One of the things I love about the latest Fast and Furious movie (whatever it’s called, Fast & Furious 6, Furious 6 or my own title, “Planes, Tanks and Automobiles”) is its casting. Not only is the ensemble made up mostly of hyphenate professionals who weren’t originally actors (including a wrestler, a bodybuilder, a former Miss Israel, a couple music artists, a couple martial artists), but a few of them are rather fresh faces to film, new to the franchise and surely on the rise in their movie careers. As much as I look forward to seeing what each does next, I’m also excited to have a new reason to spotlight the fairly recent breakthrough performances that likely got them this gig.
In addition to using the opportunity to recommend those films, none of which has been seen by nearly as many people as will see a Fast and Furious movie, I’ve compiled a broader list of movies to now watch after seeing Fast & Furious 6. It’s partly a way to note some of its forebears and possible influences without going my usual negative route of criticizing this as a derivative work. It’s obviously imitative to a degree yet it’s also highly original in some of its stunts and their execution. Besides, just as in music we should accept and appreciate derivatives for their potential to lead fans backward to their (often better) predecessors.
Of course, there are some reminiscent predecessors I’d rather not choose to recommend (Cars 2, Die Hard 2, X-Men: The Last Stand) and others you may have in mind (let me know!). But after the jump I’ve selected ten movies, some that are more obscure than others, some that are kinda “no shit.”
The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift
Sure, it might not seem to make sense to recommend the third part of a series after the sixth, but Tokyo Drift does take place after this new movie (which replays and extends upon a certain death scene) and so it’s good to now either re-watch it or see it for the first time. Maybe you’re like me and never saw it before because it didn’t appear to be necessary part of the Fast and Furious canon, like a Halloween III or an American Pie spin-off. Maybe you just boycotted it because Paul Walker isn’t in it. Well, it might be important to see it before part 7, especially if Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) winds up enlisting Sean Boswell (Lucas Black) for his racing/heisting gang, as is my hope. A lot of people actually love Tokyo Drift the best in spite of it being a knowingly blatant Karate Kid (1 & 2) rip-off. It’s hardly as ridiculously entertaining as these last two Fast and Furious movies, but it’s still pretty enjoyable. If you haven’t already seen it, that F&F6 end credits epilogue showing the death of Han (Sung Kang) will have unfortunately functioned as a spoiler rather than a call-back. Watch the original version of this scene below:
I probably could devote a whole post to “ways in which Fast & Furious 6 is too much like Ocean’s Twelve,” but it’s more productive of me to just say they’re both self-aware pleasures in their own right and if you’ve never seen Steven Soderbergh’s Ocean‘s moves, do so. Fast Five was itself quite comparable to Ocean’s Eleven in the way it moved the franchise over to the heist film genre and compiled an ensemble not unlike the one in that other series. This follow-up is like the other follow-up, even being more titularly similar in that alternate name Furious 6 correlates to the number of people on Dom’s team (Dom, Brian, Han, Gisele, Roman and Tej), just as the Ocean’s Twelve title correlates to the number of people on Danny Ocean’s crew. In both films the adversary of the previous installment locates each of the team and makes them come out of retirement for another job, albeit with different sorts of motivation. And in both films the team goes up against a new adversary that is sort of their perfect counterpart match. Watch a clip of that rival below:
Another Soderbergh movie that Fast & Furious 6 owes a lot to is this smaller film that featured former MMA champ Gina Carano in her first starring role (though not her film debut). If you like her fight scenes opposite Michelle Rodriguez you’ll want to see her go up against Channing Tatum, Michael Fassbender, Ewan McGregor and others in action sequences that are more raw and realistic than we normally see in the movies. The story is rather light and familiar — a hired operative is turned on and must go on the run — and the nonlinear plotting is almost complicated just to make it seem more interesting, but it’s worth seeing for Carano’s star-making performance as both an actress and an action heroine. Watch one of the fight scenes below:
I’ve seen a number of people mention Kim Kold as a favorite among the large cast of Fast & Furious 6, wondering where he came from. Well, he comes from Denmark, is a champion bodybuilder and after retiring began appearing in films. His debut was a short titled Dennis, which director Mads Matthiesen later expanded into a feature called Teddy Bear. Kold stars as a gentle giant type bodybuilder who lives with his domineering mother and has trouble meeting women — both because of his shyness and tactlessness and due to his mother’s disapproval of him dating — so he goes on a secret trip to Thailand to pay for a bride. It’s a quieter, far more dramatic performance than his heavy henchman role in his Hollywood debut, and it shows that he has decent range if he wanted to take on bigger parts in the future. In my review of Teddy Bear, I wrote that it’s a “lovably large breakout performance,” and now perhaps F&F6 is his next step breaking out into the mainstream. Interestingly enough, I also wrote that Soderbergh ought to bring him to America for something along the lines of Haywire. I guess that step wasn’t necessary. Watch all of the 18-minute Dennis online here and check out the trailer for Teddy Bear below:
The Raid: Redemption
A lot of the audience for Fast and Furious movies are action hounds and therefore have already seen The Raid: Redemption, which is one of the best and deservedly most acclaimed movies of its kind in years (at least in terms of actual action anyway). But not all have. Maybe F&F6 can toss a bunch more its way thanks to its casting of former professional judoka Joe Taslim as one of the bad guys and letting him kick some serious ass in the subway scene where he takes on two members of the good crew at once and wins. In The Raid he’s one of the good guys and has even more great fight scenes, including the one below. I don’t want to spoil the movie for anyone who hasn’t seen it yet so this is not the complete fight.
The Master Touch
There are a lot of great heist films and a lot of great car chase movies that one might recommend to fans of the Fast and Furious films. This European production starring Kirk Douglas is not one that’s commonly mentioned, but it has one of my favorite chases. Douglas plays a master burglar who gets out of prison and immediately starts planning one last job. He recruits one partner, a trapeze artist played by actual former circus acrobat Giuliano Gemma (kind of like the Fast and Furious movies’ casting choices), and he’s the one who gets to shine in a lengthy distraction in which he’s pursued by a gangster through the city of Hamburg. It’s sometimes more like a demolition derby than a chase, though, as these cars just get smashed and mashed and crashed and just keep on moving. At one point a car carrier loses one of its own vehicles, which comes crashing down onto Gemma’s ride. This is 30 years before Michael Bay did it in Bad Boys II during a chase scene I kept thinking of during F&F6‘s chase involving the ramp-front “flip cars.” Here’s the chase scene in full:
Speaking of the “flip cars,” they might have seemed familiar if you’ve ever seen this silly Disney superhero movie, a true guilty pleasure that I hear might be getting a remake. The title character (Michael Crawford), a comic book writer and artist who winds up mixed up in some CIA business and becomes a real-life version of a character he created, also manages to pop cars up in the air with his tricked out Nova Sterling. Unlike the hero of his comic, he’s no good in the flight department so he gets around in this gadget-adorned vehicle straight out of a Bond movie (except much uglier than anything even Roger Moore would drive). Watch him do some serious damage to a bunch of Porsches in the Yugoslavian countryside in this foreign-dubbed sequence:
Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior
The open chassis design of the “flip cars” also reminded me of some of the vehicles in the Mad Max sequel. This is the king of long, straight-path, destruction-heavy highway chase scenes with its climactic tanker attack number. Think everyone has already seen it? At 33 years old now it’s pretty ancient in relation to a large part of the Fast and Furious audience, so maybe not. Even I hadn’t seen it until very recently and I’m of a certain age where I should have seen it long ago but just never did. As in my case, you other newbies will feel like you have seen a lot of the movie before, as it’s influenced a lot of stuff since, but you will probably also be surprised at just how much still feels new and even more awesome than you anticipated. Here’s some of that tanker sequence:
If you like the idea of customized and tricked-out vehicles but not necessarily or only for racing and action purposes, you should check out the films of Harrod Blank. He’s the son of the recently deceased filmmaker Les Blank (director of Burden of Dreams) and really only makes documentaries about art cars. Wild Wheels is his first, then he followed it up with Automorphosis. You won’t see them engaged in any exciting speeding or battling sequences, but it’s hard not to get a kick out of most of the creations presented throughout these films. Watch a long clip below:
Although I’d recommend this immensely captivating documentary any chance I get, I wouldn’t necessarily include it on this list because of F&F6 alone. But I believe most moviegoers who see the sequel this weekend will be treated to the new trailer for Ron Howard’s next movie, Rush, a biopic about Formula 1 racer Niki Lauda. Senna, which is a biography of Formula 1 champ Ayrton Senna, is not an action drama, but it is more thrilling than most narrative (as in not documentary) movies about racing thanks to lots of great archival footage (especially the in-car POV shots) and masterful, BAFTA Award-winning editing by Chris King (Exit Through the Gift Shop) and Gregers Sall, under the precise direction of Asif Kapadia. It’s a must see film after watching F&F6, and it’s definitely a necessity before you see Rush. Watch a clip below: