Here’s a question for you: is it time to add Vin Diesel to the list of actors whose career is defined entirely by a single film franchise? Sure, Diesel has shown up in other successful movies throughout his careers — Saving Private Ryan, The Iron Giant, and Guardians of the Galaxy have all been critical and commercial successes, not to mention his more niche productions like Find Me Guilty and his Riddick movies — but none of this holds a candle to his work on the Fast and Furious franchise. He’s been producer, screenwriter, and star of those movies for over 16 years now… I mean, nobody goes up to William Shatner and praises him for his work in Judgment at Nuremberg, right?
Fast and Furious franchise star Michelle Rodriguez made waves this week with her comment that the film series needs to “give more love” to its female characters, driving her point home with the faint threat of exiting the franchise. And while her diplomatically-phrased initial statement was hardly furious, the response to it has arrived in a manner I can describe only as… fast.
It may not have made a lick of sense within the emotional continuity of the series, but it’s hard to argue that the comedic highlight of The Fate of the Furious was Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham’s snappy banter. Johnson’s Hobbs winds up in jail right across the hall from his old arch-nemesis Deckard Shaw, played by Statham, and their chemistry is immediate and hilarious. Their playful back-and-forth throughout F8 kept things light and fun even as Dominic Toretto sold out his beloved family to work for Charlize Theron’s evil hacker Cipher.
Fambly. Chances are you just read that word in the gravel-voiced growl of babyfaced colossus Vin Diesel, the star of the Fast and Furious franchise that turned those two syllables into a catchphrase, and then into a way of life. In no small way, Diesel is the series, and not just because his name makes him sound like he’s already a character in one of these movies. As noble-hearted car jacker Dom Toretto, he helped shape the tone, themes, and overall outlook of all films fast and furious. But he was this close to missing it all, and going through life primarily identified as “the guy in the xXx movies I always tell my wife I was trying to Google.”
For years, one of the internet’s dirty little secrets has been that people really enjoy The Fate of the Furious: Tokyo Drift. A healthy flop at the time of its release — the film’s $60 million gross is half that of 2 Fast 2 Furious, the second-lowest grossing movie in the Fast and the Furious franchise — Tokyo Drift has climbed steadily back into fans’ favor due to the lasting appeal of Sung Kang’s Han Lue and a bit of chronological trickery in a later film that boosted this one’s reputation. It’s amazing how much better a film gets when you stop being mad at it for failing to bring back any of the main characters.
In the beginning, there were illegal street races and high speed heists, and Vin Diesel looked upon that which had created and saw that it was good. But as the franchise continued, the stakes became a little more… let’s say a little more insane. Cars parachuted out of the sky. Characters leapt their vehicles between skyscrapers. Tanks exchanged missiles with a submarine. As each movie has progressively upped the wow-factor of the franchise, there seems to be only one natural outcome for the Fast and the Furious family: they’re definitely going to head into space.