‘Fast Five’ Flashback: Vin Diesel And Paul Walker Back In The Drivers Seat For ‘Fast & Furious’

With a slate of midnight screenings planned in some cities, we’re less than twenty-four hours from the American debut of “Fast Five.” And as the starting pistol is readied, we’re in the final stretch as we cover the fourth movie in the franchise: “Fast & Furious.”

After two sequels and eight years, “The Fast and the Furious” franchise went from the West Coast to the East Coast – and then onto the Pacific Rim – but it was now time to come back home. This fourth film, simply titled “Fast & Furious,” saw the first full-scale reunion of the original cast since the original in 2001: Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Michelle Rodriguez and Jordana Brewster. Although the previous two films carried on the franchise, this fourth outing was the first real sequel to the story the street gang set up in the first place.

The “Furious” Rundown
In this stripped-down muscle car of a movie, we find Diesel’s character of Dominic Torretto running a new gang in the Dominican Republic stealing fuel tankers. After his on-screen girlfriend Letty (played by Rodriguez) is murdered following a near fatal car crash back in the states, Dom comes back to find out what happened and who needs to pay. The trail leads to a drug dealer named Arturo Braga, who’s also under investigation by Walker’s character of Brian O’Conner, now an FBI agent. Toretto and Walker cross swords and end up racing before they manage to put their past behind them to put away the drug dealer and get back at the man who murdered Dom’s girlfriend.

Getting The Gang Back Together
Although the second and third films in the franchise garnered their fair share of success, there was always one thing missing – the original cast. One of the many innovative features of the original “Fast and the Furious” cast was its multi-racial aspect, and although they carried that formula over to subsequent movies they could never get the four key players back on board – until “Fast & Furious.” And in addition to the four principal stars, one of the series’ original screenwriters David Ayer came on board to do some rewrites on the script.

Tying Together The Strands of The Franchise
In addition to reuniting the original cast from the first movie, “Fast & Furious” also began pulling together the three separate storylines of the previous films into a larger narrative. In fact, timeline-wise “Fast & Furious” takes place before the previous film “Tokyo Drift,” with one of Dom’s crew, Han, promising in this film to head to Tokyo where he became a major player in that Japan-based film. After going its own way on three separate occasions, this fourth film began a real world-building phase which is carried over into the upcoming fifth film.

Vin Diesel Returns To the Driver’s Seat
After bowing out of the second film and only filming a cameo in the third, actor Vin Diesel returned with a vengeance in “Fast & Furious.” Diesel returned to the franchise not only as one of its integral stars, however; he also signed on as a producer as well as directing an original short film called “Los Bandoleros” for the DVD that served as a prequel to the movie itself. Although best known as an actor, Diesel directed two short films in the mid-90s that showed a genuine interest in being more than just an action star.

Although American cars weren’t absent entirely from the earlier films, up until “Fast & Furious” the franchise opted to focus more on Asian import cars to get moviegoers’ motors running. The studio had over 240 cars custom-built for the film in the San Fernando Valley, inspired by vehicles from “Hot Rod” magazine as well as previous car-centric films.

High Performance Machine
The return of the original cast gave this fourth outing some extra juice, but industry observers remained pessimistic about the film’s projected success – until the numbers started coming in. “Fast & Furious” scored a $70 million opening weekend, double what critics expected, and went on to become the second highest-grossing film in the car genre behind PIXAR’s animated “Cars.” It outpaced the previous film “Tokyo Drift’s” entire domestic run in just its opening weekend, and went on to gross $359 million worldwide – almost twice the original.

Justin Lin & Chris Morgan Cement Their Place As Franchise Players
In addition to being the reunion of original movie’s cast, “Fast & Furious” also served as a return for “Tokyo Drift” director Justin Lin and screenwriter Chris Morgan. Although the previous film failed to blow the doors off in 2006, the studio saw the duo as trustworthy stewards of the franchise and brought them back for this as well as tomorrow’s upcoming release.

Check back with MTV Movies Blog all week long for more “Fast and Furious”!