FAST 7 hits theaters at the end of the week and in order to rev up the hype train (can those rev up?) ScreenRelish is providing a quick way to catch up on the franchise with short bios of the characters and the actors that play them. For a series that didn’t seem like it had staying power, THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS has become a tentpole event franchise to be reckoned with.
Name: Vin Diesel
If there’s one person in Hollywood right now that I think would be great to just hang around for a week, it would be Vin Diesel. Sure there are more prominent actors, but for all intent and purposes Diesel seems like the kind of guy you could grab a beer with a hang out. Not a big drinker? Sit back and play video games with him, or if you want to go big bust out you D&D avatar and tackle a dungeon together. Despite looking like a small tank, Diesel is an outspoken nerd. Of course, being a nerd isn’t what got him into acting, nor is it his obvious trait. Diesel has enjoyed a wide range of projects from the soft-spoken IRON GIANT and Groot in GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY to the dark and brooding Riddick from the PITCH BLACK universe. His first big break was with SAVING PRIVATE RYAN after being noticed by Steven Spielberg who was impressed by Diesel’s first film, a personal project titled MULTI-FACIAL. While most associate him with THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS and its sequels and the Riddick movies, there’s more to him as an actor than that. If you want to see a different Diesel check out FIND ME GUILTY. Where Diesel goes from here is anyone’s guess. Outside of THE LAST WITCH HUNTER and XXX: THE RETURN OF XANDER CAGE there’s no telling what Diesel has coming up. There’s speculation that he may be in another Marvel movie, and he will likely be back for another FAST & FURIOUS, but I for one would love to see him branch out more. He’s actually a competent actor that just ends up in the same three or so roles on repeat.
Character: Dominic Toretto
For someone who started out as, essentially, the antagonist of THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS, Dom has increasingly become the soul of the franchise. He epitomizes the mantra of the team of racers, the idea that they are all more than just friends and acquaintances. The Dom that audiences are introduced to is the leader of a band of truck thieves that “live one quarter-mile at a time.” After his world is torn apart by an undercover Brian O’Conner, Dom goes on the run from the law. Audiences don’t see him again until the very end of TOKYO DRIFT as a pseudo tie-in to the rest of the franchise (though the true meaning of it wasn’t realized at the time). For anything more than a cameo audiences would have to wait until FAST AND THE FURIOUS where he comes face-to-face with O’Conner for the first time since he was allowed to escape imprisonment. Unfortunately by the end of the movie Dom is back in custody and heading to jail, or he would have had O’Conner not staged a breakout from the prison bus. The two would continue watching each-others backs for the rest of the series. Ultimately, Dom is the one to make the call, the man who puts the best teams together, and the man who is willing to sacrifice everything for the people he calls his family.
First FAST AND FURIOUS Appearance: The original THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS
Franchise Legacy: ALMOST every one. The only entry that Diesel sat out was 2 FAST 2 FURIOUS. He made a very brief cameo in TOKYO DRIFT that didn’t really amount to much until FAST & FURIOUS 6. Now we know why he was in Tokyo seeking out Boswell.
Best FAST AND FURIOUS Moment: A character like Dom has too many big moments to pick just one, but one of my favorite lines of his is from the original: “You almost had me? You never had me. You never had your car.” Then there’s the obligatory “I don’t have friends, I got family.” If Brian O’Conner is the heart of the team, Dominic Toretto is the soul.
Name: Michelle Rodriguez
Having made a career for herself as the go-to bad-ass Latina, Michelle Rodriguez finds herself in very similar roles, but roles she seems to enjoy. A very physical actor, Rodriguez gives it her all to appear formidable. She is the very opposite of some of the “waif-fu” action starlets that tend to get action roles despite not looking like they have even seen the inside of a weightlifting gym. Though appearing in a few non-action roles, it’s the action roles that she’s remembered for. It was her debut in GIRLFIGHT that got her critically noticed and opened up the opportunities that followed. THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS was only her second audition and, as luck would have it, the second role she landed. Other noteworthy roles for Rodriguez include her involvement in RESIDENT EVIL (hey, the first one was a big deal at the time), S.W.A.T., LOST and AVATAR. Still seen here and there in various projects, Rodriguez has yet to hit another high the likes of GIRLFIGHT, but she’s still young.
If there’s one person who seems as physically intimidating as Dom, it’s Letty. The childhood friends turned lovers came up together and followed each other through thick and thin. Part of Dom’s crew when he was robbing freight trucks, Letty is the Dom’s other half. In THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS Letty was seen as a rough-around-the-edges badass who could hold her own among the men of illegal street racing. Sure, Mia can drive, but for Letty her car is another appendage. Sporadically showing up in the related sequels didn’t stop Letty from being a main story point for the franchise. FAST & FURIOUS only saw Dom and Brian meeting face-to-face again because of Letty, with Brian’s true involvement not being realized until FAST & FURIOUS 6 (Brian sent Letty into Braga’s crew undercover in order to stop the drug trafficking, Dom was seeking revenge for her death). Dom got his revenge on Letty’s murder (or so it seemed) and tried to move on. That all changed when Hobbs found out that Letty was alive and, conveniently, involved with some international criminal activity that Hobbs was tasked with taking care of. This brought everyone back together again in order to put the family back together and exonerate them all of their past crimes. But back to Letty: at this point she had no memory of her past with Dom. She was working with Owen Shaw because he was there when she woke up in the hospital. Believing it to be a waste to kill a good driver, Shaw takes her in as part of his team. Eventually Dom convinces Letty that she should be with him and his crew rather than Shaw and, even though she still doesn’t remember much of anything, Letty has found herself back in California in the house where it all began.
First FAST AND FURIOUS Appearance: THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS
Franchise Legacy: Letty is part of the original cast, but like many of her mainstay counterparts she sat out 2 FAST 2 FURIOUS and TOKYO DRIFT. She’s in FAST & FURIOUS technically, but is more a story point than anything else. Her face is included in a picture during the mid-credit scene of FAST FIVE as well, again being more a story element than anything else.
Best FAST AND FURIOUS Moment: Throwing down with Gina Carano’s Riley in the subway chase scene. I now it’s a movie, but looking like she can keep up with a professional fighter is no easy feat. Letty really gives it her all in escaping Riley’s pursuit, going as far as throwing them both down a flight of concrete steps. I’ll reserve my opinion until Friday night, but I have high hopes for Letty’s bout with Ronda Rousey’s Kara.
FURIOUS 7 opens in theaters April 3rd in the US and UK
Check out the ScreenRelish review here