With the release of Fast and Furious 7 last week, it’s worth noting the key influences so far. Almost every escapade has actively appreciated the globe-trotting, explosive-heavy, expertly-produced James Bond series – and the seventh instalment is no different…
This is “007-style shit”, says Roman (Tyrese Gibson) in Fast & Furious 6 when introduced to a new task. In fact, he’d have to look a little earlier to see how big an influence James Bond has been. I’d go further and argue that the suave spy’s fifty-years of espionage is the biggest influence on the entire series so far. The initial set-up in The Fast and the Furious, with Brian (Paul Walker) as Bond (the undercover rogue-cop who can’t-be-contained) is merely scratching the surface as, film-by-film, the inspiration is clearer and we are more aware of the debt owed to the iconic man. Ironically, it was Vin Diesel who skipped 2 Fast 2 Furious to become 007 in XXX – missing some of the most obvious nods to James Bond in the entire run.
Compare the introduction of George Lazenby in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service to the re-introduction of Paul Walker in 2 Fast 2 Furious. Both tease the character through quick cuts and a cool drive; only showing the actors face in deep shadow before the definitive opening as the lead actor makes an impressive entrance (Though Brian’s confident swagger as he raises the stakes of a street-race seems more satisfying than Lazenby’s breaking of the fourth wall – ‘this never happened to the other fella’). Director John Singleton even manages to squeeze in the first exceptional gadget in a Goldfinger-inspired horizontal ejector seat – unless you count ‘NOS’ as a gadget unto itself from the first instalment. I’d even argue how the car-to-boat stunt isn’t too far from the type of wild leaps Bond would make in his range of gadget-laden cars. While we’re talking gadgets, the car-stealing truck in Fast & Furious 5 and virtually everything Tej (Ludacris) dreams up are gadgets Bond would stumble across in Q’s shed.
But the shaken-not-stirred mantra doesn’t end there. After 2006, Casino Royale (inspired itself by Paul Greengrass’ The Bourne Supremacy and the fad of origin-stories) made a huge impact on the fourth film, Fast & Furious. A third introduction of Paul Walker re-treads this influence with a foot-chase in LA. It’s shot, and feels the same as the free-running African rundown in Casino Royale. O’Conner is the skilled agent on the hunt opposed to the street-brawler who leaps and jumps. O’Conner doesn’t let him out of his sight. Swiftly moving onto Fast & Furious 5, we see a toilet scene that looks identical to the Goldeneye opening and a window fall-through seems to echo a moment in Quantum of Solace. Then we move onto cars driving out of planes (The Living Daylights) and tanks on streets (Goldeneye) in Fast & Furious 6.
While some may argue these clear references weaken the franchise, this type of considered inspiration is what has supported Fast & Furious to become the multi-million dollar series it now is. For example, every stunt since The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift feels real – something the production behind James Bond prioritises. Justin Lin holds shots so that we see the scale of the action. The canyon-drop in the opening act of Fast & Furious 5 aches to prove that it’s an actual car – falling off a cliff. Fast & Furious 7 is proud of the fact that they parachuted cars from planes and used no CGI for the bus-sequence finale. Remember our shock when we heard that the bungee-jump start to Goldeneye was real? Lin and James Wan clearly sought the authenticity of these real stunts.
The locations too have become distinctly more extravagant and worldwide. Rio, Mexico, London and Tokyo all provide a glorious setting for the car-action and, of course, they’ve all featured in 007’s adventures (Moonraker, License to Kill and You Only Live Twice respectively). Add to this the tyrannical and sneaky villains. Senor Reyes (Joaquim de Almeida) in Fast & Furious 5 could be straight from Licence to Kill, as Sanchez (Robert Davi) and Reyes are both drug barons from Central America. Even Braga (John Ortiz), in pure criminal mastermind mode, reveals his plan to Brian in Fast & Furious 6: “You’re a dead-man walking anyway…”
From the start, The Fast and the Furious portrayed girls who are over-the-top sexy, while James Bond has always used his fair share of sweet-wheels. It makes complete sense that the films moved in this direction. Still not convinced? Dom Toretto might not drink a Martini, but we all know a Corona is his beer of choice. Even the iconic ‘Bond, James Bond’ has its own parallels. Letty and Dom’s phrase, ‘Ride or Die’, could even be the name of a Brosnan-Bond film. ‘Too early’ and ‘Buster’ harks back to the first meeting between Dom and Brian. ‘I got this’ or even the underused ‘I’m hungry’ from Roman is all quotable fun-and-games from the driving-dangerously series.
Fast and Furious 7 breaks the mould a tad. Of course, glorious locations in Abu Dhabi and returning to LA, London and Tokyo ensures that, within a single film, the crew visit multiple locations (Normally it’s a little more limited) like Bond. But, notably, FAF7 – for the first time – dresses up our heroes as millionaires. Dom, now front and centre, replaces Brian’s assumed Bond-like dominance. Perhaps Vin Diesel can now be the super spy he’s wanted to be since XXX?
Writer Chris Morgan is responsible for all writing duties since The Fast and the Furious – Tokyo Drift, so I have a funny feeling it is he who adores the tuxedo-clad super spy. I can see it now, as Morgan watches 2 Fast 2 Furious (penned by Michael Brandt and Derek Haas) with its adorable nods to 007, he imagines how the exploits could be far bigger and bolder than America-based action. Consequently, he’s turned the films into a billion-dollar industry. With an opening weekend of over $392m for Fast & Furious 7, it seems he got it right.
This post was originally written for Flickering Myth