Gas-strapped Americans are expected to break their piggy banks this weekend to see Universal’s auto five-quel Fast Five, which has scored the first "fresh" reviews of the series. Should the gross rival the $70.95 million April record bow of the 2009 installment, it will not only herald a new entry for the month's annals, but finally move up the summer B.O. season start date – a bar that distributors have continually tried to reach, but consistently miss (2002's The Scorpion King--$36.1 million--and last year’s A Nightmare on Elm Street--$32.9 million scored less than tentpole numbers). Over the past decade, as filmmakers tinkered with the series' beefcake-and-babe dramatis personae –Vin Diesel stepped out of two installments while bad girl Michelle Rodriguez has been M.I.A. for three -- ticket sales have gassed out and revved up.
As the The Fast and the Furious titles got shorter, here's a breakdown of critical and box office reception to each installment:
The Fast and the Furious
Release date:June 22, 2001
Starring:Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Jordana Brewster, Michelle Rodriguez, Matt Schulze
Domestic B.O.:$144.5 million
Foreign B.O.:$62.8 million
Worldwide B.O.:$207.3 million
Rotten Tomatoes Rating:52% rotten.
Plot: Cop Brian O’Conner (Walker) gains Dominic Toretto’s (Vin Diesel) confidence and infiltrates his street car racing circuit in an effort on cornering him and his rival Johnny Tran (Rick Yune) who are suspects in a dirty money and big-rig hijacking scheme. Complications ensue when Dom’s sister Mia (Brewster) has eyes for O’Conner. Directed by Rob Cohen.
2 Fast 2 Furious
Release date: June 6, 2003
Starring: Paul Walker, Eva Mendes, Tyrese Gibson
Domestic B.O.:$127.2 million
Foreign B.O.: $109.2 million
Worldwide B.O.:$236.4 million
Rotten Tomatoes Rating:36% rotten.
Plot:John Singleton took over the wheel from Cohen, swapping L.A. streets for Miami where disgraced officer O’Conner (Walker) tries to get his stripes back by going undercover in a streetrace gang. Vin Diesel and Michelle Rodriguez backed out of this sequel with Eva Mendes (who is poised to return in the sixth installment) in as a vamp U.S. Customs agent. Critics hated it even more than the first.
The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift
Release date:June 16, 2006
Starring: Lucas Black, Sung Kang, Bow Wow, Brian Tee, Nathalie Kelley
Domestic B.O.:$62.5 million
Foreign B.O.:$96 million
Worldwide B.O.:$158.5 million
Rotten Tomatoes Rating:35% rotten.
Plot:Seeing how the foreign grosses jumped with the first two installments, Universal switched the U.S. maps for Tokyo. They brought aboard young indie Taiwanese-American director Justin Lin (Better Luck Tomorrow) who inherited the series after this bumpy start. Tokyo Drift sported new parts, but lacked the sparks of the original cast, Vin Diesel cameo aside. In Part Three, Sean Boswell (Lucas Black) skips jail in the U.S. only to get sucked into the underground Nippon race car scene. Sung Kang's character Han, a driving impresario continues as a sidekick in the next films.
Fast and Furious
Release date:April 3, 2009
Starring:Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Jordana Brewster, Michelle Rodriguez, Sung Kang, Don Omar
Domestic B.O.:$155 million
Foreign B.O.:$198.2 million
Worldwide B.O.:$353.2 million
Rotten Tomatoes Rating:27% rotten.
Plot:Lin single-handledly resurrects the franchise by re-installing its original engine: He returns the locale to Los Angeles and brings back the old gang. Universal moves the release date to the start of April. O’Conner (Walker) now a Federal agent, works with ex-con Toretto (Vin Diesel) to foil a heroin import gang. Critics hate it even more – but audiences are thrilled and the Fast and the Furious franchise is reborn with record global B.O. returns.
Release date: April 29
Starring:Dwayne Johnson, Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Jordana Brewster, Tyrese Gibson, Ludacris, Elsa Pataky, Matt Schulze
Domestic B.O. weekend opening: An estimated $70 million-plus on the high end, $50-$60 million on the more conservative side.
Foreign B.O. to date $60-$70 million through Sunday overseas.
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: So far, 82% fresh.
Plot: Ex-cop O’Conner is on the lam in Rio de Janeiro with Mia after breaking Toretto free from a prison bus. In one last effort to gain their freedom, they plan the ultimate heist to steal a corrupt businessman’s $100-million fortune. Assembling the old crew from previous sequels makes this job look easy, but not with 'Old Testament' federal agent Lou Dobbs (Johnson) on their tails. To date, critics aren't complaining like back-seat drivers: High-brow guys like Variety’s Robert Koehler exclaims “The Fast and Furious roadshow isn't slowing down a bit in Fast Five, by most measures the best of the bunch, combining fresh casting choices, interesting Rio locales and literally smashing bookended action sequences” while MSN’s James Rochhi beams, “A film that's custom-built to combine the swift horsepower of characters we like with the stylish chrome of fresh changes is a welcome pleasure.”