The Fast & Furious franchise has gotten so big that there is even additional content that I explored just to see what else this world has to offer. Here are two short films and an animated television series that has spun-off the main series of films.
Turbo Charged Prelude to 2 Fast 2 Furious (Philip G. Atwell, 2003)
First, let me start by saying that there is absolutely nothing “turbo charged” about this 6 minute film intended to bridge the gap between The Fast and the Furious and 2 Fast 2 Furious. One of my complaints about the sequel was how Brian (Paul Walker) ended up in Miami, and why. Well, ask no more! This short film shows Brian post letting Dom go, running from the police by road tripping across America to get to Miami. Along the way, he finds races to make some money, and even befriends a girl (Minka Kelly), who keeps his cover and helps him elude the authorities.
Essentially, this is a 6 minute montage with very little to no dialogue as we see how Brian made his way to Miami. For that reason, this film cannot be recommended to anyone but the most intense and completionist type fans of the series. It’s extremely inessential and fairly uninteresting and uneventful. I guess the only saving grace might be the style and faithfulness to the type of movie The Fast and the Furious is. It at least serves a purpose in the franchise, filling a gap that didn’t need filling.
★★☆☆☆ – DIDN’T LIKE IT
Los Bandoleros (Vin Diesel, 2009)
Los Bandoleros is the second short film in the series, which fills in just before Fast & Furious, and I suppose serving as explanation for where Dom (Vin Diesel) has been through the second and third films where his absence was certainly felt. We spend time in the Dominican Republic, where we also caught up with Dom and Letty in the beginning of The Fate of the Furious, so I suppose we are to conclude that this is where Dom, or at least his family, is from. Dom is living the good life, and then Han (Sung Kang) and Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) both show up. We end up with an on the water sequence of Dom and Letty making out.
It’s a much longer film than Turbo Charged Prelude, coming in at 20 minutes, but somehow it feels like less happens. There’s some kind of plot of a jailbreak and needing to steal oil for the family? It doesn’t make sense, but it does ultimately tie in to the opening scene in Fast & Furious, but this film is somehow even less essential and necessary than Turbo Charged Prelude, if that is possible. What is notable here is the direction of Vin Diesel. Diesel manages to include a few interesting visual flourishes that made me think he might not be a bad director if he ever chose to go that direction, but really the film is pretty poor and unfocused and unclear of its intent and purpose, so perhaps not.
★☆☆☆☆ – HATED IT
Fast & Furious Spy Racers (Netflix, 2019)
The Fast & Furious brand continues to expand with this spin-off animated series, which in and of itself brings about a few questions. The franchise is a great big action franchise with plenty of violence, built on a premise of crime, so what about that screams kids animated series? Not much, and I think for that reason this TV-Y7 rated series is a little problematic. I’m not against animation, and I’m not against Fast & Furious (at all), but the combining of the two feels a little weird. What we get is an action series about infiltrating a gang with intentions to do crime, but in the tone of a children’s show. It’s just a little weird and a little tone deaf.
But what’s weirder…I think I liked it? Like the dialogue and a lot of the jokes are clearly juvenile, which doesn’t fit with the story being told, but the story being told is actually pretty damn solid and I enjoyed the ride and animation of these car races and action scenes. Even the characters were mostly good too (again, with some juvenile tendencies). Dom’s cousin Tony and his crew are asked by Ms. Nowhere to infiltrate SH1FT3R, a gang led by Shashi who has plans to steal keys to the Skeleton Key. It plays as a learn as you go caper for the younger, but I guess still adult? crew (with the exception of the tech guy Frostee, who is specifically referenced as being 13.
Again, the dynamics of this don’t work, but the storyline and action are engaging and entertaining for the most part. It’s an eight episode series, which amounts to a 3 hour movie, as each episode plays into the larger story. It easily could have been edited into a movie instead. Overall, the series dwindles the longer it lasts, after starting with a bang, but again, I somehow really enjoyed this, despite all the reasons I shouldn’t have, and all the reasons I can readily admit are either problematic or just, juvenile. That’s the word I keep coming back to. But if I imagine this as a live action, PG-13 movie, or even an adult cartoon, I think the story and characters work really well. It’s just the positioning of it as a kids series/cartoon that seems to generally bring down an otherwise promising entry into the universe.