My wife said my favorite quote that summarizes this franchise: "You know who likes cars? The same people who like butts." There are so many closeups of butts, but because it is a Universal blockbuster...that makes it PG-13. I'll never understand anything about anything.
DIRECTOR: Justin Lin
The podcast on this one is supposed to drop today. If you are just joining me at this website / podcast, please understand that I'm not a fan of The Fast and the Furious movies. We gave ourselves a little quest to watch these movies because I was way too snobby to get into something like this. Fast Five might be the most fun of these movies so far, but I still have my snobby misgivings that clothe me like a sweater in this very cold weather. I enjoy them to a certain point, but I don't find much value. Some people might say that this is true for blockbusters and action tentpole movies, but I disagree. There's some very weird heart missing from these movies that I tend to get with Star Wars or MCU films. That's really bizarre because the word that is thrown around in these movies willy-nilly is "family."
The biggest problem we had with the earlier movies is the "who cares" element of them all. The movie really was just trying to be about being rad, and I suppose that's cool. But Fast Five starts the KFC Famous Bowl attitude of the franchise and throws everything into one big mashed nonsense. (I also just learned from my class that the "Famous Bowl" has been changed to the $5 Fill Up. See, you do learn things from your students.) With a franchise like The Fast and the Furious, the way to transcend the brahs who wear Ed Hardy shirts is to just throw everything at the wall, regardless of how much sense it makes. Fast Five also straight up is a heist movie. It is Ocean's Eleven, without the intricate filmmaking that made Ocean's Eleven a great tentpole movie. (I'm going to keep using the term "tentpole movie" because I can. The best parts of the series was when Dom and Brian were stealing stuff, so I can get behind this. As part of this, the movie gets into ambitious territory. 2 Fast 2 Furious really dropped the ball with that heist film, so the fact that the movies were returning to what was already a failed formula was gutsy. But it kind of works in this movie. I'm not saying that it worked well. But the movie feels much more like it was meant for everyone instead of the broey guys of the previous films. I can chalk this up to two things: abandoning the whole Brian O'Conner is a cop business (It's absurd to ask him what he feels like "being on the other side" because he flip-flops more than is reasonable for an audience to accept) and the fact that they earned their mini-cinematic universe for this one. This movie went all Avengers on the screen. For those not in the know, cast members from every movie in the franchise came together to form a superteam. Or as Dom would call it, a family. He loves that word. It didn't matter if a lot of them just met and it seemed like they didn't get along. They. Were. A. Family. (*pinches sinuses*)
But the movie still has the problems that plagued the franchise previous to this movie. The bad guys aren't that likable. Like, I know. We're on their team because they tend to steal from guys who are worse than they are. But they are pretty bad and that comes from my problems with the DCEU. They don't mind casualties to innocent civilians. FULL BLOWN SPOILER TERRITORY FOR A MOVIE THAT DOESN'T MATTER: Dragging a bank vault by cable through a major city is going to kill someone. This movie kept trying to simultaneously explain that no one was hurt due to the shannannigans of the crew while showing that they were willing to cause massive amounts of damage to downtown Rio. Every time one of these scenes happen, I'm instantly pulled out of the movie. I can't help but think, "These are the good guys?" I should be rooting for the Rock to catch these guys. I'm going to seamlessly transition into my discussion about the Rock joining the franchise because I am weirdly in awe of Dwayne Johnson. Dwayne Johnson tends to make things way better. He's almost certainly (and I'm writing unironically!) makes a good movie great. That's why his addition to this movie is absolutely bizarre to me. I normally absolutely love him in everything that I see him in because the guy's abnormally perfect sense of comic timing crushes every time. But he wasn't funny in this one. Fast Five, what were you thinking? You made the Rock a serious character? Not only that, but he looks almost exactly like Vin Diesel in many scenes. You had to make him supernaturally sweaty just to differentiate him. Your intentions are perfect. But it just creates a new problem of having to ask why is he so sweaty. Like, no one else is sweaty! The Rock? All the sweat. It's disturbing. Is he nervous? Does he have a condition? So I can tell the difference between the two characters in a fight (which is more than I can say in the Transformers movies), but that creates more problems than it solves. I know that the Rock is going to join the crew for future films, but I kind of want that now. He is wasted in this role and I just want to see him pancake cars in future films.
One other thing that really bothered me about these movies is the fact that deaths are malleable. The best scene in the movie is the train robbery scene. The logic of the train robbery scene really defines the attitude of The Fast and the Furious movies because it is sold to the protagonists as "an easy job." It is, by far, the most complex theft in the entire series. But I'm ignoring that. There's a scene where Vin Diesel, on the train, gets wrecked with a crowbar. (Pun intended) It doesn't even phase him. I know that he's Vin Diesel. Nothing hurts Vin Diesel. But this only gets worse when Dom and Brian pull a Butch and Sundance and just shake it off. They jump off a cliff guys. In a car. Going really fast. I know it is possible to survive this, but other movies show that scene as the scene that is going to possibly kill the heroes. In Fast Five, it is actually the plan for survival. The plan for survival is to drive a car off a cliff at an unreasonable speed and then bail out part of the way down. On top of that, Letty is returning for the next movie. From a guy who reads far too many comic books for his own good, it's hypocritical that I have a problem with people coming back from the dead. But these are movies that now have no permanence. (Again, apologies to the late Paul Walker and his family.) Death really doesn't mean a thing, which means the stakes always seem low. I never really am worried about the fate (or, F8) of these characters because the movie simply decides when these characters are allowed to die. I noticed the same thing with the Charlie's Angels movies and we see how those have held up over time. Yeah, it's fun to watch Dom and Brian launch off a cliff, but there should be some consequences. I like when Fast Five is like the Avengers when it comes to star power, but I also don't need the characters having superhuman abilities. I'd rather see good writing rather than simply accept what shouldn't possibly happen.
There's one moment that really sticks in my craw. I know, this is a movie that I said that I liked more than the other ones and all I've done is gripe and complain. There's a scene where it was clearly a callback to the focus of the other movies: the street race. The guys steal a bunch of police cars so that they can blend in while trying to rob the police station. So far, I'm behind this logic. The problem is that immediately after stealing these police cars, they street race them in public. Outside the fact that this ties back into my problem with how cheap life is in Rio, the point of stealing those cars was to stay undercover. When you race four police cars in downtown Rio de Janeiro, it draws attention to yourself. I think that one of the Ocean's movies does this, but it addresses the consequences. Fast Five doesn't have the moral core to do this. It simply throws this scene in because it is apparently awesome. You can't just do things because they are awesome. But again, I did compliment this movie on the fact that it is the Famous Bowls of movie,so I guess they can do whatever they want. And, shy of defying all logical sense, the scene was pretty fun and cool, so do what you need...
For a long discussion about Fast Five, check out the podcast tomorrow at literallyanything.net. It's a good time.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.