dir: James Wan
Look, I was all prepared to rip the shit out of this flick as if it were any of the other Fast & Furious flicks, all of which are terrible, all of which deserve derision, but the simple fact is I couldn’t do it: I simply couldn’t completely hate this flick.
It’s shameful to admit that the elegiac tone unintentionally and intentionally smeared all over the flick because of the death of one of its leads, being Paul Walker, makes it hard to run it down completely. It means I am not as capable of the objectivity and clinical distance one demands of a film reviewer or a neurologist, either/or. You feel like a bit of a prick putting the boot in on a man’s last endeavour.
And I didn’t even particularly like Paul Walker, in this franchise or pretty much anything else he did in life. But still. It’s sad. He had a daughter, after all, and his death was horrible, just horrible. I won’t go into the details, suffice to say it’s a horrible way for a young, attractive man to die. And it most certainly was not his fault.
In movies I mostly found him a blank presence, a kind of bland stand-in for some other actor that they couldn’t afford. He was perfectly fine when he wasn’t talking, but the moment he started speaking the illusion would fall apart.
With his mouth closed he was like a young, dangerous Paul Newman. Talking, he was Pauly Shore.
That being said, I utterly loved him in two movies: Eight Below, about a dog sledder with an incredible dedication to his dogs, and Running Scared, which is an amazingly batshit crazy crime story about the lengths a husband and wife will go to in order to do the right thing.
His progression in the Fast and the Furious films has been hilarious to watch, in that in the first flick he was clearly intended as the protagonist, as the star to build a franchise around. Then he was basically superseded and outacted by Vin Diesel. Then he was superseded by the cars. Then he placed 3rd compared to all the other people they started wedging into the story to create this most ethnically diverse notion of an alternative ‘family’ outside of Sesame Street. Then he placed last behind the insane physics-insulting CGI special effects that have come to define the series.
And yet... and yet he still clearly is some kind of lynchpin for these deeply stupid but highly enjoyable movies. And I defy anyone not to tear up a bit when they hear / watch Wiz Khalifa’s See You Again used as well in the movie, rampant with clips of Walker in his prime. I double dare you. Burly thuggish goons will still be pretending there’s dust in their eyes whenever they hear it for years to come.
In the cast he basically represents White America bridging the gap with its ethnically diverse populace by going native with its fast-driving, fast-loving crims and their ladies. From incompetent lawman he’s become a criminal pursued by the authorities, to eventually becoming a quasi-spy-super driver jetsetter for hire at the behest of the government or whatever the issue du jour is.
All the while the clear ‘love’ between Toretto (Vin Diesel) and O’Conner remains obvious and up all over the screen, but kind of sublimated, for all to see.
Sure, this series used to be about cars driving fast, and women bending over in skin tight shorts, but it stopped being about racing a long time ago. Really, it’s about the love of two men that dares not speak its name, even in an age where most people are pretty okay with it, if not openly embracing it.
The man-love it’s about changes from scene to scene and from film to film. One of the previous ones was clearly about a three-way love triangle involving one sweaty bald muscly guy (Diesel), one bigger, sweatier, even musclier bald guy (The Rock) and one very fit but very lithe in comparison white boy with a full head of luxurious hair (Walker). Love is indeed a many splendoured thing.
Later these jealousies play out in a way in which love of the ‘other’ is really just jockeying to be the alpha dog, so that while The Rock might just look like a bigger version of Diesel, it’s really a search for their own identities beneath the acres of quivering, baby oil slathered throbbing musculature.
By now, by entry 7, the men are relatively comfortable in their various arrangements that keep the pretence of their heterosexuality alive . Toretto’s ‘family’ is no longer pursued by the authorities, but now they are being pursued by another muscly bald guy (Jason Statham!) who wants revenge for some reason. He is the brother of the villain from the last movie, and so he needs to kill Our Heroes because… I’m not sure.
He is supernaturally adept at beating up hundreds of people simultaneously even if 99 of them are shooting guns or invective at him at the same time.
Even he’s not enough, though. There need to be more villains (Djimon Hounsou? Why not?), because otherwise the movie has no excuse for elaborate and thoroughly nutty set pieces in far flung locales, which is all that these flicks are for.
Also, though the extended ‘family’ remains fairly stable, they add to their ranks as the case requires. Look, there is genuinely no reason why you would need either Ludacris or Tyrese Gibson in these flicks. They are literally seat fillers, time killers, attention arrestors and space occupiers. Ludacris at least has put out some decent albums, so we can let him come along for the ride, but Tyrese? Honestly?
In a great example of how unnecessary Tyrese is in the scheme of things, they give him a ‘crucial’ role to play in the Abu Dhabi skyscraper section where he has to distract a group of partygoers by being an obnoxious blowhard who somehow hijacks the proceedings’ in some lunatic way. Why? Because they’re admitting how thoroughly useless Tyrese is even in the context of these movies where people have super skills for no earthly believable reason.
You shmucks drive cars fast. That’s all. Now you’re all James Bond – Jason Bourne – Angela Lansbury – super hackers as well? I think not.
In this section, as cars are flying through windows thousands of metres off the ground, he delivers a flailing ‘comedy’ routine completely noteworthy only due to just how unfunny he is even within the film’s fantastical universe.
That’s harsh, man. That’s got to be bruising to the ego.
These are not, in any way, action masterpieces reminiscent of the 80s or anything. They may claim to be slyly winking at the audience, or that they’re ‘meta’, or that they’re in on the joke, but at no stage has believability been a problem for these flicks from the second one onwards. It’s also not a problem for the audience, because apparently this is what the audience wants. No-one’s ever going to care, none of the people that made this one of the fifth most profitable films of all time, give a damn about acting, plausibility, physics, logic, sense or sensibility.
They love these films because a day or two after the Rock’s character Hobbs has his arm, collar bone and leg broken by Statham’s evil character, and only his arm is in a massive plaster cast that looks like part of a soon-to-be-constructed building, upon hearing a bit of choice news, he decides “fuck this healing bullshit” and pops the arm out of the cast just by flexing his immense muscles.
But how… and what about…?
Now, you might be saying to yourself “Such things do not happen in this world. Such things couldn’t even happen in their world”. Well, yeah, maybe neither you nor I could do such things. We’re not Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, though. What price plausibility and sense when a scene like that can make you laugh out loud at the sheer Rockness of it?
I hated some of the other flicks in this series, but for whatever reason I enjoyed the heck out of this one. I was in the right mood for it, I guess, and I’m not sure if a large quantity of alcohol or opium was the reason for it. Perhaps, even given how idiotic the set pieces are from a plausibility perspective, this one, directed by Australia’s Own James Wan, had an element of visual coherence lacking from some of the other ones (probably just down to salvaging what they can in the editing room). So, even if the stuff that was happening itself couldn’t happen, I could at least understand what was happening, and delight / roll my eyes at it.
That being said, the plot is more pointlessly convoluted than anyone could care about. Statham’s character’s actions are utterly senseless and meaningless unless he’s actually playing the insane character from the Crank flicks. At the beginning of the flick he’s killed like a hundred people and destroyed a hospital in order to talk to his brother who’s in a coma. Everything he does from then on makes even less sense than that. The Joker has more plausible constraints and motivations.
And all this convolution doesn’t hide the fact that this franchise is built on utter nonsense. All the mutterings of “family” this and “amnesia” that doesn’t hide that these highly orchestrated pantomimes aren’t for sensible people. I’m only here to marvel at Diesel’s incredible grumbling voice (and I’ve always thought he was a great actor. No, don’t look at me like that, I’m being serious), marvel at the ever-expanding muscles and egos of the protagonists, and wonder about what crazy shit they’ll do next (though O’Conner gets his salutation driving off in another direction, which is a nice way to go out).
Which is fine for me, because I stopped making or thinking sense a long time ago. It’s easier and cheaper this way.
6 times being the ‘best’ of the Fast & Furious movies is like winning a race at the Special Olympics out of 10
“Cars can't fly, Dom, cars can't fly!” – well, when’s that ever stopped you jerks before? – Fast & Furious 7