Although he seems very different from the project’s past directors, Liman’s action resume could make him the right man for the job.
Even if they haven’t seen a single one — even if they’re just aware of its ridiculous naming scheme — everyone knows what The Fast and the Furious series is. With eight movies in, two to go and a spin-off in the works, it’s become a quintessential American cultural product that’s evolved into a beast of the franchise over the last 17 years. In fact, a Fast movie today only mildly echoes the elements of the first one released in 2001. The films of that era were distinctly homegrown with low stakes; just a bunch of mostly-male gearheads with a criminal edge flexing with some noisy vehicles. They have since morphed into global heist movies that put the world at large in mortal danger.
Altogether, the Fast series has made over $5 billion across all eight movies. It remains Universal’s most successful franchise and is the sixth highest-grossing film franchise of all time. The brand has expanded to include television entities, theme park attractions, a live show with stunt drivers and pyro, toys and video games. There doesn’t seem to be a racing movie out there that could take down this empire, but it’s easy to compare it to others that come down the pipeline.
In 2016, Warner Bros. began piquing interest by toying with the idea to remake a classic. The Cannonball Run, which originally starred a glitzy cast including Burt Reynolds, Roger Moore, Dean Martin, Farrah Fawcett and even Jackie Chan, was going to be “relaunched” and could potentially take the racing movie back to its cheeky roots. Etan Cohen of Get Hard fame was slated to write and helm the project, then titled Cannonball. Rawson Marshall Thurber — director of high-brow classics such as DodgeBall: A True Underdog Story — stepped in to take over directorial duties a year later with Thomas Lennon and Robert Ben Garant (Night at the Museum) joining the film to pen the screenplay. This week, The Cannonball Run remake has once again shifted gears with a new leader in the driver’s seat: Deadline reports that Doug Liman (Edge of Tomorrow) is now circling the project.
The original Cannonball Run centers on an illegal cross-country road race from Connecticut to California that draws together a myriad of eccentric participants who would do absolutely anything to win; it was based on an actual unsanctioned race. The movie earned over $72 million and was one of the top-grossing films in 1981. The Cannonball Run was big enough to spawn two sequels — Cannonball Run II in 1984, and Speed Zone in 1989 — creating a little series of its own. The film is certainly far more exaggerated than our modern day Fast franchise, but the star-studded cast makes up the bulk of the outrageous fun and of course, vehicular stunts!
There are no new details about WB’s remake of The Cannonball Run, although Deadline notes that Lennon and Garant’s version of the script is still being used; a new scribe will hop on board eventually, possibly for rewrites. Before Liman joined the project, having either the director of Get Hard or DodgeBall at the helm of the remake made utter sense when taking into account the spirit of the original film. Cohen and Thurber know how to blend the comedic with the action. But even without them, we can likely expect ridiculousness from the Cannonball Run remake and anticipate a plethora of big names to join in the fun. WB will absolutely go big or go home with the action sequences and set pieces to build on the film’s shock factor.
However, the fact of the matter is that the rather singular subgenre of racing movies has been essentially monopolized by Fast. Sometimes a dramatic entry like Ron Howard’s Rush comes in to spice up the fare, but otherwise, we eagerly await the family’s return. It was thus unsurprising that the last we heard about the Cannonball Run remake was from Thurber, who made sure to get ahead of potential franchise comparisons months ago. Per /Film:
“I think we’re living in a post or current ‘Fast and Furious’ world. So I don’t think ‘Cannonball’ can out-Fast and Furious ‘the Fast and the Furious.’ That’s its own thing, but we definitely want to harness that with the fun of ‘Ocean’s 11′ and put those together. It’ll have to be a different thing than ‘Fast,’ but should have some great car action, obviously.”
Without Thurber attached, and with the script likely rewritten, whether The Cannonball Run remake truly follows the above-mentioned trajectory remains to be seen. But anyone familiar with Liman’s work will be aware that he could easily make something reminiscent of the Fast and Ocean’s series — franchises that even share various similarities post-Fast Five. Liman is known for his tightly-woven action scenes and thrilling set pieces, although he does take a more tempered approach to comedy. Watching Emily Blunt kill Tom Cruise over and over again will always make me laugh, but there’s nothing particularly irreverent about Liman’s work. Not even his earlier films — Swingers and Go, for instance — are all that ridiculous in tone.
That said, these older Liman gems do feel particularly Ocean’s-esque with their fast-paced wit and ensemble casts. We already know that he can set up some exhilarating action sequences. So perhaps he could still carry this idea of the Fast franchise and the Ocean’s movies mashing up into a single movie. The resulting brainchild would be slick and entertaining regardless, and could even be a way to make the remake stand alone from such a classic is to go in a radically different direction.