Officially, franchise Fast & Furious is composed nine feature filmsa tenth in preparation and a spin-off, Hobbs & Shaw (2019), which did not please Vin Diesel. However, that’s only part of the story: true fans know that The Gospel According to Toretto has been expanded by the animated series – Fast & Furious: Full Throttle Spies (2017-2021), video games, an attraction at all Universal theme parks and some short films for the very, very initiated only.
The first bears the title Turbo-Charged Prelude (2003) and is, in fact, only a simple prelude to the second film. It tells how Brian O’Connor (Paul Walker) manages to escape the authorities in Los Angeles and make it to Miami. The producers’ idea was to establish some sort of connective tissue between the first two installments and fill a narrative void that ultimately cemented Brian as the absolute protagonist of the story, given that Diesel didn’t want to return. It was simply a promotional material designed for the Internet – hence its aesthetic, almost worthy of a Sisqó music video – although some North American cinemas have screened it before 2 Fast 2 Furious to provide audiences with a more complete experience.
If you can’t find anyone to defend the turbocharged prelude of 2 Fast 2 Furious as an essential piece of mythology, things are very different when it comes to the second short. Los Bandoleros (2009), written and directed by Vin Diesel himself, introduced Tego Calderón and Don Omar in the sagatwo musicians-turned-actors who will be key pieces in some later installments, including Fast 5 (2011). In addition to that, it details what happened to the characters of Dom and Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) after the original film, and brings back the Han of Sung Kang, whose friendship with the paterfamilias had been established at the end of Fast & Furious: Tokyo Race (2006). More than an interlude between films, Los Bandoleros is a franchise overhaul, of a fresh start where Diesel allowed himself to adopt a more poetic and relaxed tone, in keeping with the natural settings of the Dominican Republic (where himself, a reggaeton lover, insisted that the film take place ). It is not strictly necessary to watch it during your next marathon Fast & Furious, but it responds to the author’s vision of its main creative engine. Which makes it an interesting curiosity.
However, the story does not end there. Only the most dedicated to the cause know this, but there is a secret, semi-official film which, thanks to director Justin Lin’s ability to fly under Universal’s radar, can be considered part of the experience. From a certain point of view, yes, but believe us: the crime comedy drama Better Luck Tomorrow (2002) chronicles the origins of the character of Han Lue, also played by Kang (can you imagine another actor in this role?). He and Lin have repeatedly confirmed that this is good of the same characterso there is no reason, apart from the obvious and annoying question of copyright, to exclude it from the canon. In fact, his presence transforms this cinematic universe into a larger, richly nuanced place: it’s amusing to think that, while Dom and Brian were meeting in downtown Los Angeles, the characters of Better Luck Tomorrow lived their own Stations of the Cross a few kilometers away.