Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Curiouser and Furiouser: A Fast and Furious Watch - Part 1: The Fast and the Furious

Just look at how "2000" these people are

This is the first part of my Fast and the Furious watch - for more information see here

Alright so here we go.  I have finally seen the first movie in this long running franchise.  Where to begin?  So I was correct in guessing that this movie was essentially Point Break except with cars.  My problem with the movie, and this was actually pretty glaring, was that even as somebody who has only the vaguest recollection of the marketing for this movie, I thought that it was basically Point Break but with cars, ie. that Paul Walker was playing a cop, and Vin Diesel and his buddies were criminals.  So what’s the problem?  The film is about an hour and 45 minutes long and for the first 37 minutes of the movie (I double checked the time stamp) not only do we not know that Paul Walker is supposed to be a cop, but we have no idea what the plot of the movie actually is.  

The film begins with a dramatic heist of a semi truck by 3 very cool looking black Hondas.  It would be
Pulling off another big score
slightly more dramatic if the big reveal wasn’t that the truck was hauling 12in TV/ VCR combos.  That was the big score: a TV/ VCR combo that I think I had in my bedroom when I was 16.  Big stuff.  Were the shipments of guns or money or something I could have been a bit more excited, but unfortunately the laughability of this “big heist” just stuck with me.  Other problem is that after this “big heist” that takes place in the first 5 minutes, these robberies are completely abandoned for the next 32 minutes of the film.  That is a REALLY long time in a movie that is only an hour and 45 minutes long.  Finally at the 37 min mark we are informed that Brian (aka Paul Walker, aka I will only be calling him Paul Walker) was a cop and that he is infiltrating this gang of street racers to find out which gang of street racers was the gang of street racers that used their street racing to steal the TV/ VCR combos and also apparently other things too, but at that point I actually had to go “oh yeah, those TV/VCRs we saw in the first 5 minutes.”  

In between the opening action scene and the reveal of the actual plot of the film there was a lot of street racing.   That is the draw of the film: cool cars, hot chicks, bros bro-ing.  I get it.  But, I think I would have been slightly more drawn into the film if the story tried to draw me in. Instead we get Paul Walker going into Vin Diesel’s (garage?) and ordering a sandwich from the girl at the counter, who is apparently Vin Diesel’s sister Mia.  Michelle Rodriguez, who is Vin Diesel’s girlfriend, is there and wearing lacy shirts over a bra with a choker that is just so peak 2000 that I audibly laughed out loud.
These sandwiches aren't for you, bro
 But other bro looking dude is very upset with Paul Walker buying sandwiches.  This is a no sandwich buying area.  They get into a fist fight about sandwiches.  Vin Diesel, whose name is Dom in this series apparently, but I think I will probably just call him Vin Diesel, tells Paul Walker that he is going to lose his job over this whole sandwich business.  What?  I am very confused until I see that Paul Walker works at this auto supply store that sells all the street racing people their street racing stuff and since he does that he shouldn’t be buying sandwiches?  Or something.  Whatever.  It appears that Paul Walker wasn’t really interested in sandwiches, he really wanted to race in the street race with his street racing car and that’s why bro dude punched him.  Or maybe bro dude punched him because he was flirting with Vin Diesel’s sister.  Or maybe he’s just a bro dude.  Bro dude is probably my least favorite character of the film, though I have to love that his wardrobe is such a beautiful time capsule of late 90s-early 2000s fashion.  Dude wears a mesh tank top on top of another tank top most of the film.  Just perfection.  

Finally we get some street racing action with Paul Walker rolling up to street race ville in his tricked out
Yo, whatup.  I play a guy named "Hector"
in nearly every movie I am in. 
street racing car.  He’s like the only white guy there and there is some playful racial (racist?) bantering between him and the Mexican crew, the black guys, and the rest.  What struck me about this very first street racing scene, and actually most of the street racing that happens in this street racing movie about street racing, is that it takes place in some kind of bizarre dystopian Los Angeles where nobody is outside except for street racers and people can drive 100mph down city streets without causing any kind of problems.  Oddly enough, I could actually buy into the bizarre science fictional scenario of a film like
Death Race, where criminals are forced to race for their lives in a futuristic prison, more than a lot of the action in this film which supposedly does not take place in a nightmarish future but in a normal ordinary Los Angeles that is somehow devoid of most human activity.  Anyway everybody street races.  Slutty lady says that she and her friend will blow this dude if he wins but he doesn’t win so he doesn’t get the beej.  Seems like a sort of arbitrary method of sexual favors but whatevs.  Paul Walker says that he wants to race too and he is willing to race for pinks since he doesn’t have the money up front.  As we discover later on, he really just wants to win to earn their respect so they will invite him into their crew because he is a cop but how the LAPD (I’m assuming) afforded to give this guy the money to trick out his car or how an officer paid for this car with his own money remains to be seen.  Also him racing so that they invite him into their crew seems super super convoluted.

Anyway Paul Walker loses and is about to have to hand over his car to Vin Diesel when the police scanner indicates that police are finally arriving to break up this gigantic illegal street race that is going on under everybody’s noses.  Vin Diesel is about to get picked up by the cops but Paul Walker saves him, getting in his good graces.  Unfortunately then they accidentally go into evil Vietnamese gang
The aforementioned Snake Pants.
I could not find a good pic
with the pants in them.
But the pants are there. 
territory and the evil Vietnamese gang leader, Johnny Tran, along with his cousin Snake Pants (who has a name, but I can’t remember what it was because I was too distracted by his snake pants) shoot up Paul Walker’s car for some reason instead of, I dunno, stealing it.  But they were super angry, you guys.  Super angry.  Obviously more angry than Tank Top Bro was about the sandwiches because they used guns instead of punchy fists.  Anyway Vin Diesel invites Paul Walker back to a party at his house and chews out his bros for not helping him out and then Michelle Rodriguez takes him upstairs for some loving, leaving Paul Walker at the mercy of bro friends who do not particularly like him very much.  Bad idea.  

FINALLY we get to the police reveal.  Bonus, not only is Paul Walker a cop but his boss is Buffalo Bill from Silence of the Lambs who I immediately recognized despite the beard because I have a freakish ability to identify actors in movies.  Everyone is really on Paul Walker’s case for not figuring out who is stealing all these TV/ VCRs and also CD players.  Apparently the truckers are going to start shooting at the people who are robbing them which, I dunno, kind of seems like they are justified in doing given that people are shooting grappling hooks into their moving vehicles but I guess the police are very concerned about catching the criminals before the truckers shoot them, which doesn’t fit with my understanding of police whatsoever but ok.  Paul Walker, and the audience, is under the impression that of course those Vietnamese gang people are the real criminals all along, and Paul Walker even gets the cops to bust Johnny Tran’s house but nope they were probably gang members but not responsible for that particular theft.  Red Herring! HAH!  What drama!  

No, it turns out that Vin Diesel and crew were the real criminals all along, as is revealed when we go to Bro-chella where all the street racer guys and gals street race in the desert. But before that happens we get a real deep talk with Vin Diesel about how he watched his dad burn up racing this very special car (::he pats lovingly::) that he has never driven and will never drive because it is too awesome and powerful and cool (spoiler alert: guess what happens at the end of the movie).  Jesse the “tech” guy
So high tech!
who has a super high end computer that can do super crazy stuff (Windows 2000!) helps Paul Walker get a new car all up to racing condition and then they all go out to Bro-chella together.  Jesse, who has ADD (tonight, on a very special episode of The Fast and the Furious) is super tech smart but not very smart smart and decides to race Johnny Tran for pinks even though the car he is driving really belongs to his dad who is in prison.  After he loses, he goes AWOL leaving Vin Diesel to pull off the next heist with a smaller crew.  Meanwhile Paul Walker and Mia, Dom’s sister he has been screwing, are left behind at Bro-chella and then Paul Walker, who is getting pretty desperate to solve the case at this point before the FBI “takes his badge” which I didn’t think the FBI could do, reveals to her that he is a cop.  He’s got to find Vin Diesel fast because truck drivers have gotten like super mad at them for violently robbing their trucks and he needs to do something before they get hurt or whatever.  

Vin Diesel and company try to take this truck, but as was heavily foreshadowed by Sgt Buffalo Bill, this
time the truck driver has a gun and starts shooting.  Tank Top Bro gets hit and he’s clinging on for dear life.  Michelle Rodriguez and Vin Diesel both try to save him, but are taking a lot of fire when who should arrive but Paul Walker who found the heist by getting the GPS coordinates from Vin Diesel’s cell phone and then USED AN ACTUAL PAPER MAP to locate them.  Remember not having Google Maps?  Man, this movie took me back to a simpler time.  Anyway, Yay Paul Walker saved the day, but Tank Top Bro is bleeding out and Paul Walker has no recourse but to call in a helicopter and reveal that he is a cop to Vin Diesel who is like super super mad.  

Paul Walker makes it back to LA and confronts Vin Diesel at his house where he is instead of… not there when he knows the police are after him for some reason.  Also arriving is Jesse who was super super scared, you guys, and ran away.  Vin and Paul have a very tense showdown in the driveway but then Johnny Tran and his cousin Snake Pants arrive and gun down Jesse for stealing the car they won.  NOOOO JESSEEE!!!!  Paul Walker takes off after the criminals and so does Vin Diesel in that super super special car that he said he would never drive but is so cool.  Vin Diesel runs Snake Pants off a ditch and Paul Walker chases down Johnny Tran, who is shooting a semi automatic weapon while driving a motorcycle at 80mph down a, once again, completely abandoned street in Los Angeles.  But Paul Walker ends up killing him in what is the first police shooting I was actually happy about in a while.  Fuck that guy, he killed Jesse: sweet, innocent, ADD having Jesse, who just wanted to use his wicked Windows 2000 skills to make cars go better.

Then Vin Diesel and Paul Walker have an epic street race to end all street races which you can tell because there are a ton of whip pans and effects that make it look all whooshy. They are almost hit by a train but then they make it!  But then Vin Diesel’s car gets hit by the only other car on the street in Los Angeles that isn’t a street racing car and then his sweet, sweet, ride goes flippy flippy over Paul Walker’s car and Vin Diesel is kind of screwed.  The police are closing in and it looks like Vin Diesel is headed off for jail, but instead Paul Walker gives Vin Diesel his keys and lets him escape, which is a nice thing to do and will probably have no effect on his career as a police officer whatsoever.  We don’t get to find out, though, because we are at the end of the movie.  However, we do get Paul Walker knowingly looking into the camera with a promise in his eyes of more adventures to come.  

Stray Thoughts:

  • The pre-9/11 world was just so much more simple, wasn’t it

  • What year did all Mexican gangbangers agree to wear the same blue and white checked shirt?  I feel like there is an actual answer to this question but I don’t feel like looking it up

  • I think some people may say that The Fast and the Furious “didn’t age well” but as somebody who has never seen it before I think it aged perfectly because it is like a time capsule of early 2000s perfection down to the soundtrack and the clothes and the seriously dumb looking cars that are supposed to look cool.

  • You would think that there would have been an easier way to catch a group of thieves then to send a police undercover as an illegal street racer in the hopes that the people who were robbing the trucks would also be illegal street racers and the cop would be able to figure that all out.  Seems like kind of shoddy work by the FBI imho

  • Michelle Rodriguez challenges this other dude to a race and says it will be 2 large and holds up a wad of money.  The man agrees and holds up exactly the correct amount of money?  What?  

  • Paul Walker never did get to finish that sandwich

Overall, I had a fun time watching the movie.  It was just dumb enough that I didn’t have to think too hard about it, but not so dumb that I wasn’t able to enjoy myself.  I KNEW this movie was Point Break on wheels, but I am STILL not sure how exactly this premise is going to lend itself to 6 sequels.  I guess I will find out.  Until next time, live your life a quarter mile at a time (which is a thing that sounds deep but really isn’t.  Unless you are talking about hatching Pokemon eggs)  

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