I always assumed The Fast And The Furious was a ripoff of Point Break (which turns 25 years old today), and wrote as much in my 15-year retrospective on The Fast And The Furious. The beats are all the same. Undercover lawman gets sucked into a world of extreme criminals, falls for a girl (and the charismatic Zen gang leader), has to choose between them, and ends up letting the bad guy ride/surf off into the sunset, so changed is he by the XXXtreme lifestyle. Rewatching both Point Break and The Fast And The Furious the same week, however, something I’d never done before, I started to wonder for the first time if The Fast And The Furious wasn’t just a ripoff of Point Break, but a knowing homage.
Admittedly, my evidence for this is, shall we say, circumstantial at best, and surely the product of overthinking movies that weren’t meant to be. But I couldn’t help noticing the beer Keanu was drinking in the scene where Gary Busey explains why he thinks the bank robbers are surfers.
That’s right, a Corona. Fast Furious scholars will of course remember the famous scene from The Fast And The Furious in which Dom Toretto tells Brian O’Connor “you can have any brew in the house, as long as it’s a Corona.”
Oh, but it doesn’t stop at beer. There’s also sandwich-based evidence. Most Point Break fans remember “Utah! Get me two,” when Gary Busey directs Keanu Reeves to buy him not one, but two meatball subs. This on account of he’s so hungry he could “eat the ass end out of a rhinocerous.”
What I, and imagine most people, didn’t remember, was what Utah ordered for himself:
Now, aside from the fact that $7.84 is an incredible price for three sandwiches and two drinks (what is this, 1991 or 1951?), you might notice that Johnny Utah ordered himself a tuna sandwich. Who else likes tuna sandwiches? You guessed it, Brian O’Connor, the Johnny Utah of the Fast and Furious universe.
Could it be coincidence? Sure. But it seems a little weird that they’d both have the exact same terrible taste in beer and sandwiches without it being a deliberate reference. As a wise man once said, “Bullshit, asshole, no one likes the tuna here.”
The closest I could find to acknowledgement was a Complex interview with The Fast And The Furious screenwriter Gary Scott Thompson, in which he at least acknowledges the connection however briefly:
…the group dynamic you see in the finished version of The Fast and the Furious, in which Paul Walker’s Brian O’Connor is an undercover cop who assimilates with Toretto’s streetracing gang, wasn’t yet established. “The original story, they were all anti-heroes,” Furious screenwriter and original story creator Gary Scott Thompson says.
“I went into Universal and told them my take: Romeo & Juliet in cars. I told them how I thought it would go, these competing [groups], with Brian and Mia meeting for this big race war,” Thompson explains. “I did my drafts, and the studio called and said, ‘We love this, it’s great. We’re going to do this movie.’ Then Columbine happened.”
In the midst of this conversation, a movie about a group of armed anti-heroes who hijacked trucks and fought each other was more or less poisonous to a studio like Universal. “‘We’re not doing it. We can’t, because Columbine,'” Thompson says the studio told him.
Forced to pivot or abandon the project altogether, a light bulb went off for the screenwriter. “I realized, there were no authority figures. We can make Brian a cop. We sort of do what they did in Point Break, and he goes undercover in this world.”
I realize, the fact that the protagonists both drink Corona and eat tuna (nice) and the fact that the screenwriter acknowledged that his movie is “sort of” like Point Break might not be enough to banish reasonable doubt that Fast/Furious was a knowing homage in a court of law. I’m not winning any Pulitzers, I’m just a guy who fell down a Furious rabbit hole and still haven’t made my way out. But I think it’s enough for a theory.
I also love that Columbine happened and the execs were like “Anti-heroes with guns? This has to go.” But then left in entire plot about “race wars” that was apparently so not-problematic that it’s lasted for seven movies.
I love Hollywood.
Vince Mancini is a writer, comedian, and podcaster. A graduate of Columbia’s non-fiction MFA program, his work has appeared on FilmDrunk, the UPROXX network, the Portland Mercury, the East Bay Express, and all over his mom’s refrigerator. Fan FilmDrunk on Facebook, find the latest movie reviews here.