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The Fast & Furious series found a new shot of Franchise Viagra.
Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson provided a kinetic blast of energy and machismo to the Fast & Furious universe when he ripped through scenes in 2011’s Fast Five. Prior to that installment, the series had grown stale, and Johnson’s character – Luke Hobbs – was a necessary dose of adrenaline, a muscle-bound foil to Vin Diesel’s Dom Toretto and a naturally charismatic contributor who also could hold his own on the franchise’s signature, over-the-top action landscape. But The Rock’s net worth to the Fast & Furious franchise is on the decline – a fact made clear by the man-mountain’s sidelining in Furious 7 -- and the series found the perfect replacement, who should be able to carry the story into Fast & Furious 8 and beyond.
Ladies and gentlemen, Kurt Russell is the new all-star of the Fast & Furious universe. All hail Mr. Nobody, the franchise’s latest savior.
We’re dabbling in Furious 7 spoilers here, so bail now if you haven’t yet seen the latest movie, and want to avoid specifics.
Kurt Russell’s character in the Fast & Furious story is a shadow, a man with literally no name who boasts deep connections in our government. He and his team descend on the scene at an opportune time, rescuing Dom (Vin Diesel) from the clutches of Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) and sending Toretto’s crew on a globetrotting mission to retrieve the MacGuffin known as God’s Eye. Mr. Nobody funds an elaborate mission to retrieve a sports car from the top of a Dubai skyscraper, and the spook accompanies Dom and Brian (Paul Walker) on an elite effort to take down Shaw in an isolated factory-warehouse-power plant. The shot of Kurt Russell winking at Vin Diesel in the middle of a firefight might be my favorite scene in any Fast movie. It was the definition of badass.
Do you know who sat that sequence (and most of the movie) out? Dwayne Johnson. Which was strange, and more than a little telling. After delivering a Rock Bottom to Jason Statham in an early fight scene, The Rock was removed from Furious 7 until the end of the film, where the action shifted back to L.A. Hobbs missed the incredible skydiving sequence. He was left out of the Dubai skyscraper caper. The sequel basically put Dwayne Johnson in a hospital bed, and forgot about him.
Why would ANY film that had access to The Rock write him out of massive action set pieces? My theory – and it’s just my opinion – is that the Fast franchise did what it could with Dwayne Johnson, and its ready to move on. Johnson was the perfect addition to the Fast series at the time, and the incredible action hero raised the bar both inside and out of the Furious franchise. But Hobbs’ use in the progressing storyline has run its course, and it’s a natural time for Mr. Nobody to shift in and take his place.
This process might already be underway. In recent interviews, Diesel revealed that Kurt Russell was hired specifically to set up a story that would continue in Fast & Furious 8, and move the action to traffic-congested New York City. All Fast & Furious plans changed when Paul Walker died, but hints dropped in recent days suggest that Furious 8 will happen. This likely puts Mr. Nobody back in the spotlight, where he belongs.
Precious few film franchises – if any – make it to part seven while maintaining their creative energy, heart and soul. The Fast franchise stays fresh because the brain trust knows when to bring new players in, and when to let old players leave. It’s time to let The Rock go. He has PLENTY of pictures on his slate to keep him busy, including a future role in the DC Cinematic Universe. It’s time for a change.
Furious 7 is dominating at the box office, proving that fans fully are buying in to the new direction of the series. Now that we’ve seen what Russell can bring to the story, I think it’s time to shift the spotlight to Mr. Nobody, at least for the time being. After Fast & Furious, when the story needed a jolt, The Rock was the ideal boost to a sagging series. Now, that responsibility belongs to the worthy Kurt Russell, and I sincerely hope he is given even more chances to shine in Fast & Furious 8.