Franchise FOCUS: The Fast and the Furious

 

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In honor of the release of Furious 7 this month, I decided to write my Franchise Focus on the popular action series. The franchise started in 2001 at a time when the big action stars of the 80’s had all but faded away. I remember just a year before the original was released, the Nicholas Cage film Gone in 60 Seconds was released and I thought that the car-racing action film was going to be the next trend. It seemed to me as though The Fast and the Furious was just going to be one in a line of films to capitalize on the new trend. But man was I ever wrong.

The original film was the beginning of a franchise that has lasted for 14 years now. In the original, newcomers Vin Diesel and Paul Walker played Dominic Toretto and Brian O’Conner. Dominic was a street racer and ex-convict and lead a crew that included Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) and others. Dominic and his group are suspected of stealing some electronic equipment and Brian, an undercover cop, is sent into their world to find out who is stealing the valuable electronics.

Brian eventually gets in too deep and begins to fall for Dominic’s sister Mia (Jordana Brewster). He confesses to her that he is a cop and then assists Dom and his crew against the true criminals. But when Dom finds out Brian’s secret, he is enraged but manages to keep his cool. And in the end, Brian allows Dom to leave, despite him taking the law into his hands to avenge the death of a crew member.

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Two years later, 2 Fast 2 Furious was released because of the success of the original film. In the sequel, Brian is wanted for street racing and other crimes and is caught by US Customs agents. But they offer him a deal to erase his criminal record if he assists in bringing down a drug lord (Cole Hauser). He agrees and recruits his old friend Roman (Tyrese Gibson) to help him. With the assistance of two other drivers, Tej (Ludacris) and Suki (Devon Aoki), Brian and his crew stop the drug lord and get their records cleaned.

Also starring Eva Mendes, 2 Fast 2 Furious was another successful entry in the series. Despite not having Vin Diesel in the movie, it helped to continue the series’ popularity and set the stage for a third film. Although when they made a third film, it “drifted” far away from the plot of the first two films.

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The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift was released in 2006 and is definitely the most stand-alone film of the series. Paul Walker was not cast in this sequel for some reason and neither was Vin Diesel. Well, at least Diesel wasn’t thought to have been cast in the movie. Instead, the movie followed the story of street racer Sean Boswell (Lucas Black). Boswell was an American kid sent to live in Japan to avoid going to a juvenile jail for his racing antics. When he arrives in Tokyo, he befriends Twinkie (Bow Wow) and learns about drift racing.

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Despite not being allowed to drive, Sean borrows a car from a man named Han (Sung Kang) and tries to drift race but ends up totaling the car. Han then takes a liking to Sean and teaches him how to drift. But later on in a race, Han dies and Sean races a Yakuza member for the rights to remain on the island.

The third film was completely different from the others and is often viewed as the worst of the series. But I thought it was a good film in its own way and, before the movie ends, Diesel makes a cameo as Dom and races Sean.

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After the lukewarm reception of The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift, the series returned to its roots three years later in 2009 with Fast & Furious. This fourth film brought back all of the original characters and was the first to start piecing all of the film’s together. In this film, Dom and his crew are hijacking fuel tankers when Dom decides to retreat. But he leaves Letty behind so that she doesn’t get caught. However, he later hears that she died and is now hell bent on finding out who is responsible for her death.

Meanwhile, Brian is an FBI agent tasked with tracking down a drug dealer who just happens to be connected to the person responsible for Letty’s death. Brian and Dom both end up on a team that is responsible for trafficking the drugs between the U.S. and Mexico. This leads to a showdown between the two drivers and the drug cartel. In the end, they get their revenge but Dom is arrested and sent to prison. But on his way to the jail, Brian and Dom’s crew intercept the bus and free Dominic.

Fast Five was released next and picked up right where the last film ended. Dom, Brian, and Mia escape and then get a job trying to steal three cars. However, the train the cars are on is also carrying DEA agents and Brian, Dom, and Mia are then framed for their murders by the people that wanted the cars.

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This leads to U.S. DSS agent Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) tracking down the three of them. However, he can never catch them and learns the truth of what happened. In the end, Hobbs, Dom, and Brian end up fighting together to take down the real criminals. Hobbs refuses to let them go free but does allow them to get a head start. Later on Hobbs get a case file and opens it to find a picture of Letty, informing the audience that she is still alive and, of course, setting up the next film.

That next film, Fast & Furious 6, was released in 2013 and began with Hobbs investigating a crime believed to have been the work of Owen Shaw (Luke Evans). Hobbs then recruits Dom and his crew to help him after Hobbs shows Dom the picture of Letty. Hobbs promises full amnesty to all of them for their past crimes if they cooperate with him on capturing Shaw. They do so and eventually take down Shaw and recover Letty, who doesn’t remember any of her past.

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But in all the action, Han’s girlfriend is killed and he decides to move to Japan like they had planned to. And in a post-credits scene, he is shown racing in Tokyo when he gets into a crash. The driver of the other car walks out and it is Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham), Owen’s brother. He then calls Dom and sets up the story for the final film.

In Furious 7, Dom, Brian, Mia, Letty, Tej, Roman, and Han are hunted down by Deckard Shaw for putting his brother Owen in the hospital. Han is killed in a race in Japan and Dom visits Sean over there (tying together both Tokyo Drift and Fast & Furious 6). But in order to track Shaw, they need the invention of a young girl who they are recruited to rescue. With the group working together and the help of Hobbs, they manage to save the girl and fend off both Shaw and the group that was trying to kill the girl.

In the end, Dom and Letty begin to finally have their old relationship back while Brian and Mia’s family keeps growing. The rest of the gang and Hobbs go their own way and Shaw is arrested and jailed. The series closes with a recap of moments throughout the series and show the gang together one last time as the credits begin to roll.

While you can never say never with Hollywood, Furious 7 is billed as the last ride in the series and should be the end to a great franchise. With the tragic death of Paul Walker, one of the franchise’s top stars is gone and the legacy he left with these films should be left as is. Sure, they could always do another film with a new cast or remake the original (which I’m certain will happen), but this franchise should stay as is. And what it is is probably the best action franchise of the 2000’s.

Daryl Karpinski Jr.

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