High-octane, full-fat, caffeinated entertainment with added cheese

Published: 05 May 2021

► Countdown to release of Fast & Furious 9
► Vin Diesel opens up in first of new interview series
► Brace yourself for Helen Mirren’s handbrake turns

The crime novelist Elmore Leonard once offered this advice to writers: ‘Try to leave out all the parts readers skip.’ That cut-to-the-chase philosophy has served the Fast & Furious movie franchise very well for its first eight instalments (and many side projects), and the imminent ninth outing for the street-racing/spying/heisting series promises no let-up in the pace.

The two trailers so far released for the Justin Lin-directed Fast 9 (this brevity is infectious) are pretty full-on, including the by now very finely honed trademark mix of banter, buddying and blowing things up. You also get Helen Mirren doing a handbrake turn. And John Cena is on board as Vin Diesel’s brother.

It’s all too much. Which is exactly right. And to think that I used to regard myself as a Gone in 60 Seconds kind of guy, favouring Nicolas Cage’s moodier take on the car/heist theme. That didn’t last. The original Fast and the Furious (SO MANY WORDS in that title – what were they thinking?) soon won me over.

Whereas plenty of purists think Tokyo Drift (the third film, but the events place it sixth in the saga’s chronology) was the pinnacle, and some shun anything after the fourth one, for me they’ve got better and better as they’ve got less realistic and less car-based, more nuclear sub/fighter jet-focused. Think of them as any of the Mission Impossible or Bourne films with the pauses for breath removed. That fast. That furious.

As part of the multi-media build-up to the new film’s release – planned for UK cinemas on 8 July – the US website EW (formerly Entertainment Weekly, but no longer weekly) has started a series of interviews with key FF players.

The first of these EW Binge podcasts (available now on YouTube and via various podcast providers, with new ones landing on the next eight Fridays) is an interview with Vin Diesel, who was in the first FF 20 years ago, took a breather to make some slightly less successful blockbusters, but is now very much associated with the franchise, along with Michelle Rodriguez and Ludacris.

He is, as ever, charming and articulate, getting the gentlest of interrogations from amiable hosts Derek Lawrence and Chanelle Berlin Johnson, even if he does seem to be labouring under the illusion, Russell Crowe-style, that he’s a serious artist. 

He’s very perceptive about where the films’ appeal lies, and how they’ve evolved. ‘It started very humble. You could really connect with these characters without all the spectacle. The spectacle came as the movies needed to start one-upping themselves, and as the audiences started expecting the unexpected.

‘You go to see Fast in the theatre for good reason, because you know you’re going to go ooowwwwaaagh! Something they don’t teach you in film school. They teach you in every scriptwriting class how to draw emotion, how to create different archetypes, but nobody teaches you now to create the ooowwwwaaagh feeling. And that feeling is what Fast is.’

Too right.

By Colin Overland

CAR's managing editor: wordsmith, critic, purveyor of fine captions