One of my biggest complaints about Fast & Furious: Hobbs & Shaw is the lack of weaknesses displayed by the heroes. The film lacks a sense of urgency and thrills because no matter how dire the situation may appear, we don’t for a second doubt that the likes of Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) and Luke Hobbs (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson) are ever in any actual danger. They rarely ever lose a fight and barely ever show physical and mental vulnerabilities. Even a villain played by Idris Elba comes off as weak next to these guys. In fact, this has been more and more the case since Fast & Furious 6.
I frequently criticize the screenplays because of it, but at the back of my head, always wondered if stars like Vin Diesel were messing around with the scripts and pushing directors around. That has always been the rumour. But is there truth to it? According to a new report by The Wall Street Journal, the answer is a resounding yes. WSJ went behind the scenes of the Fast & Furious franchise and examined the demands of their popular male leads, specifically focussing on Vin Diesel, Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham. Just how far these stars go to, to prevent looking weak on-screen may come as a shock to many.
For starters, Vin Diesel was so particular about who would land more punches in a fight, that he worked out a system that — get ready to be mindblown — attached a numerical value to each move in a fight so that he could make sure that Dominic Toretto never lost. Think about it, Vin Diesel sat in his room with a pen and paper and wrote nonsense like ‘punch to the gut: 2 points’, ‘kick in the face: 5 points’ just so that he can watch his scene, tabulate the points and made sure he didn’t lose. This was so silly that the plan was “eventually abandoned once everyone decided it was too complicated,” says WSJ.
But it isn’t just Vin Diesel who’s egoistic. WSJ said:
“According to producers and crew members on the films, Mr. Statham, 51 years old, negotiated an agreement with the studio that limits how badly he can be beaten up on screen. Mr. Diesel, 52, has his younger sister, a producer on the films, police the number of punches he takes. And Mr. Johnson, 47, enlists producers, editors and fight coordinators to help make sure he always gives as good as he gets.”
I love how the report mentions each of their ages. This way we know, without a shadow of a doubt that these are in fact old men acting like high schoolers in a playground. According to a postproduction crew member, one of the scenes in The Fate of the Furious required Luke Hobbs to lie on the ground at Dominic Toretto’s feet, but Dwayne Johnson wasn’t up for it. Instead, he insisted that his character should at least be sitting up. I wonder if this was the case with The Rock’s first appearance in the franchise (Fast Five) as well? There, Luke Hobbs doesn’t just get his ass beaten by Dominic Toretto, he also gets outplayed by Toretto’s crew during the climactic chase sequence. Scenes like this are some of the reasons why Fast Five is so beloved.
WSJ also mentioned:
“Mr. Diesel’s sister, Samantha Vincent, weighs in on rehearsals and edits, people familiar with the situation said. “He’s falling down right here,” she once observed during a fight rehearsal, according to one person on set. “Is he going to get his licks back in?”
On top of that, Jason Statham would repeatedly make trips to the editing room to weigh in on fight scenes. If you’re wondering about the women, WSJ reports that the women frankly didn’t care about scorekeeping even when it came to brawls between Michelle Rodriguez and Ronda Rousey. (Ronda Rousey, mind you, is an actual UFC superstar that could likely beat up The Rock, Vin Diesel and Jason Statham in real life.)
This whole ego flex nonsense is rather silly and is frankly causing the franchise to be less and less engaging with each passing movie. Even in the John Wick franchise, where Keanu Reeves plays a highly-skilled assassin often gets beaten up and bloodied. Remember when Batman’s back got broken in half by Bane in The Dark Knight Rises? Or when a tiny red ball took out Thor in Ragnarok?