Off the back of the success of the original The Fast & The Furious movie, Universal Pictures quickly moved a follow up into production, this time with Paul Walker headlining, instead of Vin Diesel. John Singleton took over the director’s chair, but there was no let up in the automotive action. Here, then, is out latest celebration of crossing the line movie car chases, as we build towards the release of EA’s upcoming game, Need For Speed Rivals.
Released in 2001, the first Fast & The Furious was an odd creation. Its street racing premise was taken from a magazine article. Its title was taken from an old Roger Corman movie. Its plot, as director Rob Cohen himself admitted on the movie’s commentary track, was cribbed from Kathryn Bigelow’s 1991 thriller, Point Break. Yet despite all of this liberal borrowing, The Fast & The Furious was a success, establishing a larger-than-life series that, if anything, is more popular now than it was more than a decade ago.
The 2003 sequel had to make do without the co-star of the first film (Vin Diesel) and its director, who’d both gone off to make the action flick xXx. Instead, 2 Fast 2 Furious focuses on ex-cop Brian O’Conner (Paul Walker again) and his new sidekick, childhood friend Roman Pearce (Tyrese Gibson). Together, they have to find a way to bring down evil drug boss Carter Verone (Carter Hauser), preferably by driving very fast in modified cars with custom paint jobs.
Before all that, though, Walker’s character is reintroduced in an illegal street race – one of the chief selling points of the first movie. Neatly summing up the Fast franchise as a whole, it’s daft, implausible, but also a lot of fun…
It’s a sultry evening in downtown Miami, and a section of highway’s been closed off by racing organiser Tej (Chris ‘Ludacris’ Bridges) and his incalculably large following of ladies in short shorts. Through this cavorting throng comes Brian in his modified Nissan Skyline, rumbling like some kind of mythical beast, all glowing lights and jets of what we’re guessing is excess nitrous.
Brian’s rivals in this drag race are Suki (car of choice: pink Honda S2000), Orange Julius (red Mazda RX-7) and Slap Jack (Toyota Supra). With the stake established as an unfathomably high $35,000 (or “35 large,” to use the film’s hip and trendy term), the race is ready to begin.
To a cheering crowd, the four cars roar off the starting line in a neon blur. With much gritting of teeth and changing of gear, the pack begins to spread out, with Brian’s blue Skyline just behind Slap Jack’s orange Supra.
In a contrast to the original film, where Brian was still a bit of a newcomer to the whole world of street racing, he’s now a seasoned pro by 2 Fast 2 Furious, as he calmly reels his opponent in until he’s almost ready to pass on the first bend. Slap Jack, on the other hand, is far less calm, and even though he appears to have the more powerful car in a straight line, he decides to start weaving all over the road in an effort to prevent Brian from overtaking him. Unfortunately, Brian chooses the better line through another bend, giving him the chance to edge ahead on the home straight.
Ah yes, bends. In a contrast to the first film, which largely concentrated on straight-line drag races, the sequel spices things up a bit by introducing a few twists and turns – plus a potentially homicidal surprise dreamed up by Tej, which we’ll get back to later.
Crossing the line
Throughout this little series of driving scenes, we’ve tried to find a moment where one of the drivers does something naughty in order to get the edge on their rivals. 2 Fast 2 Furious, however, presents us with an unusual scenario, in that it’s the race organiser who crosses this invisible moral boundary.
Tej, clearly anxious to give his spectators an exciting finish to the race, has his lackeys raise a drawbridge to create the kind of gigantic ramp that probably would have made Evel Knievel blanch.
“Ya see that?” Tej cackles to the crowd, “Told y’all I had a surprise.”
Oddly, no one asks Tej why he’s just turned what was originally a dangerous yet essentially good-natured race into a potential murder scene. Then again, even the drivers don’t seem too bothered by this turn of events.
“Bridge,” says Brian, bringing all his descriptive powers to bear on this deadly situation.
Bitter rival Slap Jack, on the other hand, does what any self-respecting street racer would do: he presses a button on his steering wheel, and unleashes a jolt of nitrous oxide.
Now, in case you haven’t seen one of these early Fast & Furious films, nitrous oxide is a magical substance in the franchise’s slightly sci-fi universe. Introducing the gas into a car’s mixture of air and fuel doesn’t merely provide a brief, gratifying burst of speed – it propels the vehicle forward like the Millennium Falcon jumping into hyperspace. The world whips by in a mesmerising blur of colour, and the car crackles with magical energy.
So when Slap Jack – quickly followed by Brian – unleashes the nitrous, he doesn’t so much drive off the edge of the ramp as go flying off it like a plane zooming off an aircraft carrier. And as they hurtle through the sticky Miami night sky, howling maniacally at their impending whiplash, something extraordinary happens: Brian’s Nissan overtakes Slap Jack’s Toyota in midair.
Somehow surviving the jump and landing on all four wheels, Brian cruises to victory while Slap Jack skids into a Pepsi sign, his car an obvious write-off. The two back-markers, meanwhile – Suki in her pink S2000 and Orange Julius in his red RX-7 – both approach the drawbridge. Suki decides to go for the jump, and demolishes her car in the process.
It’s left to Orange Julius to make the first sane decision in the whole race: realising he can’t possibly win, he decides to cut his losses, and with an “Aw hell no”, brings his beloved Mazda to a halt before the jump.
The very definition of a ‘winner takes all’ race, the rivalry concludes with Brian taking away a gigantic stack of money, while two of his rivals are left with two completely ruined cars and – we’re guessing – severe back trauma.
In the whacky alternate world of the Fast & Furious franchise, though, small details like insurance and repair bills, huge lost bets and back injuries barely even figure. With its candy-coloured cars with infinite forward gears, the Fast franchise has about as much to do with the reality of driving as the Star Wars franchise does with space travel. But as this likeably silly scene from the second film demonstrates, that doesn’t mean it isn’t ludicrously entertaining.
Follow our Twitter feed for faster news and bad jokes right here. And be our Facebook chum here.