Will the FAST AND FURIOUS Franchise Ditch the Street Racing for a Series of Heist Movies?

     April 25, 2011

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The Fast and the Furious series is one of the major gaps in my male cinematic knowledge.  I am too effeminate, too pretentious.  However, I have much respect for the continued success of the franchise after the 2009 surge to a series-best $353 million worldwide box office with Fast & FuriousFast Five opens this Friday, and the smart money is on “Major Hit.”  The producers wisely tapped into the core appeal of the films and secured virtually every major player in the series — including Vin Diesel, Paul Walker,  Jordana Brewster, Chris “Ludacris” Bridges, Tyrese Gibson, Sung Kang — and upped the ante by casting potential action god Dwayne Johnson.

Pretend you’re a studio executive for a second.  At this point, you wouldn’t reinvent the market’s premier car movie brand to cater to someone like this silly writer, right?  And yet, Universal chairman Adam Fogelson is discussing just such a shift.

Chris Morgan — screenwriter on Tokyo Drift, Fast & Furious, and Fast Five — was previously hired to start work on a sixth film.  Deadline reports the sequel is set up to revolve around a robbery: “Universal’s intent is to transform this street racing franchise into a series of heist films.”  More after the jump.

When we spoke to producer Neal Moritz in January, he already had a good idea about what Fast Six will be:

“We already know what the sixth movie is, we’ve already been talking about it… Vin and I have had numerous conversations about what that might be. And we’re starting to get serious about it right now. We just finished the movie like 4 or 5 weeks ago and we just needed a break, and now we’re gonna start focusing on that.”

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Fogelson told Deadline tonight:

“The question putting Fast Five and Fast Six together for us was: Can we take it out of being a pure car culture movie and into being a true action franchise in the spirit of those great heist films made 10 or 15 years ago?”

I appreciate the boldness and willingness to keep things fresh.  But I don’t understand the logic.  Fast and Furious carved out this great niche of big, dumb car-centric fun, unrivaled if you don’t count sci-fi cousin Transformers.  The advice “stay your lane” has never been more appropriate.

To be fair, Fogelson talks about keeping cars in the movie, albeit less prominently:

“We’ve heard so many people say, ‘I’ve never seen one, and I’ve never wanted to see one…’ about the Fast franchise.  So if these movies were still about street racing, there was probably a ceiling on how many people would buy tickets. We wanted to see if we could raise it out of about racing and make car driving ability just a part of the movie, like those great chases in The French Connection, The Bourne Identity, The Italian Job.”

I am one of those who has seen not a frame of fastness nor furiousness, so I may have no idea what I’m talking about.  If you excise the races from any given movie, are you left with anything of substance?  Can Diesel and Walker anchor a solid heist film?  Aren’t heist movies supposed to be, you know, smart?

Here’s the synopsis for Fast Five; read it before it becomes irrelevant.

Vin Diesel and Paul Walker lead a reunion of returning all-stars from every chapter of the explosive franchise built on speed in Fast Five. In this installment, former cop Brian O’Conner (Paul Walker) partners with ex-con Dom Toretto (Vin Diesel) on the opposite side of the law. Dwayne Johnson joins returning favorites Jordana Brewster, Chris “Ludacris” Bridges, Tyrese Gibson, Sung Kang, Gal Gadot, Matt Schulze, Tego Calderon and Don Omar for this ultimate high-stakes race. Since Brian and Mia Toretto (Brewster) broke Dom out of custody, they’ve blown across many borders to elude authorities. Now backed into a corner in Rio de Janeiro, they must pull one last job in order to gain their freedom. As they assemble their elite team of top racers, the unlikely allies know their only shot of getting out for good means confronting the corrupt businessman who wants them dead. But he’s not the only one on their tail. Hard-nosed federal agent Luke Hobbs (Johnson) never misses his target. When he is assigned to track down Dom and Brian, he and his strike team launch an all-out assault to capture them. But as his men tear through Brazil, Hobbs learns he can’t separate the good guys from the bad. Now, he must rely on his instincts to corner his prey…before someone else runs them down first.

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