Looking back, The Fast and the Furious is actually a pretty different film from what you know think of series as a whole. Fasts 5, 6, & 7 are all big, sprawling international action-heist movies, almost James Bond movies with Vin Diesel in a sweaty vest. But part one is far more lowkey. It has action scenes, obviously, but it’s almost not an action film. It’s a street-level drama-thriller about an undercover cop trying to infiltrate a niche subculture and questioning his loyalties. A B-movie Donnie Brasco. Also, stylistically, it’s a lot, lot more nu-metal than you remember. The Fast franchise has a reputation for being very hip-hop heavy, and while the OST album for the first one is full of Ja Rule, Fat Joe and Scarface, there’s a hell of a lot of angry white boy music in the actual film. Saliva and Limp Bizkit get spins, and the members of Vin Diesel’s crew could easily be stand-ins for Puddle of Mudd or Rancid — greasy, hench early 00s white dudes with tattoos and snarls.
But it is the way that the series has evolved that is what makes it so special. The film was a surprise hit, but breakout star Vin Diesel didn’t want to do a sequel. Instead, he chose to take off with director Rob Cohen to make xXx, a hilariously dated attempt to create a James Bond for the Linkin Park generation. xXx is a fascinating timepiece in its own way, brilliantly dated in its attempts to be cool (Extreme sports! Rammstein! Asia Argento!), but what’s really interesting is that Diesel seemed to have taken all the nu-metal stuff from The Fast and The Furious with him.