A car drives down the street. Another car follows. It’s the oldest cinematic trick in the book, almost as old as the medium itself (Buster Keaton was caught up in multi-vehicular mayhem in 1924 in Sherlock Jr), and has produced some of the most definitive moments in movie history — Steve McQueen tearing through San Francisco in Bullitt, Gene Hackman racing through New York in The French Connection and Dennis Weaver playing chicken with a truck in Duel.
Yet recently the car chase has become the star of its own franchise. The Fast & Furious movies are a nine-episode $6 billion box office success story built around the basic concept of one car chasing another, but expanded and expanded until it’s 17 cars chasing a Russian nuclear submarine. Other wannabe car chase franchises have appeared and fizzled away while the F&F films have remained the brand leader for 20 years, untouchable in their ability to deliver the audience-pleasing essence of crash, bang, wallop.