PG-13 for stuff that the Fast & Furious movies like. Except they have a liberal use of the F-Word. I heard that PG-13 movies can use the f-word twice. They have to have used it twice. Plus the other ones. It grounds the movie in reali--*snicker* I'm sorry. I couldn't even get through that joke typing. There's nothing real about these movies.
DIRECTOR: Justin Lin
I hate being behind on my reviews. I don't remember anything about this movie. They're all blending together. I have to talk about this movie on the podcast, too, so get ready for me stammering about names that aren't coming to me. It makes for riveting audio. I guess there might be a downside to consuming mass amounts of pop culture in a limited amount of time. Stuff tends to blend together. I'll try my best to really think about this movie and give it a valid critique.
The weird part is that this is the best movie in the franchise so far. Again, finding a silver lining in the truly abysmal 2 Fast 2 Furious means that the series can only go up from there. Some people were telling us that Fast & Furious (which is the fourth movie in the franchise, which is impossible to tell based on the most generic naming conventions in cinema history) was terrible. Some people say it is the beginning of the franchise getting great. It definitely is a jump in actual quality of filmmaking. (I have to applaud the tag line: "New model, original parts". Very clever, Universal.) There is some money being thrown at this movie that I haven't really seen in the other movies in the series. I'm not saying that the other movies look cheap. I'm frankly blown away that these movies get the budgets that they do. But this movie really looks like a movie that is trying to take itself at least remotely seriously. It has that Michael Bay polish to it that the others don't. The others seem aware that they are the Step Up for car racing movies. This one gives a weird grandeur to the illegal streetracing genre. As part of that, it is a bit overpolished, but it isn't like the other movies were exactly great garage bands. It's like thinking that Blink 182 was better before it was overproduced. Who cares? It's still what it was originally. But you can tell that the movie has a little bit more money because the police station doesn't feel like a Hollywood soundstage. It also doesn't feel like a police station, because this is a Hollywood blockbuster and police stations are fabulously funded. I say that it has that Michael Bay look because everything looks awesome, yet has very little substance.
I can't get past one thing. I've often commented on the sheer unreality of the Fast and the Furious movies and this one is pushing my goodwill. I know, "Suspension of disbelief." I can't anymore. They let Bryan O'Connor be a copy again? They gave him a promotion? How many super illegal things can he do before they say, "Enough is enough!" "Fool me once and twice, shame on you?" A common thing in this movie is that Bryan still has an inherent disrespect for the ways of the force and everyone is shocked when O'Connor doesn't respect authority and sides with the streetracers. WHY? He has shown no other side besides constant betrayal. Stop getting him involved. Train someone else to drive cars fast. There has to be another way. But since I'm talking about Bryan O'Connor, I have to point out that Paul Walker got some acting lessons between Parts 2 and 4. I'm never going to say he's great. (Again, RIP. I'm very sorry to his family.) But he can at least hold his own and there are few cringy moments of performance in this movie. Maybe that's why they made Tokyo Drift, so he can get a break and really learn his craft. But he's far more tolerable in this one. But the person we care about is Dom.
Oh, Dom. How is it that I look forward to Vin Diesel in a movie. Read my Pacifier review. I couldn't stand Vin Diesel. My annoyance for Paul Walker was nothing compared to my distaste for the Diesel. But he's great. He's really good in these movies. He plays one note the entire time, but that note really works in these movies. I don't know what it is about that character, but that flat affect through the whole thing makes me root for him. That doesn't make a lick of sense. I know, it sounds like I'm being sarcastic. I am not. Every time the story focuses on Dom, I'm engrossed again. I weirdly believe that he's this streetwise racer who can't be beat. I'm a huge hypocrite because I hate Mary Sue characters and Dom might be one of the most notable Mary Sue characters I've seen in films for a while. Perhaps even more so because usually a Mary Sue gets captured and has to use their cunning to escape. Dom barely ever even gets caught. There's one moment before he blows up his car SPOILER, SORRY, that he could be considered captured. But that was all part of his plan, so it doesn't even count. Why is that a cool character to me? I can only guess is that he is playing the Punisher character in this one. Dom's sole motivation in this movie is revenge for the death of Michelle Rodriguez (SPOILER BY HEARSAY -I hear that she really doesn't die which doesn't make any sense because people saw her and there was a funeral. I think these movies are gonna get even more bananas real soon.) That character is always interesting, but he was also the best part of The Fast and the Furious (referring to Part I). Maybe these movies are so about attitude that they need to have a character to match the attitude of the cars? I don't know. I'm never going to be into street racing, but Dom's cool.
The story had this moment where my fan theory (let's not hang on the term "fan theory" too long was better than necessary) was better than the actual result of the movie. I feel like I'm just going to be open with spoilers because I highly doubt if anyone is using my review to determine if they should jump into the fourth movie in a franchise that they haven't already watched. There is a drug lord who has never been photographed and no one knows what he looks like. The movie went with the easy answer. The number two guy that has been the communication guy with the head honcho is actually the head honcho. I thought that was lazy. Gal Godot (right?!) is a woman in his organization and she spends most of the movie with the recently single (Rodriguez died!) Dom. I really wanted her to be the big drug lord. For a franchise that is so disparaging towards women, I would have loved to have a woman be in charge and leads the guys around by their tails. Instead, Godot is just another pretty face in a movie that doesn't really need her to be in it. Think about it: Gal Godot is both Wonder Woman and the woman who fixes the blatant sexism in the Fast and the Furious movies? She would single-handedly fix Hollywood! But no, she's just another character that's meant to be eye candy. Boo.
The story on this one is almost non-existent. Really, the movie is an excuse to get the cast in a room together after many years. I don't know if the first movie in the franchise has that much of a nostalgia aspect at this point. It has been eight years between the first movie and the fourth movie. The protagonist has just been absent for one film. This movie oddly fits as a light prequel to part III, with a cameo by Han considering that Vin Diesel cameoed in Part III. It is good to see them all together and getting the budget to match the movie, but I don't know if we're supposed to be crying or respecting the relationships that were created in the first movie. I saw many moments that would have been truly touching in other franchises. Tony Stark and Steve Rogers after Civil War? These moments would have had resonance. It's not like these moments are sterile or forced, but without a love for these characters, there's not much impact in the long haul. I'm supposed to be rooting for Bryan in these moments, but I don't like Bryan. I think he's kind of a bad person. Dom should hate that guy. The fact that these two are speaking, regardless of how tense it is, seems somewhat unbelievable. I know, Bryan let him go after the first movie. But Bryan also destroyed his life by getting involved. The fact that Dom allows him into his home and offers himself out there seems like a Hollywood convention. I'm not saying forgiveness is not possible in reality, but it goes against Dom's character up to this point. This movie has been about Dom hating Bryan, so why does that shut off? It felt like we just hit that runtime point in the movie for them to be friends, so let's have them be friends, I guess?
There are moments that are absolutely silly. When the movie works, it works. For the most part the effects seem to be practical, which makes the movie fun, but the movie is also structured in what I can only describe as "video game format". There are missions that Bryan and Dom have to complete to continue on with the story. It doesn't help that their GPS looks like a video game with graphics and a hud similar to a video game. Perhaps this is to appeal to the gamers in the audience, but it just comes off as goofy. Also, having Bryan trying to be the tough in a movie across from Vin Diesel is just absurd. There is a moment where Bryan Jack Bauers a fellow agent's head into a wall to show how tough he is. I never bought it for a second. But that's what these movies are. There's so much you can shut down in your brain and the movie becomes somewhat watchable. I had a good time with this one. I still can't wait for the next one because they all become spies or something. Regardless, these movies are almost exactly what you think they are. They are disposable action garbage, but who says that's necessarily a bad thing?
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.