“You didn’t just play with fire, you soaked the matches in gasoline.”
Since Rob Cohen unleashed Point Break-Lite on the world back in 2001, the Fast franchise has continued to rage on to success, with its first spin-off entry Hobbs and Shaw (recently reviewed by our own Elena) currently playing in theatres. It’s well documented that every instalment has gone through the highs and lows of establishing identity. Even instalments thought to have the least positive reception have gone on to have somewhat of a cult following; I’m looking at you Tokyo Drift aka The Karate Kid with cars.
Fast and Furious (2009) helped the series with a soft reboot that enabled them to steer away from purely street racing antics and into heist/spy racing adventure hybrids. From its Bourne-esque opening chase and Mad Max tinged drag race-battle through caves climax, Fast ‘09 might not be as thrilling overall, but the beats were set for the franchise to truly take it up a gear.
There is an argument against these types of blockbusters, with the oversaturation of the market for inane no brainer actioners. Admittedly, I do agree to an extent and it’s not surprising that some of the franchise’s biggest stars (Johnson namely) have had their feet planted into projects of this calibre (Skyscraper and Rampage come to mind). On the other hand, while I wouldn’t class these films on the same level of “event cinema” like Star Wars or Endgame, I do think the Fast movies inspire a level of hype and excitement surely due to their need to one-up each instalment since Fast Five.
Since they dragged that safe around the streets of Rio, there was no possible way that this series could back down and retreat back to the now seemingly bare-bones approach of Cohen’s franchise debut. These films are now essentially one of Hollywood’s silliest sandboxes and we are all invited to play in it. Revenge flick with elevated espionage elements? Furious 7 has entered the chat.
Leaning more into the spy elements of the world that characters like Kurt Russell’s “Mr Nobody” help to build, these films are primed for a magnitude of explosive excellence.
The recent instalments of the Fast series have honestly given me some of the best cinema experiences in the last few years. It’s a different type of enjoyment than most blockbusters or films that have left an impression on me through sheer filmmaking skill. The Fast franchise evokes this overwhelming feeling of giddiness that leads to joyful laughter and awe just because of how RIDICULOUS these situations are. It’s certainly not everyone’s cup of tea but these maniacally over the top scenarios and stories are the kind of Canon era schlock with huge budgets that understand exactly what their purpose is: entertainment.
Is this is a valid excuse for these movies to dip in regards to quality of construction? Absolutely not, but when you have a director like James Wan using every tool in his arsenal to you FEEL every fleeting hit between The Rock and Jason Statham, it’s clear that this franchise in the hands of people with that same giddiness flowing through them. I’m also a sucker for those damn rotated fight shots of Wan’s. After recently seeing Hobbs and Shaw, I was discussing with my brother how open these films really are in terms of their place in the action genre.
I feel like to place them purely in the action genre is a disservice to what these films have aspired to be. Take the second entry, for example, 2 Fast 2 Furious (an underrated entry I might add, take that how you will). It’s wickedly silly and has aged in a rather cringe fashion when it comes to the dialogue. However, it might just be an unintentional take on Miami Vice?
I’m down for freshly squeezed 80s pulp and street racing through Miami, that’s for sure. Recent films like The Fate of The Furious and Hobbs and Shaw to me feel like the Fast way of interpreting James Bond. Fate was half way to Die Another Day, while Hobbs and Shaw embodied the rest of the glorious cheese and machismo that the Brosnan / Moore era’s give to us.
Any movie featuring a triple punch between Statham / Elba / Johnson is surely worthy of some accolades, right?