After Straight Outta Compton became one of the highest-grossing R-rated films ever, director F. Gary Gray's now firmly back in (the sigh) fast lane.
After directing a string of duds, including the daft sequel to Get Shorty, The Italian Job remake and that could-have-been-WAY-better Law Abiding Citizen, Gray hit paydirt with his snappy work on Straight Outta Compton. After rumours circulated that Universal was having trouble securing a director for the follow-up to Fast & Furious 7, it's now confirmed that Gray will be (SIGH) in the driving seat as he's entered 'exclusive' talks with the studio.
The initial scuttlebutt was that Gray would take on Black Panther for Marvel, following the exit of Ava DuVernay from the project. However, it's now suggested that Marvel's going back to take another swing at the script whilst Gray does Fast & Furious 8. Other names suggested for Fast & Furious 8 included The Incredible Hulk's Louis Letterier and The Guest's Adam Wingard (WATCH THAT FILM BECAUSE IT'S AMAZING), however Gray appears to be all but confirmed for the role.
Diesel even took to his Facebook page yesterday to post a press image of himself and Gray next to a bunch of Fast & Furious images, which tells us he's more or less got the job.
For the most part, Gray works on paper as the best possible choice. He's worked with at least two castmembers that we can think of - The Rock in Be Cool, the aforementioned Get Shorty sequel AND Vin Diesel in not-as-good-as-you-remember A Man Apart - and he's got action credentials for Law Abiding Citizen and A Man Apart. Plus, he made Universal a metric ton of money with Straight Outta Compton, so they're obviously keen to keep him on the studio's payroll while they can.
The real question is, however, whether or not we want to see another Fast & Furious film without Paul Walker? Vin Diesel has said that the series has at least another two to three films left, but is the goodwill towards the series going to run out? It's hard to say.
If Diesel's comments about returning the series to its roots, i.e. street-racing, are to be taken at face value, then we say no. Moving the series away from that and turning it into a straightforward action blockbuster was one of the smartest moves in mainstream cinema. It kept the series entertaining and moved it beyond its faddish beginnings, so why would you go back to that?