I’ve been thinking a lot about the nature of Hollywood films and their capacity to take us away from the here and now. I’ve also noticed that both film and television shows seem to be better than they’ve ever been before – and I’m wondering… is the material – or the mind numbing clusterfuck of a reality that the real world is surrounding us with… is that making the power of the glowy rectangle a more desirable retreat than ever? Which then begs the question, should any of us seek distraction, and the answer is, of course, yes. It’s the only way of maintaining sanity. Music, Literature, Art, Cinema, Television… these things exercise our ability to care - even about silly shit like… THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS franchise, which fucking rules.
I was asked at today’s screening what my favorite FAST flick is – and for me, it is TOKYO DRIFT – mainly because it was about the dream of fantasy driving and romance, not non-stop explosions and death. The film exercised a full ability to just take me away. Not that I have a problem with violent death cinema – it’s just of all the films, it is UNIQUE. It wasn’t about any of our main characters, it was about a boy learning a new style of driving and falling in love with a culture foreign to him. Plus, it had that awesome HULK car.
The rest of my rankings – to be honest, I’ve never really given much thought. It isn’t that they’re interchangeable, but they are non-stop pedal to the metal – and that’s fine. I love the family and the extended nature of the Toretto brand of family. Here in Austin, I have my family, but there are so many people near and dear to me that are friends and acquaintances and people that flow in and out of my life that live locally, but then there’s those to become a part of the BNAT family. So yeah, I get that vibe beautifully and love that the films reinforce that sense of communal duty and love.
THE FATE OF THE FURIOUS is no different. Going into this, I couldn’t think of a power on Earth that could sway Vin’s Dom into turning his back on his family – and in a manner of speaking – he never does. You’ll see.
The film opens with a whole lot of Cuban lady butts jiggling in slow motion as we eventually find Dom and Letty checking the amazing ingenuity of one Cuban in keeping the family car moving. I loved this scene. Sure I like butts and I can not lie… sorry… but more than that, that notion of working on cars with one’s father… well, I’ve helped Father Geek install a myriad of parts in a number cars that we named and treated like an extended member of the family.
Don’t worry though, this isn’t a non-stop touchy feely thing, but in some ways – it absolutely is. Once Charlize Theron comes aboard, the sinister ratchets up several notches as she shows Dom something on a phone she gives him that… stops him flat in his tracks. Whatever was on that phone… Dom no longer had free will. Charlize owns him.
Then we’re off to Dwayne Johnson’s Hobbs giving a ferocious group of warriors a rallying speech. The scene that follows – shows just how far Dwayne has come from THE TOOTH FAIRY just 7 years ago. His chops are complete as an entertainer. He’s more than muscle, eyebrows and a smile, he’s fucking endearing. And in THE FATE OF THE FURIOUS – he continues the superhuman juggernaut that he’s been in the series. You will see him know multitudes of large men through the air at the same time, you’ll see him hurt steel, you’ll see him do something with a torpedo that he actually claims to be able to do in real life… Just in case you ever need that sort of thing. He gets to spend a whole helluvalot of time up in Jason Statham’s Deckard’s face – which is… TERRIFIC ENERGY.
Now, I know… Statham is a bad guy, but then… weren’t all these characters bad guys (cept, Hobbs) that just by being so good at being bad, they became indispensible to higher powers that absolve them of their sins and probably pay them handsomely too. Well – They’ve decided to make Statham’s Deckard part of the family theme too – though technically, family was always his entry into the series. Really. But here, we get to meet his Mom and – what a sweet mother that is!
Charlize’s evil plan concerns 4 major things… An EMP device, God’s Eye (you know), A nuclear football of launch codes and a Nuclear Sub. Easy peasy, and the only one that can do it all is… you got it, Dom. Her muscle on him is pretty awesome. And Deckard’s scene with that awesome may be some of my favorite action humor of the entire franchise.
Michelle Rodriguez’s Letty is having a pretty miserable time this outing cuz she just can’t imagine what is going on with Dom. She believes in him, but there’s no denying the actions he undertakes.
There’s an action scene in this movie that will make you terrified of automated cars. It’s pure nightmare sauce – and kinda funny to see a series that’s all about “THE PERSON BEHIND THE WHEEL, NOT THE CAR” – to see them use these Smart Cars as they do. That scene alone is worth seeing the movie.
Ludacris and Tyrese continue to be hilarious throughout. Kurt Russell’s Mr. Nobody is again – a pure delight – and seems no worse for the wear after that gut shot in the last film. He’s got a Little Nobody with him this time, played by Scott Eastwood – who everybody mistreats – it works wonderfully. And shows Scott growing in charm and character. He’s got a bright future.
My fave character that delighted me to no end was Tormund Giantsbane, you know… Kristofer Hivju from GAME OF THRONES – he plays the right hand man of Charlize’s character and gives Vin someone to throw Eyeball Daggers into for the duration of his slavery to Charlize’s all powerful CYPHER.
How about – the impossible shit? Well, there’s a lot of it – and F Gary Gray is directing coming off of films like STRAIGHT OUTTA COMPTON and THE ITALIAN JOB – which gives him a perfect sense of style to slide into the franchise. He does an absolutely terrific job of never letting the impossible shit linger, he’ll cut to the elated look of survival – and it all feels real… cuz… man. The shit people survive here…
Well… it’s TALL TALE material. This series has moved past it’s humble origins about street racers with a side gig of thievery of… parts or gas or whatever they might be heisting, to being the revved up IMF that out IMFs the IMF of the MISSION IMPOSSIBLE series.
The SUBMARINE sequence… it is pretty spectacular – and when you see Vin’s Dom take out a Nuclear Submarine with fancy driving… that’s some straight up fucking Pecos Bill or Paul Bunyan shit. Hobbs maybe a Steel Driving Man cut from the mold of John Henry, but Vin’s pure magic. There’s a swagger and a fearlessness to the proceedings, except for Roman, that makes everything worth believing in. All you have to do is invest a will to not question, but to instead… believe in the power of these legends, who just can’t stop doing the impossible.
The film does bring up Russians, Terrorists, beating folks on planes, but all of it is so fun that you can’t stop smiling. In retrospect, I suppose those things might’ve been a shiny penny to wake me from the cinematic tale, now somebody needs to growl out an awesome BALLAD OF DOM TORETTO that folks can sing at a campfire in some distant future, cuz he really is a modern legend.
Keep it cool,