So I’ve never watched any of the Fast and Furious films.
I’m here to take you on a journey of what I expect will be lots of cars, rampant sexual objectification, and the occasional respite from sickening pseudo-macho-ness in Vin Diesel’s beautiful eyes (Pitch Black and Riddick are the only reason I’m interested in this franchise).
With movie 8, The Fate of the Furious, being released today, let me refresh your memories (good or bad) of what it was like to watch The Fast and the Furious for the first time.
So I have a few questions before I begin, which I’ll answer once I finish the movie:
- What do these people even do, and what does it have to do with racing? Trailers always make it look like they’re criminals or spies or something… except what does that actually have to do with cars?
- Is this the movie that made so many people like The Rock? Because I never got that.
- How is this universe big enough to warrant eight movies?
Here we go.
This movie came out in 2001, a fact that is made quite obvious from the style of the beginning of the movie. I was in kindergarten in 2001. I guess if you watched this movie when you were five years old you would also remember it as being awesome.
The car chases start pretty early on, which is fitting. Looking back on this scene once I finished the movie I finally understood what it was about, which is good; it’s a pretty good car chase.
Enter Brian, played by Paul Walker who tragically passed away a few years ago. There’s something solemn about watching someone’s movies after they had an untimely death.
Walker may have been a good actor (to be honest, I really can’t tell in this movie — there’s a lot of bad acting all around, but that might be influenced by a directing/screenwriting problem), but his character is confusing. He seems to get himself in trouble for no good reason. I do identify with him, however, in the scene where he meets Vin Diesel for the first time, because he looks at him pretty much how I would.
And introducing the main gang… there’s something painted on all of their cars but I don’t get what their point is. The highlight of this entire sequence is Michelle Rodriguez, who is my girl-crush even though she’s been doing some pretty problematic things lately, and even though she always seems to play the same character.
The acting may be bad in this film, but that’s far from the most annoying part of it — the music is playing at all the wrong times. When Brian and Mia are having a conversation, it’s so intrusive that it makes it hard to focus on what’s going on.
The editing is even worse. I honestly can’t tell how close anyone is to anyone else. We need some wide shots! Where is this shop in relation to the café? How close is Mia to the other characters?
Anyway, the fight is settled, it’s established that Vin Diesel is a really powerful… mechanic? Café owner? Car racer? Gang leader? It’s also established that Brian is an idiot for messing with them, especially if it’s for Mia’s sake, since Mia is hardly worth all this mess.
So Brian brilliantly decides to race against Vin Diesel after boosting his car with the real-life equivalent of a Mario Kart turbo boost. And this is when the objectification becomes glaringly obvious, as the camera spends about 20 minutes on various women, doing body pan-ups for every single one. By the way, Michelle Rodriguez was also introduced to us with a pan-up.
Exposed midriffs were really a thing in 2001. Every single female character is wearing a crop top. I’m glad that’s not a thing anymore. We need shirt diversity.
Brian almost kills himself for this race, or at any rate totally destroys his car. I have to admit that the special effects are fun, in a 2001 kind of way. I guess this movie did for urban cars what Mad Max did infinitely better for driving in general.
Vin Diesel does win, which is surprisingly realistic for a movie that is a less-cool version of the Phantom Menace’s pod race.
Then he literally calls Michelle Rodriguez his “trophy,” which makes me somewhat uncomfortable, especially since I was hoping she would have a bigger role in this movie. Also, there’s a lot of the “not like other girls” thing going on. But 16 years ago, I guess this was still pretty good for an action film.
So the police comes, everybody runs, and somehow Vin Diesel is almost cornered by the police — until white!hero!Brian saves the day, earning his respect. It turns out that Vin Diesel also knows things about Brian’s dark past: i.e. “You can find anything on the web. Anything about anybody.” THIS MOVIE IS SO OLD.
Enter an Asian mafia? Car racing gang? Mechanics with anger management issues? What seriously surprises me is that Richard Yune isn’t someone I’ve heard of. Not only is he insanely handsome, but he’s really charismatic and I could see him as a hero or a villain. His acting isn’t the best in this film, but hey, neither is Walker’s.
(Also how do these women not get tired of just sitting behind guys and smirking all the time?)
Threats are exchanged, cars blow up, Vin Diesel and Brian establish this weird buddy relationship thing, and then they… take a taxi. Which I find absolutely hilarious.
A lot of love-triangle stuff happens here, including a confusing fade-to-black in which I can’t tell if Mia and Brian actually hooked up or not. But I really don’t have anything to say about this couple because they’re extremely boring and the love-triangle is even more boring.
My conclusion halfway into this movie is that I really like Jesse. He’s absolutely adorable.
OH, BRIAN IS A SECRET AGENT. I can get behind this! Suddenly his inexplicable desire to stick his head into anything dangerous makes sense!
And for a 2001 film, the diversity here actually isn’t bad. It’s definitely better than most action movies you see nowadays. We have decent representation both in the criminal world and among the cops. The problem is that these cops are unprofessional and spend a lot of time discussing love, like Brian is some sort of child that needs to be guided through life, and not an undercover police officer who really has to get his game together.
And now: RACE WARS! Did you know that Race Wars wasn’t a thing until the fandom made it a thing? Apparently Race Wars is now held in different places around the world. Also, what kind of terrible name is that? I guess 2001 was a simpler time.
Then Michelle Rodriguez beats a leery guy at racing, which half-heartedly addresses the sexism that exists in the racing world? It’s just somewhat undermined by all the shots of stripping thong-wearing women.
Here’s the thing about car racing: it’s fun when the camera follows the cars around, but for the audience it must get terribly boring. They all must be really, really drunk, because I can’t think of anything less fun than standing in the hot desert while cars drive away from you.
Jesse screws up, fights are had, Vin Diesel has a pretty epic attack of aggression — although if the music and pacing had been done properly, it would have been infinitely better, because plot-wise this should have been a big moment –, and once Vin Diesel and his gang drive away, Brian suddenly decides that they need saving.
So he goes to Mia and tells her that he’s a cop, and therefore he’s… trustworthy? The confession is the most anticlimactic thing ever, and also the music sucks. And then Mia just rats her brother out like “okay I trust this guy I met just a little while ago, who also happens to have been lying about everything.”
Enter the big car sequence. Which is doomed from the beginning, since the characters “had a bad feeling about it.” This sequence is actually good. It lacks the flair of CGI and crazy guns, and it’s just one dude with a shotgun, but that actually makes it remarkable. I don’t know how this must have gone down in 2001: either people weren’t accustomed to epic car chases (The Matrix Reloaded arrived 2 years later, raising the standard for that kind of thing), or it was great for the same reason it’s great now. It’s very minimalistic, the antagonist isn’t even completely visible, the stakes are high and the little blood we do see is absolutely chilling. And of course, the prospect of hanging from a truck by the arm as a wire cuts through it is horrible to think about.
Vin Diesel is like JUMP ON MY ARM I AM MUSCULAR ENOUGH TO HOLD A GROWN MAN OFF THE GROUND ON MY BICEP!
And the day is saved because Brian had a convertible! And Mia got a chance to drive! And the truck driver actually ran out of bullets!
Once everyone is tending their wounds, Brian decides that the only way out is to blow his cover — which would have happened anyway, since he told Mia all about it. But this reveal, announcing his status as a police officer over the phone as he stares into Vin Diesel’s horrified eyes is actually GREAT. The tension is fantastic. Vin Diesel, ladies and gentlemen.
A little while later, Jesse gets killed. Which is heartbreaking, because he was sweet and an interesting social critique. Vin Diesel takes off to get his revenge… and then Brian follows too? It’s very hard at this point to understand why Brian does anything. He’s all over the place.
Then there’s a big chase to get revenge on the killers, except we never see either of them without their helmets on, which makes it all a bit pointless — the internet says that Johnny Tran is one of them, but it’s hard to tell.
What really has no logic is the way Brian kind of flails about once the assassins are dead, and the fact that Vin Diesel and Brian race against a train. Jesse just died. No one is focusing on what actually matters here.
Everything is great except Vin Diesel crashes against the truck (karma, I guess.) He survives, though. The most unrealistic part of this movie is when Brian helps him out of the wreckage. Brian might be strong but Vin Diesel is a frickin’ GOD; one does not simply lift him half-heartedly.
Then Brian betrays his job because he thinks Vin Diesel deserves to run free, even though he really did nothing to subvert what Brian already knew about him. I mean, the police knew that the criminal gang were really loyal to each other. Did Brian seriously expect Vin Diesel to be a one-dimensional monster, to be so taken aback by him that he betrays the law and helps him get away? He really wasn’t made for the police.
It feels like they want to hug, but there are just meaningful glances, and then the movie ends.
But THERE’S AN AFTER CREDITS SCENE. (It’s terrible.)
Answers to the questions:
- So… Vin Diesel is a criminal and a car racer (and also a mechanic? Car trader? Possible gang leader?), and Brian is a car racer, policeman-spy, mechanic and eventually also a criminal. So I was right on all counts. My big question is still if Brian got into the police solely for his driving skills, since he’s clearly bad at not falling in love with the people he’s spying on.
- The Rock wasn’t even in this movie. I’m really confused.
- I definitely want to know more about Michelle Rodriguez’s character, and more Vin Diesel never hurt anybody, but I just don’t see how this whole franchise can rival Harry Potter in length. Maybe I should go ahead and watch the next few movies, and it’ll all become clearer?
Thank you for joining me on this journey. I hope I didn’t ruin your childhood.
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