool to me. From his turn in Pitch Black and my subsequent love of his role in xXx in 2002, I swore the guy was going to be the next Arnold Schwarzenegger however with the exception of his more recent turns in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, I don’t think his career really hit the heights anyone was expecting and outside of The Fast and the Furious franchise, I’ve never really been overly fond of many of his other films.

From such humble beginnings though, it really is unbelievable that The Fast and the Furious has become one of the most bankable box office franchises in cinema history with Furious 7 outperforming even the likes of Black Panther and Frozen at the worldwide box office.

From stealing DVD players, taking down drug lords and robbing banks to having fights with submarines, taking down spy satellites and creating the world’s largest runway. I think it’s safe to say though that we’re pretty far removed from the street racing roots of the original. At this point as the series has morphed into an adrenaline fuelled action franchise the likes of which the world has never seen and who knows where the franchise will go next.

The Fast and the Furious franchise, to me at least, have become what I expected the xXx franchise to become when that debuted in 2002 however, I think that series was dead on arrival with that name alone because just stick those three letters into Google when you’re at work and see how far you get. However, no matter what ridiculous turn the franchise takes next and no matter how entertaining they can be, I’ve yet to see any of the other films outdo what the original done so well and that was to make me care about the characters.

More recent entries of the franchise have become more about spectacle and stunts than they are about “family” despite how much we’re reminded that it’s the only thing that matters to these characters. Combine that with the overuse of CGI instead of practical stunts and most of what made the original film so special gets lost. Aside from the touching send off of Paul Walker at the end of Furious 7, I can’t say these films have done much recently to make me actually feel anything when watching them.

Now granted, I understand these films exist for the sole reason to make money and they are raking in the money at the box office but that doesn’t excuse the fact that the series has become so far removed from it’s roots that it has become unrecognisable. I’m not going to sit here and tell you that I don’t enjoy the films because I do but that still doesn’t detract from the fact that the franchise has yet to eclipse the original film and with F9 due to race onto UK cinema screens in just a couple of weeks, sometimes I think we need to remember that a classic is a classic for a reason.

by Edward Laing