Fast & Furious

While Dragon Ball Evolution left me without words, Fast & Furious left me wondering if I should even bother with words. For a big movie allegedly about fast cars and explosions, the whole exercise is surprisingly boring: tedious plotting and cashing in on nostalgia for a movie that I never saw are the key ingredients. To stretch an analogy, it’s like making a cake out of Vin Diesel.

Yeah. You wouldn’t want to eat it, would you?

Three movies after his escape from America, Dom (Vin Diesel) is leading a group of yahoos across the Dominican Republic, stealing gasoline for kicks. He realises that the game is getting too dangerous and sets his girlfriend Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) free. When she is almost immediately murdered upon release into the American wilds, Dom travels back home to have his vengeance.

Coincidentally, Dom’s old friend and arch nemesis O’Connor (Paul Walker) and the government have their own vendetta against the people who killed Letty. An unlikely partnership is arranged between the two of them as they act to bring down a gang of ugly and reckless drug barons.

Our modern street racing, drug trafficking Sweeney Todd is a man of few words. As such, the early scenes of the film play out with people talking to Dom and him just looking at them silently. It’s great drama, if that’s your thing. Silent and brooding can be taken too far, however, and Fast & Furious would almost have been more suited to the stylings of Charlie Chaplin. You can tell that Vin Diesel pretty much doesn’t care about what he’s offering: if you examine the poster, the look of contempt he fixes upon the general public says it all.

Fast & Furious is a movie in which all female involvement is superfluous. You can’t make a movie about manly pursuits without featuring at least some women, or else the teenage boys at whom the film is aimed will feel uncomfortable. Fast & Furious doesn’t feature women so much as it features parts of women. The moment the opening action scene is over (exploding gas tankers!), we see the film’s title … and then we see scantily clad buttocks. The scene in the Dominican Republic, wherein a group of young people dance around the recently captured gas tanker, is more like Spring Break than anything else. I’m fairly certain that career criminals – because that’s what these people are, and they’re supposed to be our heroes – don’t hold parties around their spoils on beaches. Having never hijacked a gas tanker in my life, though, I could be well wrong.

When Dom returns to America, the fun continues: one guy, Dwight, who hangs out with a group of plastic women and constantly refers to himself in the third person, is shown luxuriating in his pad. Chad has a foot fetish, and a group of at least three girls who make out with each other for his amusement. Dom and O’Connor go to a party to get some leads on their drug running game and they walk past a couple of girls kissing in a corridor. Casual lesbianism has landed, and it’s gross and disturbing. Fast & Furious showcases some of the most overt and unmentioned misogyny I’ve seen in a mainstream film in a while.

It wouldn’t be so bad if there were any strong female roles; Jordana Brewster as Dom’s sister is largely wasted. Yeah, of course she still has a thing for the man who stiffed her five years ago, and her nod to character development is that she’s learned a little bit of passion for mechanics from Letty. We end up with a movie that has a lot of ass (making concession to American spelling due to extreme American nature of this whole concept), and a fair amount of tits, including a scene in which a woman tries to seduce Dom in what appears to be a cold room and he turns her down on the grounds that he’s still in love with his dead girlfriend (if there were female characters like Letty in the body of the film it would have been more forgivable). The scene ended, in my imagination at least, with the woman saying “Come on! You can see my nipples!”

The typical men fighting for what’s right movie homoeroticism wasn’t even here to soften the blow that was this movie. Paul Walker and Vin Diesel’s chemistry is not quite non-existent but still offers a tiny bit of respite. The sad thing is they talk to each other in action movie clichés that had Ajay and I finishing their lines for them.

O’Conner: This is where my jurisdiction ends…

Dom and Alex: …and this is where mine begins.

Or even pre-empting them entirely:

Dom and Ajay: I’m through running.

This sort of movie is comfort food but it’s a remarkably boring example. After the gas hijacking I spent most of the driving parts of the movie horrified – competitors in street racers get into horrible, almost certainly fatal accidents and nobody gives a damn – but there is one stunt towards the end that I was genuinely tickled by. Strictly speaking, that’s not really enough to sustain an entire movie but I am historically indifferent to cars. In one of the desert driving scenes I found myself thinking “this movie would be better if it were Speed Racer“, which is a worrying thought to have about any movie (Speed Racer is a movie that I was entertained by simply because my brain refuses to believe it actually exists).  It makes me wonder why I continue going to movies that are explicitly not designed for me.

The film makes no secret of the fact that Dom is an anti-hero but doesn’t go so far as to make him likeable. He’s a silent fake badass, his motivations are selfish and he doesn’t say anything particularly amusing or deep (unless you count calling a dead guy “pussy” as funny or profound). His list of crimes is ridiculously large and they’re not the sort of crimes you could laud. He hijacks gasoline tankers for the explicit reason of holding parties around them.

Fast & Furious’ one nod to realism on this count comes at the end, but it’s presented as if the law is a bad thing when it is applied to street racing, gas thieving drug runners (but he was running drugs for a good cause! Come on!). So we’re given an opening to a sequel that can’t take place in America, what with its justice system that doesn’t reward punk asses.

I can hardly wait.

One Response

  1. Bryan May 6, 2009

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