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SYFY WIRE Fast & Furious

Michelle Rodriguez Reflects on Fast Saga Legacy: “The Hip-Hop of the Film Industry”

What hip-hop did for music in the late 1990s, The Fast and the Furious did for movies at the dawn of a new century.

By Benjamin Bullard

From those very first moments when the funky remixed strains of Live’s “Deep Enough” waft across the pavement outside Toretto’s Market & Cafe, booting up the original The Fast and the Furious still feels like going back to a very specific place in the not-so-distant past.

Landing in the summer of 2001 less than three short months before the world-changing events of Sept. 11, the first film in the Fast Saga struck a unique balance between the hard-edged bite of street-smart hustle and a certain brand of blissfully innocent chill. Assembling their own unique aesthetic from a mix-and-match pop-culture parts bin, the SoCal car kids who ruled the movie’s L.A. streets forged their own freedom with a distinctively independent and totally DIY ethos.

RELATED: Where to Stream the Entire Fast & Furious Saga Before Fast X Arrives

That might sound like elevated praise for a franchise that’s since launched dudes into space aboard a rocket-modded Pontiac Fiero or shattered an entire concrete parking structure from a single, superhero-worthy Vin Diesel foot-stomp. But as founding Fast Saga family member Michelle Rodriguez points out, it’s not exactly an exaggeration. What hip-hop had lately done for 1990s music culture, in fact, The Fast and the Furious accomplished over on the big screen — and it did it, Rodriguez says, in much the same way.

Fast Saga is "hip-hop of the film industry”

“I think we started this being the hip-hop of the film industry,” Rodriguez told interviewers from the red carpet of the recent Fast X premiere in Rome. “Because, when we started, there were no people of color in movies, and we were lucky enough to start our franchise at the point in time where globalization had just started. The internet was born and the world started to look a lot different. People saw that the world wasn’t the United States of America and it wasn’t just caucasian. That the world was very yellow and very brown and so, it was just a beautiful introduction and I think that will live on.”

From the first movie onwards, Rodriguez added, the Fast Saga has always been an all-inclusive franchise affair — a crucial ingredient, she reflected, in shaping the series’ continued success among audiences. “We represent people who live on the other side of the tracks who might not necessarily be accepted by society,” she explained. “Just showing the world that they have a platform too, and that they can be seen around the world through us. We represent them.”

Why Fast Saga Was Ahead of its Time

The Fast and the Furious landed at a time of hugely productive pop culture ferment, integrating a disparate array of melting-pot ingredients that struck moviegoers as something entirely fresh on the early-2000s big screen. Though it took a minute for some critics to catch on to why the film tapped such an immediate nerve with viewers, the fans themselves didn’t need any kind of wait-and-see approval: In its opening weekend, The Fast and the Furious racked up more than $40 million at the domestic box office, flanking a mere trio of contemporary movies (including Jurassic Park III) to achieve the same $40 million feat in 2001.

Those numbers have only gotten bigger in the two decades since, and Rodriguez sees an even brighter future — not only for the brand itself, but for the way the Fast Saga has both drawn from and inspired the resourceful, bootstrapped street vibes of generations old and new.

“Everything comes to an end and for me, what’s exciting is that it’s never really an end,” she said. “It’s like the beginning of a new generation. So you get to see what the kids are gonna do. I think cars will be in our lives forever. I think the car scene is gonna be around forever — and so it’s a beautiful culture, full of tons of people who find family in all kinds of places in the streets.”

Stream several installments in the Fast Saga right now on Peacock!

Originally published May 25, 2023.