Have you ever noticed that almost every fight between the stars of the Fast & Furious ends in a stalemate? Hobbs and Shaw go toe to toe in Furious 7 and the battle only ends when Shaw uses an explosive to toss Hobbs out of a window. Shaw and Dominic Toretto fight at the end of the movie, but before a decisive winner can be determined they’re interrupted by a missile that collapses the parking garage beneath their feet.

According to a fascinating article in the Wall Street Journal, this is not accidental. In fact, “fights are choreographed to ensure that none of the leads comes out looking like a loser,” according to series producer Michael Fottrell. Per the Journal, many of the Fast series’ biggest stars work behind the scenes to preserve their carefully cultivated image of badassery:

According to producers and crew members on the films, Mr. Statham, 51 years old, negotiated an agreement with the studio that limits how badly he can be beaten up on screen. Mr. Diesel, 52, has his younger sister, a producer on the films, police the number of punches he takes. And Mr. Johnson, 47, enlists producers, editors and fight coordinators to help make sure he always gives as good as he gets.

The tension between Vin Diesel and Dwayne Johnson has been long discussed online, and when you watch the films there are times where you begin to see hints of their real rivalry poking through the fiction. Like this moment from the end of Fast & Furious 6:

Note also the framing of these shots, so that Vin Diesel, who according to most internet sources is at least four inches shorter than The Rock, appears taller than him as he jokes about how he really works for him. This Wall Street Journal article — go read the whole thing, it’s excellent — really makes you wonder how many very subtle but very deliberate moments of oneupmanship there are hidden in these films.

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