Keeping it wheel: How The Fast and the Furious became cinema’s biggest franchise

Keeping it wheel: How The Fast and the Furious became cinema’s biggest franchise

As Hobbs & Shaw is released, Ed Power argues that the Fast and Furious franchise has more mileage than Marvel

Every Fast and Furious fan will recall the moment they fell for its world of gleaming bonnets, roaring motors and lunkhead heroes. For me, it was when in the original The Fast and the Furious Vin Diesel gives the speech of his life as cuddly criminal-with-feelings Dominic Toretto (and, yes, how fantastic that this bad boy is named “Dominic”?).

“I live my life a quarter mile at a time,” Dominic tells Paul Walker’s undercover cop Brian O’Conner. “Nothing else matters: not the mortgage, not the store, not my team and all their bullshit. For those 10 seconds or less, I’m free.”

It’s like a Bruce Springsteen song, if Bruce Springsteen was a Dungeons and Dragons-playing action movie star portraying an illegal street racer in a glorified exploitation movie from 2001. There and then, The Fast and the Furious had me by the fluffy dice.

This was especially impressive considering that at the time I couldn’t even drive (I still can’t, some might say). Yet here I was hooked on a film about ridiculous people driving ridiculous cars at ridiculous speeds. And giving ridiculous speeches.

There’s a case that Fast and Furious is the greatest cinematic franchise of the 21st century. Here is an ongoing petrolhead epic brimming with thrills, spills and smoke-belching set-pieces. And now it is set to once again confirm its supremacy at the box office, with spin-off Hobbs & Shaw heading for a $200m (£164m) opening weekend. Years from now, a generation of moviegoers will look back and wonder why we weren’t more appreciative of it while it was around.

The Fast and the Furious drives rings around the Marvel films (too quippy). And it kicks dust in the face of the DC extended universe (too dark, not enough speeches about living a quarter mile at a time). It zipped off the grid 18 years ago like a nitro-fuelled bat from hell and has been accelerating ever since.

Fast & Furious: Hobbs & Shaw, which you should rush out to see immediately, continues this tradition. The film is, technically speaking, a spin-off rather than a sequel proper. But, also technically speaking, this in no way matters. What’s important is that, in pitting Dwayne Johnson’s Agent Hobbs and Jason Statham’s renegade secret service man Deckard Shaw against a computer enhanced super-villain played by Idris Elba, F&F once again delivers. We get brake-squealing action punctuated with zinging one-liners and knockabout humour.

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