The Perversion of the Fast and the Furious

Hobbs an Shaw poster 1 photo
Photo: Fast and Furious
Like some of you reading this now, I was barely a teen back in 2001, when The Fast and the Furious stormed cinemas and illegal download hubs. Like most of you reading this, I was instantly hooked.
Back then, I knew next to nothing about cars, and I knew even less about street racing. But as a teen I craved knowledge, and The Fast and the Furious was filling some serious gaps in my brain.

Combine that with the visual pleasure of seeing cars and drivers go at each other’s throats while being chased or not by police – mind you, those were the glory days of Need for Speed as well – and I can easily remember how thrilled we all got.

Fast and Furious started life as a 1998 article in VIBE magazine written by Kenneth Li and titled Racer X. It was all about legal or less so street racing in New York, and a crew who used Japanese cars for “burning up New York’s streets and racetracks.”

The article is delightfully graphic. You can almost hear the cars “buzzing like locusts.” You can feel the asphalt being scraped as the racers get in position “in preparation for the infamous mile-long run.” You can see them lining up, wheels spinning...

The original Fast and Furious was exactly like that. Visual. Graphic. Insane. Delightful.

It featured amazing cars, of long-gone model years – Dodge Charger, Mitsubishi Eclipse, Toyota Supra, and more. It starred young, fit and rising stars: Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Michelle Rodriguez. It was about the birth of a family, we were soon to learn.

It inspired millions into loving cars and impromptu racing because it showed, with minor exaggeration, a reality all of us could get behind: illegal, but not so much, high-octane, and adrenaline-filled.

It also made millions. $207 million globally, to be more exact, after the studio shoved into making the movie only $38 million.

Having quickly turned into a phenomenon among teens, The Fast and the Furious quickly turned into a big screen series. And all of us fans loved that, as really, could one ever get tired of street racing?

When the second movie was released in 2003, most of our expectations were met, and at times exceeded. Sure, there was probably less street racing per se, but really, how can one not appreciate the huge car scramble we got to see back then?

With all the high revving engines featured in the flick, the movie grossed $236 million following a $76 million investment.

Then came Tokyo Drift in 2006, pitting American muscle against Japanese high-power and mixing them with drifting. With all the crazy driving going on – admittedly, some of it CGI – this third installment did not quite manage to fill the big shoes of the previous two films. Probably because it didn’t have enough Diesel in it.

The tally: $85 million investment, $158 million global earnings.

From the 2009 installment onward, something clicked in the Fast and Furious world. The idea that stood behind the previous films got washed away and the crew we loved and knew turned into a gang of criminals in the more literal sense, and later down the road into government secret agents.

2009 is the year we can mark as the moment Fast and Furious began skidding off the road. From that moment onward, the bigger the box-office success, the crazier, unlikely and at times surrealist the movies got.

In a very short time, we’ve watched the franchise transition from street racing and family to crime and crime fighting, to spies and their corresponding villains.

Cars were replaced - or rather joined - by tanks, submarines, and airplanes, shredding the original storyline into a million pieces and outlandish spinoffs that have nothing to do with the original.

Up until now, even these unrealistic iterations of Fast and Furious were at least in part digestible. After the release of the Hobbs and Shaw spinoff later this year, we won’t be able to say even that.

Because from 2019 onward, The Fast and the Furious will be about bulletproof superhumans.

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About the author: Daniel Patrascu
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Daniel loves writing (or so he claims), and he uses this skill to offer readers a "behind the scenes" look at the automotive industry. He also enjoys talking about space exploration and robots, because in his view the only way forward for humanity is away from this planet, in metal bodies.
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