Back in early March, Universal Studios announced that the ninth Fast & Furious movie in the “Fast Saga,” officially titled F9, would be pushed back from its May 22, 2020, North American premiere to April 2, 2021. And where does that leave Fast & Furious X, which was originally slated for release in April 2021? Only the bat-born virus knows. . . .
Now, we can either curse the COVID-19 outbreak for delaying the double-F franchise . . . or we can embrace the furry-looking ball and dedicate our current home-bound status to explore the mockbuster universe of the Fast & Furious franchise.
And let’s face it: isn’t this all just Point Break . . . with cars instead of surf boards? And what I wanna know is: How is it that no producer ever approached Golden Earring to adapt their ’70s radio monument, “Radar Love,” the most epic car-driving song of all time — one that makes you floor it — into an F&F rip-off?
Biker Boyz (2003)
Laurence Fishburne and Kid Rock . . . in a movie . . . together? Terrence Howard and Lisa Bonet? While that is a cast only Mark L. Lester could dream up, the movie around it isn’t up to the Mark L. Lester seal-of-B&S About Movies approval.
To sum it up: Instead of illegal street racing of cars, this is all about life, love, and the pursuit of asphalt in the world of underground motorcycle street racing.
Speed Demon (2003)
This F&F rip is a FUBAR’d movie-themed drink waiting to happen, one that Sam, the Drive Aslyum Movie Night head bartender couldn’t concoct . . . but our beloved David DeCoteau dared to mix. This one has it all: a soupçon of Nicolas Cage’s Drive Angry, a dash of Tarantino’s Death Proof . . . and a WHOLE BOTTLE of The Wraith . . . if Charlie Sheen kept caressing a pentagram and our beloved Sherilyn Fenn went full-on, sexy Goth-chick. Pour it over the ice from your Sergio Leone’s “Dollars Trilogy” themed-ice cube tray and shake. (And yes, if you know your DeCoteau: be ready for shirtless guys frolicking around a floor-etched pentagram in their underwear. And Matthew Jason Walsh is Decoteau nom de plumin’. )
To sum it up: A mysterious driver, i.e., a man with no name, in a muscle car (instead of a horse) — complete with a demonic hood ornament — shows up to extract vengeance in a small town.
Okay, so before you think this Ice Cube-fronted two-wheeler is a rip on the Laurence Fishburne one . . . this one was dreamed up by the production team of the Fast & Furious franchise. So the first one, Biker Boyz, is actually the knock-off of this one, got it? Oh, and instead of Lisa Bonet . . . you get Dane “I’m tryin’ to act over here” Cook.
To sum it up: A member of an illegal street racing-cum-biker gang is on the run after he’s framed for the murder of the brother of the gang’s leader. Oh, and bonus points for ripping off George Romero’s Knightriders with a sword-jousting scene that inspires us to watch Knightriders, again.
Tim Matheson? You can’t be that hard up for work that you have to play second banana to the clone of Chris Rock’s clone Chris Rucker, aka Eddie Griffin? Yet, there’s Eric “Otter” Stratton in this controversial box-office bomb that served as a pet-project of mortgage-lending magnate Daniel Sadek (who wrote and produced). For once Sadek was smart with his money: instead of contracting Cinema Vehicles to supply the film’s cars, he used his own personal, high-powered car collection of Enzos, Ferraris and Lamborghinis. (And Eddie Griffin wrecked one of them during the film’s premiere-promotional event. Nice job, Ed.)
To sum it up: High-rolling gamblers — instead of betting on the mutilation of people, ala Hostel — hedge their bets over the illegal racing of high-powered luxury supercars. And as with Torque: Thanks for making us go back and watch, again, the movie you pinched: Cannonball starring David Carradine.
Finish Line (2008)
If you’re in the market for a faux-fast fix . . . with a Scott Baio chaser, then this Spike (now known as the upper-cable tiered Paramount Network) channel clone is the shot you need. Is it cool to see the TV-loved Baio in the lead of a film — and as a heavy? Yep. Does it make the movie good? Nope.
To sum it up: A down-and-out stock car racer with NASCAR dreams takes a desperate-for-cash gig as a private mechanic for a millionaire importer, aka an illegal arms smuggler, aka Baio.
Street Racer (2008)
Okay, this one has no-named stars. And it’s produced by Asylum Studios. And it needs a shark-a-something. Or a tornado. Or a washed-up-’80s pop-princess thespin’. And, in an additional twist: this was made in the backwash of Warner Bros.’ abortive live-action take on the beloved ’60s cartoon, Speed Racer. So this is a double rip-off.
Can you imagine a kid asking their mom to pick up a copy of Speed Racer on her way home from work, and oblivious mom picks up “Street Racer,” and her kid is introduced to a world sans a Chim-Chim and plenty of hoochie mamas? Hey, that’s what Asylum counts on.
To sum it up: A street racer fresh out of prison for permanently crippling a kid during an illegal street racing accident . . . finds “redemption” by returning to the illegal street racing that put him in prison in the first place. For reals.
Death Racers (2008)
Yeah, we know this is more of a Death Race (2008) rip than a F&F rip . . . but when you have both the Insane Clown Posse and the WWE’s Raven in a movie, you skew the “Exploring” featurette “Rules of Submittal.” And yes, with that casting, when this appeared on the video shelf on September 23rd, 2008, to capitalize on the August 22 release of Death Race, we rented it, because, well, it’s not about the speed . . . it’s about the blood. And we thank you, Asylum.
To sum it up: In a dystopian future, contestants compete in a cross-country road race in which killing-for-points is part of the game.
200 MPH (2011)
All the Irish must go to hell for allowing parts of this Asylum Studios production to be shot in Donoughmore, County Cork — and with American actors, because, well, a cast with a heavy Irish brogue does not a mockbuster make. So blatant in its rip-offness, the film was released to VOD and DVD on April 26th, 2011, to capitalize on the release of Fast Five, which was released in the U.S. on April 29.
To sum it up: An amateur street racer goes “pro” after the death of his brother. Oh, and this one comes with very bad CGI-cars. A film that rips F&F — a movie about cars — that can’t afford real cars. For reals.
This Nicolas Winding Refn-directed film (The Neon Demon, Only God Forgives), based on the 2005 James Sallis novel of the same name, concerns a film stunt driver who sidelines as a criminal-for-hire getaway driver. The best reviewed of the F&F clones, it received a “Best Directors Award,” along with a standing ovation, at the Cannes Film Festival. And thanks for reminding me about my dad and I going to the big city six-plex to see Walter Hill’s (The Warriors, Streets of Fire) somewhat similar stunt driver-cum-criminal romp with Ryan O’Neal, 1978’s The Driver. And the stylish-darkness of Michael Mann’s Thief. Yes, Driver is that good . . . and then some.
To sum it up: When “The Driver” (Ryan Gosling) meets his new neighbor and grows close to her and her young son, he becomes involved in a robbery scheme with her just-released husband from prison and the caper goes violently south — in an extensional, Vanishing Point kind-a-of-way because the stoic “Driver” is an amalgamate of “The Driver” and “The Mechanic” from Two-Lane Blacktop.
Selena Gomez is Anne Hathaway light: but inspires twice as much the hate. Perhaps if John Voight and Ethan Hawke’s costar was someone else? Or if Anne, instead of John, was the villain?
The recipe for disaster: A custom Shelby Super Snake Mustang piloted by Hawke, a washed-up professional race car driver, is forced into committing a series of robberies to save his kidnapped wife. Oh, and Gomez is a sass-mouthed computer hacker (aren’t they all) with the goods on the guy forcing Hawke into a life of crime (I think). This tried to out-crash Gone in 60 Seconds — the old ’70s one, not the later Nic Cage one — by wrecking 130 cars, including 13 Shelby’s. (No way Shelby enthusiasts are allowing Shelbys to be destroyed for the sake of a movie — no more than lovers of the 1956 Porsche 356 Speedster would allow one to be trashed in Doc Hollywood (1991) — and no more than anyone would stand back and watch Stallone’s 1950 Mercury Monterey Coupe from Cobra go to the junkyard. They’re replicas. They had to be, right?)
Need for Speed (2014)
I totally dig Aaron Paul. He was pure gold in AMC-TV’s Breaking Bad and beyond deserving to be bumped to a leading-man theatrical career — and be the next Woody Harrelson and not the next David Caruso. But, as with most unknown actors who score a role on a mega-hit TV series, Need for Speed is another case of another too-much-too-soon actor taking the lead role in the wrong movie at the wrong time — and when the movie tanks, the studio and producers walk away and the actor, who’s not to blame, takes the fall. This one has the budget and cast missing from all of the other films on this list to make it “work”: the always welcomed-quality of Dominic Cooper and Rami Malek, Imogen Poots and Dakota Johnson . . . and Michael Keaton.
To sum it up: Hey, wait a minute! Did this rip-off Street Racer? Nah, sounds more like Torque: Custom-car builder and underground racer Tobey Marshall (Aaron Paul) is fresh out of prison for a murder he did not commit, natch. His redemption lies in stealing back his old shop’s most-prized ride and enter the infamous, high-stakes race known as The DeLeon. Hey, what the hell? That sounds like Redline. But we thank you for reminding us of Mark Hamill stealing back the ‘Vette he built in Corvette Summer.
This time, instead of Ireland, the French are in cahoots with Belgium to Shanghai Scott Eastwood, yes, the son of Clint, in a rip-off of Gone in 60 Seconds — and not the Tarantino-loved ’70s original: the other one with the ‘Cage that had nothing-to-do with the original car-wreckin’ classic. Oh, and this is from the writers of 2 Fast 2 Furious and the director of Taken, so this is, while a “clone,” a high quality film — and meant more for the Euro-market than the U.S. market.
To sum it up: A crime lord blackmails two brothers to steal a cache of luxury rides and supercars from his crime lord rival. Hey, at least Scott got to trade thespin’ chops with Kurt Russell in The Fate of the Furious.
Fast & the Fierce (2017)
Remember, in our opening salvo, we joked that all of this F&F tomfoolery is just Point Break with cars instead of surf boards? Well, the Asylum got tired of that formula and dipped into Keanu Reeves’s Speed this time . . . which is just Die Hard on a bus . . . but I digress. At least this F&F take-off is aware that, when it comes to enticing us into renting a mockbuster, it’s all about the casting: having our favorite champion of “The Quickening,” Adrian Paul, and Dominique Swain, helps. Well, not really. There’s no cars in this movie and way too much plane (damn you to hell, Asylum art department!). So this is more Turbulence — remember that one with Ray Liotta? — than Fast and Furious with Vin.
To sum it up: Terrorists plant a bomb on a commercial flight and the passengers must keep the plane in the air: for if it drops below 800 feet, the bomb goes off.
Fast & Fierce: Death Race (2020)
We think it’s a sequel . . . sorry, no Adrian Paul and Dominique Swain this time. But you do get DMX supporting Michael DeVorzon, the acting-son of Grammy winning and Academy Award-nominated songwriter, composer Barry DeVorzon (The Warriors!)
Mike is Jack Tyson, another illegal Mexico-to-California street racer who rescues a woman from her abusive gangster boyfriend — the same gangster who’s financing the cross-country road race. Oh, and she has a USB drive with all of her ex-hubby’s business dealings. A woman scorned. . . .
So wraps our “Fast and Furious” tribute week. Save us the aisle seat on April 2, 2021 . . . provided we’re not fighting off apoc-punk warloads with spiked baseball bats, hopin’ for Mark Gregory and Michael Sopkiw to show up and save us from the Euracs, by then.