It was the summer of 2001. John Prescott punched a protester who threw an egg at him, The Office was first broadcast, and there was a massive spike in car accessory sales at Halfords. Why? Because a small film called The Fast and the Furious emerged, showcasing a hitherto unexplored pocket of underground street racing in Los Angeles.
There were a couple of suspect gear changes here and there, but the cars in the film were absolutely accurate to their time. Yes, Generation Z, back in the dim depths of the dawn of the millennium, neon lights and nitrous purges were cool. But things have moved on in the car world, and a few people expressed surprise (although mainly delight) when we announced that a sixth installment is hitting the big screen on May 17th. "Did I think there'd be a sixth one? Absolutely not," a gravelly-voiced badass told TG last week (Michelle Rodriguez). "I wasn't thinking franchise back in those days. The idea of a safe-bet sequel hadn't even been invented yet."
But for better or worse, it has, and the Fast & Furious family are back again for one last mission (ignore the fact that Fast and Furious 7 has already been announced). It's something another gravelly-voiced badass - Vin Diesel - is very much looking forward to, "I was wide-eyed and optimistic on the first film, and there may be more pressure on this one, but I'm more confident."
Fans won't need reminding of how Fast and Furious films go down. Dom (Vin Diesel), Brian (Paul Walker) and his crew are paired with the last film's antagonist, the walking, talking protein shake that is Hobbes (Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson). A gang is recruited to bring down the a new global hotshot gang in town, including Dom's presumed-dead love interest, Letty (Michelle Rodriguez). Why? To gain a pardon for their multi-million pound heist from the last film. Those ‘pink slip' street races from the first film seem pretty petty now, don't they?
Opening with a GT-R dueling a Dodge Charger through the Canary Islands, the film is an all-out action fest, with familiar lines that are cheesier than The Laughing Cow's udders. The action scenes are utterly impressive (count the director of Top Gear Live extremely taken), although at times, fundamentals like physics, time and space cease to exist: things like an Alfa Giulietta being able to single-handedly pull an Antonov out of the sky (awesome as it is).
Car nerds may wish the vehicles weren't pushed aside for mind-bending action quite so much. Don't forget, the orange Supra, Mitsubishi Eclipse, Dodge Charger and Skylines from back in the franchise were almost characters in their own right. But they're now more like excuses to allow things to be blown up and for The Rock to deliver the occasional "HULK SMASH!".
This is a bit of a shame for two reasons. One: There are some amazing cars in it. Two: some of the cast members are high-octane petrolheads, especially Paul Walker.
This is a man who owns the single largest collection of BMW E36 lightweights in the US. Eight of them. Also he has a load of 2002s, including Tourings and Turbos and E30 M3s. It's not just Bee Ems though, he's got every generation of Porsche GT3 ever sold in the states and a lovely '73 RS 911. The same can't be said for Michelle Rodriguez...
"I drive a Prius". We drop our head in shame. But she redeems herself quickly, "Dude, I used to get so many speeding tickets, it was the only way to get the cops off my ass. You can pop 120mph in your Prius and the cops won't even look at you twice on the highway. I used to have an M3 but got pulled over all the time - so bought the Prius. Four years later, no speeding tickets and I've got my points down to a level where I can feel comfortable getting tickets again. I want a Porsche 918 Spyder, but can't justify the cost."
And the auditioning of cars for the franchise is taken ridiculously seriously. "Choosing the car you drive is like choosing your wardrobe, maybe even more important." Vin told us. And in the new film there are incredible cars that'll keep you car spotters happy, especially the more obscure, nerdy ones in the background. But there's a standout: Dom's 1969 Dodge Daytona.
"The Daytona is a car I had been looking at for the last three Fast & Furious films but they never felt right. It did for this one," says director Justin Lin. And Vin agrees: "I felt like the Daytona spoke to the character. It's always a big process picking the cars and the casting of the car normally reflects the state of mind of our characters."
Which left us wondering if there's any room for a pure, car film in Hollywood? The director did have a confession for us: "I'm not really a car guy, I'm never going to be a car guy. But if you have the right idea, themes and characters, I think there's a space for car films in Hollywood. In this CGI world where I think we're sometimes used to being bigger in scope, with the right idea it'd be refreshing to see a film just about cars."
So budding TG.com screenwriters, do you think you've got it in you? Post your scripts in the comments below, and let us know what you think of the film too - it's out in the UK on May 17.