Monday, 24 August 2009

Fast and Furious (2009)

This image is a perfect distillation
of The Fast and the Furious franchise.

After the first The Fast and the Furious movie was released Vin Diesel seemed destined for action superstardom: He had a deep voice, big muscles and his ambiguous ethnicity alienated as few people as possible. He left the franchise to pursue his own career, but unfortunately it seemed that the viewing public had lost it's taste for muscled action heroes. After a couple of poorly received action vehicles he made a last-ditch attempt at Schwarzeneggerian self-aggrandizing family-friendly comedy. The rapid rise and fall of Vin Diesel's career casts a dark cloud over his return the definite-article-deficient Fast and Furious. He's not the only one either: Michelle Rodriguez as Letty, Jordana Brewster as Mia and Paul Walker as Brian O'Connor, they all return from the first film too. It should have been called The Fast and the Furious: Our Careers Didn't Pan Out The Way We Hoped, Please Give Us a Paycheck.

As The 4st and the 4rious begins, Dom, Letty and Han are in the middle of another ridiculous high-speed robbery in the Dominican Republic, stealing the fuel from a tanker truck while it is still in motion. In the world of The Fast and the Furious, transit vehicles must be fitted with Speed-like motion-sensitive bombs because their whole plan would have fallen apart if the driver had the good sense to just stop the truck. Instead he grabs his pet iguana and leaps from the moving truck, causing it to flip over and explode spectacularly. After their harrowing escape, Dom decides to retire from his career as an international car-based criminal. Han fucks up continuity by leaving this movie to appear in the previous sequel while Letty decides to start her own criminal career where she is killed off-screen, so Dom's gotta get revenge etc.

Meanwhile, O'Connor is busy trying to find a drug kingpin named Braga. The Feds saw his history of contempt for authority and reckless property damage and recognised his potential, so now he works for the FBI. It turns out that Braga is the guy who Letty was working for when she was killed, so both Dom and O'Connor go undercover as drivers/smugglers. Again. I don't know how much longer these two can keep going undercover as getaway drivers before criminals start catching on. Diesel isn't the most inconspicuous guy around. Naturally Braga has set up a series of increasingly ridiculous driving tests for them to go through, culminating in a high speed chase through a mine shaft. So, much like O'Connor combines the parts of three impounded sports cars to create his own super-car, this film combines the cast of the first film with the retarded plot of the second film and the director of the third film. Maybe some other stuff too, I didn't see the third one.

They also find time to fit in some manly emoting between the car chases. O'Connor tries to repair his damaged relationship with the estranged Mia, while Dom gets to do a lot of brooding while he stands in front of sunsets looking all serious and shit. I especially liked the shot of all the candy-coloured import cars lined up in front of Letty's funeral while Dom looks on sadly from a distance. I would have liked it better if they'd cranked up their pimped-out stereos or flashed their neon lights in union as a tribute, but it's still pretty funny. A huge drill pumps away in the background behind Dom, reminding us that, yes, he fucked Michelle Rodriguez. Not a funeral appropriate metaphor if you ask me, but true to the spirit of the movie.

An important fact about the Fast and the Furiverse is that hot babes are uncontrollably attracted to the bright colours and flashing lights exhibited by souped-up import cars, even if you're a douchebag with a blonde mullet. Every time you bring your pimped-out Honda Civic to a stop a bunch of sexy babes in booty shorts will gather around it and start shaking their butts around, which makes the morning commute a real bitch. Even GPS navigation systems display animated girls shaking their asses. They are so hot for cars that people regularly employ clumsy car metaphors in their pick-up routines, like "I'm the kind of man that appreciates a good body regardless of the make". Our heroes don't really take advantage of this fact, since Dom is too busy mourning his lost love and O'Connor is too busy boning Mia in the kitchen, but you can be assured that every racing scene is decorated with babes in shiny hot pants.

Another important fact about the Fast and the Furiverse is that people with awesome cars project an aura of cool that no amount of logic or rationality can penetrate. This epitomised in Vin Diesel's character. Paul Walker claims he let him go at the end of the first film because he respected Dom's personal code of honour (he hasn't figured his code out yet, apparently it doesn't involve catching career criminals) but we all know it's because he drove an awesome car and had a cool growly voice and was bald. In this film Dom even has amazing CSI powers where he can stand in the middle of a crash site and watch as the crash is reconstructed around him using CGI. Pretty cool.

Naturally O'Connor cannot compete with Dom in this respect, but he drives a cool car so the law of cool still applies to him. For instance, when he plants a big bag of crystal meth in a guy's apartment to get him out of the way, his colleagues react with a conspiratorial chuckle. The best bit is when he beats the shit out of a fellow agent for chewing him out. His boss takes O'Connor's side and bitches the other guy out for "bleeding on my floor", followed by a comedy shot of his glowering bandaged face at a meeting. Haha, that's what you get for mouthing off to Special Agent Paul Walker, asshole. I bet you drive a hybrid. Naturally there are many scenes of Agent Asshole watching an enormous monitor in bug-eyed frustration, such as when O'Connor is forced to ditch his secret high-tech undercover FBI tracking device because it emits loud beeps and is fitted with a blinking light.

Although O'Connor flips the bird to authority wherever possible, he's still a tool of The Man. Dom lives a far more respectable life of robbery, property damage and vehiclular manslaughter (plus he has large pecs and a faster car) so he's the star and the movie lets you know it. When Dom and O'Connor get into a fight Dom starts tossing him around the room like a hairless sasquatch and the camera is extremely careful not bring attention to the fact that he is several inches shorter. In the end Dom says he is tired of running and turns himself in, but when the judge gives him life in prison O'Connor and Mia decide to bust him out with a high-speed hijacking of his prison bus. Facing your past is one thing but dealing with the consequences is for chumps who drive Hyundais. I enjoyed this stupid movie and I appreciated it's central message that you need not heed the laws of man or God or physics so long as you have an awesome car.

No comments: