“Fast & Furious” is a Movie
Friendship break-ups are rough. Our culture does not prepare us for the idea that a platonic union could dissolve with as much heartbreak, acrimony, and pain as found in the turbulent end of a romance. But all things pass, and eventually there is room for healing, even if you are a shitty cop who becomes a truly terrible FBI agent who definitely should not be assigned to any cases at all, especially those involving the love of your life, a masterful car thief who looks and sounds a lot like Vin Diesel.
I will watch anything made by director Justin Lin, but I am well aware that big films like this are done by committee, and that a director rarely has total control over the outcome. None of what I have to say about Fast & Furious should be taken as critique of Justin Lin, whom I believe should just get to do whatever he wants with no notes.
They say that if we ever remembered the true pain of labor and delivery, we’d never have a child again. And while it isn’t taint-rippingly bad, I remember very little about the fourth installment in the Fast and Furious universe, although I do recall that it is set five years after the events of the first film, The Fast and the Furious, but before the events of the third film, Tokyo Drift. We get some backstory featuring a cameo by a not-yet-dead Han (Sung Kang, my imaginary boyfriend). We are in the Dominican Republic, which is where Dom (Vin Diesel) is hiding out from the feds who tried to nab him in the first film. Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) is with him. Things are stolen, successfully.
Then Han has to go to Tokyo to be the best thing about a threequel that the 2009 theatre audience presumably already saw, and I guess we fast-forward a few months to Vin being in Mexico and Michelle back in Los Angeles, apparently dying at the hands of an Evil Car Guy (but she actually lives to have Vin’s kid in The Future, which we know because you and I live in The Future and we’ve seen the trailer for Fast 9).
Stuff happens, and Brian (Paul Walker) is somehow now in an excellent position in federal law enforcement despite very clearly abdicating all duties when he had the chance to turn in Dom/Vin’s car gang as a cop. Look, I agree with Brian’s choice to let his friends go. I am very proud of Brian. I just don’t know why the hell he’s suddenly in the FBI. Is it because he and Tyrese did such a good job helping out the Customs folks in Miami in 2 Fast 2 Furious, a film in which an undercover Eva Mendes was made to fuck a sociopath for a full year in order to make an arrest? Also, where is the rat from 2 Fast 2 Furious, and is it happy? Is it creatively fulfilled? I would like to know.
At some point Vin sees Paul again, and Vin is very, very mad at Paul, but not as mad as he gets when he finds out that Paul was running Michelle as an FBI source and that’s when she got (not really) killed! Also Jordana Brewster is there! She does some very good acting in a diner scene when she’s mad at Paul! The director uses a blue filter on all the law enforcement office scenes, just like they did in all of Joe Mantegna’s police precinct scenes in the tragically short-lived dramedy Joan of Arcadia! All the stunts and special FX are excellent! The soundtrack is fun!
I would like to squeeze a deep literary essay out of this, but I cannot. It is not a terrible film. It is just not as fun as the others that came before it. And perhaps I was simply in an odd mood when I watched it. I know that a lot of people worked very hard to make it happen. I would like to take this movie as a jumping-off point to make some deep statements about the wounds we cause one another in friendship, and the ways we need to take space, and the beauty of healing and reconnection, and how sometimes you never get to be friends again but you go on to be better people, or you don’t, and some friends just fucking suck and are worth ditching, and others can be our greatest teachers even if we don’t want to be around them anymore, and how a loving long friendship can be like a marriage, but I don’t have it in me to construct the metaphors today.
This was a movie, and now it is done, and I am told the fifth installment is a lot of fun. I trust that this is so. They can’t all be winners, and I mean films and friends and essays. Sometimes you’ve got to let it be what it is, and take a little rest before trying again. It is good to try again. I will do so soon. But first, I need a fucking nap.
For the first essay in this series, see “On The Fast and the Furious.”
For the second essay in this series, see “On 2 Fast 2 Furious.”
For the third essay in this series, see “Han, Solo: On Tokyo Drift.”