The Fate of the Furious: From Kung Fu to Car Fu

When The Fast and the Furious (2001) sped into the psyche’s of street drag-racing car enthusiasts, with a penchant for danger and the psychotic insanity of arrant automotive adventure, the brusque bearish, quasi-hero rebel, Dominic “Dom” Toretto was caustic yet salvationally portrayed with the power of a train using a Vin Diesel engine.

When I interviewed Diesel about his sci-fi actioner Pitch Black in 1999, I was a fight directing apprentice with Hong Kong’s Yuen Tak (Mandarin Yuen De) on Sammo Hong‘s CBS show Martial Law. In a bellowing calm voice, Diesel eagerly told me about his bouncer and boxing background in New York and his love for Shaw Brothers kung fu films from the 1970s. He added, “It would’ve been cool to be in one of those movies.”

the fate of the furious
The Fast and the Furious Poster
Photo Credit: Universal Pictures

The Fate of the Furious

In a strange twist of fate, that is the $250 million budgeted The Fate of the Furious (Fate), which in 17 days has earned over $1 billion worldwide, Diesel finally gets to do a kung fu film that is the closest thing to a 1970s, Shaw Brothers wuxia movie than he could ever have imagined. The Fate of the Furious also highlights a martial arts action sequence influenced by one of Chinese literature’s greatest kung fu novels…Romance of the Three Kingdoms.

The Fast and Furious films began as drag-racing movies, perhaps influenced by the demented driving antics of Steve McQueen in real life and in his movie Getaway (1972). Yet with the addition of Dwayne Johnson as CIA agent Luke Hobbs in Fast Five (2011), whose job was to track down and capture Dom, the franchise morphed into a car-lection of visceral flicks filled with over-the-top, outrageous car stunts and set pieces filled with high speed velocity raptors faster than Jurassic Park’s velociraptors.

the fate of the furious
Dwayne Johnson
Photo Credit: Universal Pictures

Then just as you think there’s no more juice in the engines, apart from flashing red buttons connected to newfangled fuel-injection systems, which are attached to nitrous oxide canisters capable of giving short bursts of Star Wars light speed, Furious 7 (2015), upped the martial arts ante by casting legitimate martial artist Jason Statham as the rogue assassin Deckard Shaw who ran pugilistic mayhem around Dom and Hobbs.

the fate of the furious
Jason Statham
Photo Credit: Matt Kennedy

In The Fate of the Furious (directed by Felix Gary Gray), the genius and disingenuous, supervillain hacker Cipher (Charleze Theron), crashes Dom and Letty’s honeymoon in Cuba, and with damning video evidence, forces Dom to agonizingly turn against his family and friends, disappear from sight and become Cipher’s partner in nuclear crime. Only one person has the capability to find Dom…the team’s archenemy, the imprisoned Shaw.

the fate of the furious
Photo Credit: Universal Pictures

Due to Dom’s backstabbing, Dobbs finds himself a criminal and is sent to the same prison he put Shaw into. With reciprocal seething hatred, Dobbs and Shaw must partner up and break out of prison together. Thus The Fate of the Furious‘s first bone-cracking, white-knuckle fight-o-rama.

Always game to do more action, Johnson was stoked to verbally and physically spar with his longtime pal Statham saying,

“With Hobbs, there’s no handcuffs and the story gives Jason and me liberty with where to go. We wanted to create this Butch-and-Sundance relationship, two wisecracking, badass guys talking shit and bonding with each other.”

Statham agreed,

“Shaw’s always got something up his sleeve. This continuing conflict with Hobbs is great. Dwayne and I get the opportunity to play around with this tension, an awesome vehicle for these two who really have an oil-and-water thing going on.”

Gray shared,

“Hobbs and Shaw are both prisoners, but fighting for different reasons and that’s what makes this sequence so dynamic. We’re showcasing two different fighting styles. Jason has this cool, martial arts, parkour style while Dwayne is raw strength crushing everything and knocking dudes out. I love the contrast of their motivations and fighting styles.”

the fate of the furious
Screenshot of The Fate of the Furious - Official Trailer - #F8 In Youtube Fast & Furious
Photo Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JwMKRevYa_M

Diesel’s weapon of choice wasn’t his fists, knives or kung fu, but his car…car-fu. He’d maneuver his car to block, deflect and parry oncoming forces of sideswiping and head on attacks from other autos. Escape skills included causing his car to flip, roll and spin away from charging in wheels where he’d counterattack by ramming opponents into kingdom car. To defend his family, he absorbed the violent SUV and armored vehicle onslaught by blocking their paths.

One car-fu scene pays homage to rope-snare fights seen in Chinese wuxia films, where the hero is trapped like a fly in a spider web of ropes. Yueh Hua from the Shaw Brothers classic Killer Clans (1976) comes to mind. Rope-fighting choreography epitomized a kung fu instructor’s creativity and rope trapping savvy, especially when the hero weaved his way out of trouble. In Fate, Dom in his car is ensnared by a web of metal cables being shot out of attacking cars. His car’s escape is marvelous to witness.

the fate of the furious
Screenshot of The Fate of the Furious - Official Trailer - #F8 In Youtube Fast & Furious
Photo Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JwMKRevYa_M

John Woo told me his favorite Three Kingdoms story is when hero Guan Gong (depicted in folklore with a red face, long black beard and wielding a giant-bladed guan dao) carries the baby emperor to be on horseback while mowing down enemy infantry. At battle’s end Guan is moved that the baby didn’t cry. Woo paid tribute to Guan in Hard Boiled (1992).

As Shaw carries a baby in a baby car seat and wreaks body crushing havoc and ballistic damage on Cypher’s goons, Guan Shaw Gong notes that the baby doesn’t cry or scream during the mêlée, yet instead smiles and giggles.

For every Fast & Furious film, breaking the speed limit is a way of life.

the fate of the furious
Submarine
Photo Credit: Universal Pictures

The Fate of the Furious - Official Trailer - #F8

Universal Pictures
ASR-94
Comments
Read more like this