Fast. Furious. Fights. The Best Brawls of the ‘Fast’ Franchise
In just 15 years, the Fast & Furious series has evolved from a single, modest racing movie into the biggest action franchise in the world. After the series went through a soft reboot post-Tokyo Drift (which featured none of the original cast, save for a brief Vin Diesel cameo), the film became less about street racing and more about action. Big action. Dropping cars out of an airplane action.
The cars were still there (ride or die, of course), but mostly to facilitate the wild stunts. And as they segued away from racing to blockbuster action and attracted bigger stars, they began to include more fights. Big fights. Pick you up and throw you through a wall fights. In Fast & Furious (the fourth film), there was only one, but that output steadily increased until now, in Furious 7, we have at least four major fights, all of which are centerpieces of the film.
In honor of Furious 7, we’re taking a look back at all the major Fast & Furious fights (one or two punches doesn’t count) in chronological order to see how this series has transformed. Major SPOILERS for all films ahead.
Vin Diesel vs. Paul Walker (Fast & Furious)
Body slams: 1
“Dom, Stop!”s: 5
Given Dominic Toretto’s almost superheroic strength in the later installments, it’s a wonder he didn’t kill Brian O’Conner in this fight. Enraged by the death of Letty and the reveal that the last person she contacted before she died was Brian, Dom flips his s— and then flips Brian across the room. O’Conner doesn’t have much of a chance — he’s mostly trying to explain himself to Dom in between getting punched in the face — but he does manage to get Dom in a nifty chokehold with his legs. Unfazed, Dom just picks up Brian’s entire body and slams him, back first, onto the ground.
This is one of the first notable fights in the franchise, even though it’s our two heroes facing off. It’s dramatically important because it sets into motion a lot of the events over the next few films. Brian is wracked with guilt. Dom is tortured by the loss of Letty. Mia is shrieking at people to stop.
If you had brothers, this fight feels like watching two brothers go at it. They have some beef, but they work it out with punches and body slams, and then go back to being family again.
The Rock vs. Vin Diesel (Fast Five)
Throws Through Walls: 4
Whereas later entries like Fast & Furious 6 and Furious 7 are almost wall-to-wall face-punching action, Fast Five is actually a slow burn building towards what it knows we all want: The two sweaty behemoths of Hobbs and Toretto going bald-head-to-head. Their climactic fight is teased with the same amount of tension usually reserved for a heated sex scene. At various points in the movie, we think the s— is about to hit the fan, but they invariably get broken up, only to finally (finally!) come together when Hobbs tracks down the family hideout. What results is a knock-down drag-out brawl that isn’t just the best in the Fast & Furious franchise, it might be the best in recent cinematic history.
The Rock and Vin Diesel charge at each other like wild animals, spending the ensuing two minutes grappling, rolling, and smashing through walls like two human wrecking balls. Unlike many of the fights in the following movies, director Justin Lin wisely doesn’t cut from the action, focusing entirely on these two characters. There’s no cheats, no fancy martial arts, no wire-fu, just two of our biggest and best action stars pummeling each other over and over again.
It’s hard to pick one great moment from the fight, but I’ll give each character their due. I particularly like this bit, when Hobbs picks up Dom and throws him through a window, then casually spits before jumping through the window to continue the beat down. It’s the Fast & Furious equivalent of James Bond straightening his tie after jumping onto a moving train.
Later, as Hobbs appears to have the upper-hand (and his upper-arm tightly squeezed around Dom’s neck), Dom catches a glimpse of Mia as she’s surrounded by Hobbs’ goons. Let’s be honest, the Fast & Furious films don’t require much in the way of acting from Diesel, but here his eyes burn white hot with rage. [Insert panther roar.]
The fight ends, as it should, with no real winner. Dom takes a swing at Hobbs’ head with a wrench and misses on purpose, essentially giving himself up as Mia pleads (/screeches) for him to stop. It’s like a film version of a “schmoz” in wrestling. We have two heroes, and two of our favorite characters, so one of them can’t “win”; there needs to be some external conflict that ends the fight.
Though they come to respect each other (Dom even saves Hobbs after a raid on their caravan) and become unwilling allies, the gamesmanship between the two persists throughout the franchise.
Michelle Rodriguez vs. Gina Carano (Fast & Furious 6)
Once Michelle Rodriguez rejoined the franchise — teased at the end of Fast Five and formally introduced in Fast & Furious 6 — it only made sense to have her contribute in ways other than just frustrating Dom with her amnesia. If you’re going to have Michelle Rodriguez in your action movie, you better have her kicking someone’s ass. And that someone is former MMA star Gina Carano.
Carano is not exactly known for her acting range; her work here is to a) give Hobbs a partner as tough as he is, and b) give Michelle Rodriguez someone to punch. (About that — we’re not sure why, but the female-based fights have far fewer punches, and far more kicks.)
For whatever she’s lacking as a classically trained thespian, Carano more than makes up for as a fighter. Letty and Riley (Carano) fight twice in the film (once, earlier in the film, and another after Carano turns) and each provides a lot of impressive physical maneuvers. Whereas Letty tries to go street fight, turning her handcuffs into makeshift brass knuckles, Riley counters with a leg twist-flip into an armbar submission. Does Letty submit? No, she does not.
She bites her way out and tackles Riley down a flight of stairs.
The two would meet up later in the film for a rematch as their alliances shift and Letty sends Riley flying out the airplane door with a grappling hook to the gut. As tough and brutal as anything the dudes do in the franchise, our only complaint is that the film keeps cutting back to see what the guys are doing, and at that moment, we don’t really care.
Tyrese and Sung Kang vs. Joe Taslim (Fast & Furious 6)
Missed Punches: 8
Flying Dropkicks: 1
Here’s what is great about the Fast & Furious franchise: They take time out of one of their movies to include a fight scene purely for comedic reasons. Yes, there are impressive moves from The Raid star Joe Taslim (particularly as he dropkicks Tyrese through a plate glass window, while delivering an elbow drop on Sung Kang), but there are almost as many missed punches as there are punches landed.
Roman and Han are so hilariously overmatched in their fight, that the only way to play this is for laughs. While Dom Toretto has basically become a superhero throughout this series, these two are still very much human. Jah (Taslim) ducks out of the way of their punches with such ease it barely looks like he’s trying. It actually looks like he’s having fun (to that point: there’s a crowd of onlookers in Waterloo Station ooh-ing and ahh-ing).
At one point, they start fighting each other over who has to step back up and try to beat this guy. In the end, they agree to never tell anyone what happened. Smart. If every single member of The Family were as indestructible as Toretto or Hobbs, it would be an infinitely boring movie.
Paul Walker vs. Prison Guards (Fast & Furious 6)
Paul Walker doesn’t always get a chance to shine when it comes to Fast & Furious fight scenes. He usually gets some action in, before Dom takes over and tells him to get Mia to safety. But when Brian has himself incarcerated to confront drug dealer Braga, Walker is all by himself. When you compare him to his more muscular brethren like Diesel or The Rock, Walker isn’t exactly a powerhouse and he may never have been known as an “action star,” but Walker capably handles himself in this short, but well-choreographed jailhouse brawl.
What’s great about this scene is you get to see an angry Brian O’Conner. Normally, he’s the calmer of the bunch, but here he breaks fingers, smashes a dude’s head into a sink, smashes another guy’s head into the floor and violently stabs Braga in the ribs with a shiv. And, you can feel it. It’s angry and personal. Director Justin Lin shoots this much faster than a Vin Diesel fight, which lumber along with brute force.
Even if he didn’t always get a chance to shine alongside his more ripped castmates, Walker proved he could still crack skulls (literally!) with the best of ‘em.
The Rock and Vin Diesel vs. Luke Evans and Kim Kold (Fast & Furious 6)
Flying Headbutts: 1
Eye Gouges: 1
After Fast Five, you knew you wanted to see The Rock and Vin Diesel involved in a fight somehow, you just didn’t know you wanted to see Vin Diesel pick up the bad guy and fling him at The Rock who leaps and punches him in the face, knocking him out cold.
This particular fight is actually a few fights in one. It starts with O’Conner firing shots at Shaw, who is trying to escape. Klaus (Kim Kold) steps in and chokes O’Conner against a car. Over a minute goes by (shouldn’t he be dead by now?) when Brian, who sees Mia running for her life, finds the energy to escape. Now Brian is fighting Shaw and Klaus moves on to Toretto. Klaus is kicking Dom’s ass. Shaw is kicking Brian’s ass. Dom notices O’Conner is about to get destroyed and [insert panther roar] launches himself like a human missile, delivering a flying headbutt so devastating it knocks three people over and shatters multiple wooden crates. I defy you to not applaud when you see it.
Brian and Mia escape, leaving Klaus and Shaw to fight Dom and the newly-arrived Hobbs. There are some great things here, but the fight lacks any real momentum. As soon as things get heated up, the film cuts to another part of this drawn out finale, often for over a minute at a time. The fight goes on for over 5:30 but the actual fighting time is only about 1:45. Considering a lot of the complaints about this movie involved the finale (and the seemingly endless airport runway), some tighter edits would’ve helped both improve this fight and the film overall.
But, c’mon, flying headbutt.
Michelle Rodriguez vs. Ronda Rousey (Furious 7)
Fast & Furious 6 introduced the concept of the “girl fight” into the franchise and after the highly enjoyable Michelle Rodriguez/Gina Carano battle, producers arranged a similar fight in Furious 7. Unfortunately, that is pretty much all Ronda Rousey does in the film. At least Gina Carano was given some set up and her heel turn provided the audience a reason to really root for her defeat. In Furious 7, Rousey is just the muscle for Arab royalty; just another thug in the way of Letty.
This is not to say that it’s not enjoyable to watch Rodriguez do her thing — she’s so good at it, it would be nice to see her evolve past just the “girl fights” and start kicking some of the dudes’ asses — just that in the context of the film, it doesn’t add much narrative weight. We also expected a bit more from Rousey, one of the most dynamic athletes, male or female, in MMA. She only has one line of dialogue, so why not allow her to really go crazy?
We’ll chalk this one up as a missed opportunity.
Jason Statham vs. The Rock (Furious 7)
If you’re going into Furious 7 looking for a major brawl between Statham and The Rock, expect to be a little disappointed. Not that the two don’t fight (they do), and it’s not that it’s not enjoyable (it is), it’s just that it doesn’t last very long. (Or maybe it just doesn’t last as long as I wanted it to?)
Unlike most of the scenes on this list, this fight takes place at the very beginning of the film and sets up two very important plot points: 1) The return of Deckard Shaw to U.S. soil, and 2) sidelining Hobbs for the majority of the movie (The Rock was busy filming Hercules and only available for a few weeks to shoot on the L.A. set).
Because no mortal hands could wound Hobbs, Shaw has to cut the fight short with a well-timed grenade, which sends The Rock flying out a window (cradling Elena in his arms to protect her), falling six stories onto the roof of a car below. Incredibly, Hobbs’ only major injury is a broken arm. (Don’t worry, he rips his cast off by the time the action returns to L.A.)
There are some great moments here — Hobbs sends Shaw flying through a pane of glass with a massive haymaker — but it feels oddly shoehorned in considering these two giants. Like if The Rock had just turned down Hercules, the Jason Statham/The Rock fight would be twice as long. (So, you’re saying there’s an alternate reality where Hercules doesn’t exist and Jason Statham and The Rock fight for twice as long? How do I get there?)
Tony Jaa vs. Paul Walker (Furious 7)
Dick Punches: 1
This is a tough one to write about. In fact, I originally left it off this list. But, if we’re being completists, we need to address it.
The scene shown above is a very brief one; the first encounter between O’Connor and Kiet (Jaa). It’s very brief (only about 25 seconds of fight time), but sets up a longer fight, later in the movie. As brief as it is, there’s a lot to like here. It seems unlikely that Brian could withstand the lightning-fast onslaught of blows Kiet rains down upon him, but never feels completely false either.
This later fight is the one major scene that Walker had left to film before his death. The majority of the fight here is shot with Walker’s stunt double John Brotherton and it’s shot intentionally dark and choppy to hide any post-production work necessary to digitally insert Walker into the scenes.
The original fight showed a lot of promise — Jaa brings a very different, frenetic fighting style to Furious 7 — and we only wish that could’ve been paid off in a more significant way. Director James Wan did the best he could, but it’s the least satisfying of the fights, for reasons that are obvious.
Jason Statham vs. Vin Diesel (Furious 7)
While the Statham/Rock fight essentially kicks off the film, the Statham/Diesel fight is the one that closes it out. What’s strange is how close they come to each other throughout the course of the movie. Statham’s Deckard Shaw seeks revenge against Dom and The Family for killing his brother. The Family seeks revenge against Shaw for killing Han in Tokyo. Considering they’re basically both hunting each other (and are frequently in the same vicinity as each other), you’d think they would break into fisticuffs sooner. But, you must wait!
The Shaw vs. Toretto fight has a lot of the same anticipation as the Hobbs vs. Toretto fight, not necessarily because of the dramatic stakes, but because of the actors involved. Watching Vin Diesel punch on Luke Evans is great, but it’s not quite as impactful as seeing two titans of industry have at it.
This could’ve been a very quick fight. Dom uses his car to nearly crush Shaw to death before the fight even begins, and then discards his sawed-off shotgun in favor of “street fight”. Instead, Dom fights with a wrench and a crowbar, while Shaw uses pieces of shrapnel from his wrecked ride. (Yes, Jason Statham rips hunks of metal off a crashed car and uses them to fight Vin Diesel.) They come leaping at each other, weapons in hand, in a ferocious slow motion shot.
One of the great things about Furious 7 is just how much is going on at any given time. The film is almost exhausting with its set pieces. That works in the film’s favor most of the time, but is frustrating here, when director James Wan cuts away from Vin Diesel and Jason Statham to other scenes. (Granted, one of those scenes is The Rock walking down the street carrying a massive gatling gun, but still.) Like the classic Rock/Diesel fight of 2011, this one could’ve benefitted from playing out completely uninterrupted.
What this fight really has going for it (besides the obvious) is a great finishing move. Many of the Fast & Furious fights end in a stalemate, but there’s no doubt here who the winner is. As the asphalt begins to crack below them, Toretto delivers a classic Dom one-liner (“The one thing about a street fight is…the street always wins.”) before stomping his foot on the ground, with the shockwaves so powerful it crumbles beneath Statham and he falls underneath a pile of rubble. All it needed was the Mortal Kombat guy going, “Finish him!”
The good news is that, unlike some other Fast and Furious villains, Deckard Shaw is still alive and ready for a rematch. Round 2?
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